Interconnected Smoke Alarms -- Options/Wiring -- Wireless?

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On Friday, March 25, 2016 at 4:15:27 PM UTC-4, TomR wrote:

It would be interesting to see some case law on that. First the fact that govt subsidies are helping pay for the rent of some tenants that you may chose to rent to or not, is irrelevant. Whether anyone could prevail with a case against you for a situation where the work was legally done, inspected, up to required code, but arguably not as good as what was there before, I think is doubtful. If I have a rental property that had bars on the windows, I decide during a renovation that I don't want to replace them, code doesn't require them, if a subsequent renter sues me when the house is broken into, can they prevail? It meets code, they knew what was there or not there when they rented, etc. How about if there was a heated sidewalk, I decide to take that out, now a tenanat later falls and claims that as a reason? I replace one fire rated door with another, that while fully meeting code, isn't as fire resistant as the original? This would lead to all kinds of crazy suits. Code is there for a reason, it sets the minimum safety standards.

Again, what does the local code say? That is what is most relevant. Did you ask that govt rent subsidy inspector what happens if you upgrade it to an interconnected system, but not a monitored system? Did you ask them about wireless? THAT would seem to be more relevant than opinions here.

That's what I would think too, but I'm not talking to the fire marshal and the govt subsidy folks. I just objected to the huge dump of FUD, ie that you now would have an interconnect wire running the length of the house that for some reason can't be debugged if there is a problem, no redundancy for the system, etc. What you're proposing is in existence, code compliant in millions of single family rentals across the country. And it's an improvement over what's there. I don't think you should fear making an improvement that is code compliant, in widespread use, a good idea, increases the safety of your renters, etc over FUD.
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On Saturday, March 26, 2016 at 9:11:43 AM UTC-4, trader_4 wrote:

I said nothing about monitoring. The word I used was supervised. Supervised is not monitored, they are two different things.
All the systems I put in are supervised. In the context of an alarm system, supervised means there is something that will detect a fault condition. A break in the line, an increase or decrease in resistance, etc., will trigger a warning.
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In typed:

Yes, seeing some actual cases on that would be interesting. Whether the plaintiffs could win a case like that seems a little iffy. But, of course, people could sue on that basis and, if nothing else, it would require the defendants to endure the time and expense of defending against the lawsuit even if the defendants prevail in the end.

For reasons that would probably be too hard (and maybe not wise) to try to explain here, I would rather not ask beforehand. My plan is to either do nothing (a possibility) and just ignore the "recommendation", or just do what I think is best and see what happens after the fact. I think either approach will work.
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On Saturday, March 26, 2016 at 10:53:15 AM UTC-4, TomR wrote:

Can't you look up what's required online? For smoke detectors, the local requirements here are online. A fire inspection is required as part of getting a CO. I would think the govt agency helping pay the rent would have their standards, requirements online to. If you have to pass an inspection, you need to know what the rules are.
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In typed:

I probably wasn't clear about that in what I wrote before. I do know EXACTLY what is and is not "required" and what the codes and regulations say etc. And, I know for sure that when the "inspector" cites something that is "required", they always cite the specific applicable code or regulation. And, I know that they are allowed to make a "recommendation" for something without citing any specific applicable code or regulation, and both they know and I know that it is not a requirement -- only a suggestion or recommendation. So, there was never any issue about whether I need to do anything in response to the "recommendation" -- which the "inspector" and I both know. I do not need to do anything at all with regard to the "recommendation", and that may be what I finally decide to do in this case -- nothing.
This isn't actually a situation where there is any rent subsidy etc. The property itself is used for a "program" and the "program" monitors/inspectors get to cite specific things that need to be corrected to meet program regulations (which are also in writing and publicly accessible). If it is in the regs, and they cite it, I have to correct it. If it is not in the regs, and it is not a requirement, they can suggest it as something they think is or would be a good idea -- but they know and I know that it is just a suggestion. Since there is governmental funding for the program, it is sometimes just a good idea to listen to and consider any suggestions or recommendations just to keep good relations -- but it is not a requirement. Their intentions are actually good, and I get along with them well. That is why I have considered doing something -- but not the whole hoopla of what they suggested -- to make what they would consider to be a safety upgrade even though no upgrade is required. And, that is why I may just do an interconnected 100-volt hardwired system, or maybe even just an all-battery-powered completely wireless interconnected alarm system. That last option would just involve swapping out the individual battery operated detectors that are there now with individual battery operated wireless detectors -- which would take less than an hour total to do and wouldn't involve any wiring or rewiring. They would think of anything like that as a plus and an improvement, and I am sure they would be pleased with that. And, it would look like I took their suggestion/recommendation seriously (which I am doing) and I did something along the lines of what they would like to see.
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In typed:

