Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works
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Is this New Control Panel Compatible with the Old System?

Compatible means "they work reliably with each other". Similar to testing and listing a single piece of equipment in the first place, someone else (like UL, CE, or FM) has tested the various equipment combinations, and found that they indeed do work properly when used together.

Is this New Control Panel Compatible with the Old System?

Is this New Control Panel Compatible with the Old System?

Greetings Douglas,

I'm a fire department plans examiner. I am occasionally stumped by trying to confirm compatibility of control panels and devices. Is there a simple reference resource that lists compatible equipment?

I currently have a contractor that wants to install a new panel - Honeywell Vista-128FBPT (existing panel is EST Fireshield). Heat detectors (Chemtron & Gamewell), smoke detectors (unknown), pull stations (Gamewell), and horn-strobes (Gamewell) are circa 1995.

Can you point me in the right direction to find out about compatibility?

I appreciate any advice you can offer.

Thank you for the good work you do.

Thank you, Plans Examiner, Planning and Development Services - Building Services

No, there is not an overall listing of compatible devices that can be used with any fire alarm system. In the manufacturer's literature, though, there is a listing of compatible devices. These are the devices that the manufacturer has had tested and listed (by a testing lab like UL, ULC, CE, FM, etc.) to work with their fire alarm panel.

As an Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), it isn't really your responsibility to check out the compatibility of all the devices that the contractor is going to use; it is the responsibility of the contractor to do their homework and show you that the devices they are using are compatible.

In the written documentation provided by the manufacturer of the system, the contractor needs to look up this information for themselves, and then the contractor can show you.

Compatibility is the Issue

A compatible device is a device that will work, reliably. If the device is not compatible, the device might work most of the time, some of the time, or none of the time. The non-compatible device could also randomly go into false alarm. Non-compatible means that when the device is depended on to work, no one really knows exactly what it will do.

From the contractor's point of view, if a device is compatible, it will work reliably.

From your point of view as an examiner, if a device is compatible, it has been tested and listed to work by a nationally known testing laboratory like UL, CE, or FM.

The Panel Replacement in Question

The EST FireShield panel that is being replaced is a 24 Volt (Nominal) system. The Honeywell Vista-128FBPT is a 12 Volt (Nominal) system. That is a big compatibility issue, especially with the smoke detectors and with the horn-strobes.

Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors have electronics inside them; smoke detectors are a huge compatibility issue. Each manufacturer designs them a little different from the other manufacturers, and even when the panel and the smoke detectors are designed for the same voltage, not all them are compatible with each other (work reliably with each other).

Most smoke detectors designed for 24 volt systems will not work at all with 12 volt systems. If the contractor has not checked out each model of smoke detector to make sure it is compatible with the new fire alarm system, for safety reasons, you have to assume that the ones not checked out are not compatible. For you to know that they will work, they will have to be replaced with new ones that the manufacturer has shown to be compatible.

Horns and Strobes

The horns and strobes are possibly a compatibility issue. I don't know about how the new fire alarm panel is going to power the old horns and strobes. The old system is 24 volts and the new system is 12 volts. Unless the contractor can show how the new 12 volt system is going to power the 24 volt horns and strobes, and the manufacturer has shown that they are compatible, for safety reasons, you have to assume that the horns and strobes are not compatible.

Authority Having Jurisdiction

You are one of those who has Authority over the acceptance of the plans provided by the contractor. I also know that a few of the contractors don't yet think in terms of compatibility. Compatibility, though, is a growing issue that has to be considered in all aspects of fire alarm work.

If you require the contractor to show you that the devices are compatible with the new system, you are teaching them to look into the compatibility issue themselves. In the long run, making that requirement will help them do a better job in all areas of fire alarm installation, testing, and servicing. It will also help you because you will be receiving more complete submittal plans to examine.

Douglas Krantz

Mr. Krantz

Thank you for the quick and thorough response! I know you are busy. Very helpful.

Thank you so much again, Plans Examiner, Planning and Development Services - Building Services
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