P.S. I am actually glad that I posted this whole topic here and received so much in the way of thoughtful feedback and suggestions. In doing so, and in going over all of the details and possible options etc., it really did help me sort out what my options are. It helped me come to a conclusion about the most likely, most practical, easiest, and still satisfactory solution to choose. I think that I am probably just going to swap out the existing setup with one that uses all Lithium Ion battery operated wirelessly interconnected detector/alarms -- where if one goes of they all go off.
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On Saturday, March 26, 2016 at 3:39:34 PM UTC-4, TomR wrote:

Sounds logical to me. I thought what you were planning to do was an improvement, likely code compliant, etc all along.
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On 3/13/2016 12:45 PM, TomR wrote:

I think new construction requires 110V (w/battery backup). Too many folks removing batteries to silence nuisance "battery replacement reminders" have led to increased fatalities (that the detectors were supposed to prevent)

Run power to the alarms (they draw very little power so not an issue). I *think* they might need to be on the same branch circuit (at least that's how ours are wired).
Additionally, you add a "signal cable" -- a discrete wire -- that they use to talk to each other.

<frown> IIRC, the "signal lead" is just another "shared" conductor. I.e., there is no "loop" or "daisy-chaining" involved. Any alarm that signals puts a signal on that conductor; all alarms monitor the conductor and alarm in sympathy with it if they sense that signal!
(there is a method you use to determine which alarm is actually originating the signal -- if you suspect it to be false).
Note that you probably can't mix and match detectors from different vendors!

It's just "a third conductor" SHARED among all.
I am not sure you can run 14/3 and rely on the third conductor in that "cable" for this; it's technically a *signalling* conductor, not a power conductor.

I'd be leary about relying on wireless for anything safety critical. Our neighbor's home alarm is wireless; I am sorely tempted to hack it just to see to which sorts of exploits it would be vulnerable! :<

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On 03/13/2016 02:53 PM, Don Y wrote:

<snip>

Excellent point and something I did not think about: human nature.
I still recall hearing the low battery warning on an alarm at a friend's house. When I mentioned it, she just said, "That's the landlord's responsibility and not mine."
People can certainly be idiots.
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On 3/13/2016 4:06 PM, philo wrote:

Oh, that thing making noise? We'll just ignore it, or put a blanket over it till it quits. Like we did the last few times. Honey, where's the Tylenol, my headache is killing me. And you look kind of red and rosy, dear.
--
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Christopher A. Young
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On 3/13/2016 1:06 PM, philo wrote:

It is apparently a BIG factor in recommendations regarding smoke detectors! E.g., you'd *think* that the kitchen would be a great place for one (source of heat/combustion). But, apparently enough false alarms ("Dinner will be served at the sound of the smoke alarm...") that this location is NOT recommended.
Another annoying aspect is getting a straight answer from folks regarding local code, etc. I ended up calling the fire department and *they* were dumbfounded about what locations SHOULD be protected and which not (garage? furnace room?)

We make a point of replacing the batteries as part of our "New Year's routine". Batteries are cheap. If you wait until it starts chirping (every minute??) to tell you of a battery failure, you will end up removing the detector (to silence it) -- and be WITHOUT protection until you happen to remember to buy batteries AND install them!
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On 03/13/2016 03:48 PM, Don Y wrote:
[snip]

If I removed the battery from a detector, I know which one was beeping. That's MOST of the work done already.
--
Mark Lloyd
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On 3/13/2016 4:57 PM, Mark Lloyd wrote:

In our case, remembering to buy the batteries is the bigger chore (unless it is a 'scheduled event' -- like New Year's). I think the only things we have that use 9V batteries *are* the smoke/CO detectors!
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On Sun, 13 Mar 2016 18:54:16 -0700, Don Y wrote:

I do it a week or so before Halloween. The 'old' batteries are still at 80%, but we are not supposed to let them go until the detector beeps because their warning capacity is also reduced to almost nothing.
Then I solder them to a resistor in series with an LED and use them to illiminate hollowed-out pumpkins for a week or so.
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On 3/13/2016 3:53 PM, Don Y wrote:

You sound like all kinds of fun, as a neighbor.
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Thanks for the replies so far. Regardless of how I do the system, the plan will be to use detectors that have built-in 10-year Lithium batteries. The detectors themselves are supposed to be replaced every 10 years anyway, and the Lithium batteries are theoretically supposed to last 10 years. And, with built-in lithium batteries, the occupants don't take them out to power their electronics which does happen with 9V batteries and AA or AAA batteries. Some localities now require the 10-year batteries in battery operated smoke detectors for that reason. Plus, the detectors will have "Hush" buttons on them that the occupants can use to silence unwanted alarms. That avoids them taking the batteries out to silence the alarm. I won't be putting a detector in the kitchen so cooking fumes don't set off the alarm. In kitchens, it is possible to put in a heat detector instead of a smoke detector, but I probably won't do that. Also, the purpose of the 14/3 is to provide a black (hot) wire, a white (neutral) wire, and a third (red) wire for the signal between the units. I am writing all of this just as side information as an FYI, but it does not resolve the original questions that I still have about the wiring diagram and about the possibility of using wireless interconnected detectors.
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On 3/13/2016 4:19 PM, TomR wrote:

And I'm saying that using the third wire in a 14/3 cable for "signalling" may not comply with code! Any more than my using it as an audio output from an amplifier (neutral referenced) would...
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In typed:

I already know that the way that 110 volt interconnected smoke detectors are wired is with 14/3 (or it could be 12/3 as an alternative), and the third (red) wire is the "signal" wire that allows them all to go off when one goes off. That is the code compliant way of wiring them.
What I don't know for sure are my original questions about the wiring diagram, the wireless possible alternative, etc.
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On Monday, March 14, 2016 at 11:49:24 AM UTC-4, TomR wrote:

+1

Here's one diagram that shows the interconnect wire shared in common, not daisy chained, which is how I would expect it to be, because:
http://www.buildmyowncabin.com/electrical/fire-alarm-installation.html
1 - There is no reason for it to be daisy chained into one alarm and then out to the next
2 - It makes for a more reliable system.
3 - It's easier to install.
Wireless, IDK anything about, other than obviously there are easier to install because you don't have to interconnect them. The big downside of course is that they are wireless and we all know that wireless is less than perfect. And that what works today may not work two years from now, then some other wireless device comes into the home, a neighbor's home, etc. It definitely would not be my first choice, but it's better than no interconnect that's for sure. Might want to check local code on what's allowed, etc.
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In typed:

Thanks. That helps a lot.
That's an excellent website. I think that I may have seen that website in the past when I was trying to learn about 3-way wiring diagrams, but I had lost track of where that website was. For example, it has 3-way wiring diagrams ( http://www.buildmyowncabin.com/electrical/wire-3-way-switches.html ) that I think I remember seeing in the past. That showed various ways of wiring 3-way switches depending on where the power enters the system, whether the lights are before or after or in between the 3-way switches, etc.
I had not found the fire alarm installation diagram before. I am pretty sure that the way that the diagram is drawn, it means that it is okay to have the individual detectors come off of the 14/3 wiring in any manner as long as all of the black hot wires are connected to black, all the white neutrals to white neutrals, and all of the red wires tied to red wires for the interconnection signal.
I am not sure what the "Lifessaver Relay Module Model 120X -- Optional Accessory" is or means in the diagram so I will trying looking that up to see what it is.

I too do not know anything about the Wireless interconnected alarm systems, but I have some of the same reservations about them that you mentioned. But, one thing that I am wondering from what I have seen online so far is if wireless detectors can be used to extend an existing 100 volt interconnected system to another part of the structure without having to run the hardwiring to the other area. I would guess that a hardwired "wireless" detector could be included in the original 110 volt hardwired system and then another battery operated wireless detector could be put in the additional hard-to-reach location in the structure. So, maybe there could be a combination of a hardwired interconnected alarm system with one or two remotely placed wireless battery-operated detectors.
So much to learn, so little time.
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