Monday, August 7, 2017

Temperature Sensors for Fire Service Access Elevators

Code Background for Fire Service Access Elevators


In a previous post, we discussed the importance of Fire Service Access Elevators or FSAE based on their ability to assist first responders in the evacuation of occupants in the event of a fire.  These fire service access elevators are becoming more and more advanced with special requirements to insure the safety of operators during a high rise structure fire.  Most of the requirements outlined in the previous post "Fire Service Access Elevators Explained",  are found in the International Building Code or IBC.  The FSAE sections include 403.6.1 and 3007.1 - 3007.9.  However, in the State of California we go by the California Building Code or CBC.  The only major difference spelled out in the CBC is the section on Fire Service Access Elevator "Phase 1 Recall".  In the CBC the requirements for the Phase 1 Recall are as follows:  "Activation of ANY initiating device within the building shall active the phase 1 recall of all fire service access elevators.  All standard elevators shall remain in the normal operation unless they are manually taken over via key or the activation of their associated fire alarm initiating devices."

Now as with most jurisdictions and AHJs, you will more than likely have to deal with local adopted ordinances.  These are alterations to the adopted code by your AHJ.  Once these ordinances have become officially adopted, they override the National or State Code.  A perfect example of this is San Francisco's "Administrative Bulletin #5.08"  better known as AB #5.08.  San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) has adopted this bulletin making it the new code.

Where is the Requirement for Temperature Sensors in FSAE Lobbies?


In the SFFD AB #5.08 titled "Fire Service Access Elevators" section 3.0 (e) you will find the following language:

"An approved means for firefighters to monitor heat conditions in FSAE lobbies and associated machine/control rooms, such as analog heat sensing system annunciated at the Fire Command Center (FCC). This is intended to provide firefighters with more information to determine whether the FSAE protection has been compromised. This means shall include a dedicated FSAE Status Panel located at the FCC. (Reference NFPA 72-2016 Section 21.5 indicated in item 4.g below)"

This requirement is in place to give the first responders a live reading of the temperature present in a given fire service access elevator lobby before traveling to the area.  This requirement makes the standard code found in the IBC section 3007 a little more complicated and costly however the benefits of life safety are worth it.

Now the code above does not exactly tell us how to display this requirement other than using an Approved Means.  Currently in San Francisco, we are using a custom LED annunciator with individual LEDs depicting 5 different temperature ranges and 1 LED for fault per FSAE lobby.  The temperature ranges are as follows:


  • < 70 degrees
  • 71 to 80 degrees
  • 81 to 90 degrees
  • 91 to 100 degrees
  • > 101 degrees
  • Fault
FSAE Temperature LEDs for Status Panel



You can see a screenshot of a Fire Service Access Elevator dedicated status panel in our previous article title "Fire Service Access Elevators Explained".

How do We Monitor Heat Conditions Within the FSAE Lobbies?


Each major fire alarm equipment manufacturer has their own method of accomplishing this feat however we am going to use Notifier as an example in this article.  Notifier has an addressable monitor module known as the FMM-4-20.  This module utilizes a 4-20 mA circuit to connect with 2-wire and 3-wire temperature sensors that produce a 4-20 mA signal output.  Only one sensor can be connected to a FMM-4-20 module.  The temperature sensors we have been using are the TW series from Veris Industries.  Below is a picture of the Veris Industries TE Temperature Sensor and FMM-4-20 wiring diagram.

Notifier FMM-4-20 Module with Temp Sensor



FMM-4-20 Programming with Verifire Tools


We are not going to get into too much detail on the programming of the FMM-4-20 module for the purpose of monitoring fire service access elevator lobbies, however, we have included a few notes and screenshots to show the setup and options.

Notifier Verifire Tools FMM-4-20 Programming
Notifier Verifire Tools with FMM-4-20 Module

CBE positions 3 - 7 are assigned to FMM-4-20 threshold levels 1 - 5 respectively. (Threshold levels are user-programmed. Refer to “FMM-4-20 Monitor Module Programming” on page 48 of the NFS2-3030 programming manual.) Each will activate only if the device is currently at that threshold level. Once the device leaves that threshold level, the zone in its corresponding CBE position will remain active or deactivate according to whether its threshold is programmed for latching or tracking. 

Notifier FMM-4-20 Device Setup Programming

Notifier FMM-4-20 Threshold Setup Programming
 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Fire Service Access Elevators Explained

What are Fire Service Access Elevators (FSAE)


A Fire Service Access Elevator or F.S.A.E. for short, is designed with strict and rigorous standards to allow firemen and first responders to utilize the elevator for the purpose of quickly accessing floors as well as evacuating occupants in the event of an emergency.  This is a huge step for first responders as time is extremely crucial when addressing buildings of this size.

What Code Requires the Use of Fire Service Access Elevators?


The requirement to provide fire service access elevators can be found in the IBC or International Building Code 2015 section 403.6.1

"In buildings with an occupied floor more than 120 feet above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access, no fewer than two fire service access elevators, or all elevators, whichever is less, shall be provided in accordance with section 3007.  Each fire service access elevator shall have a capacity not less than 3500 pounds."

The requirements on how a fire service access elevator is to be installed can be found in the IBC or International Building Code 2015 section 3007.

Other references include:

  • ASME A17.1
  • CSA B44
  • NFPA 72 2013 section 21.5

Requirements of Fire Service Access Elevators


When a fire service access elevator is required by the IBC section 403.6.1, every floor within the building shall be served and comply with sections 3007.1 through 3007.9

Automatic Sprinkler Requirements:


The building with FSAE shall be protected throughout with an approved automatic sprinkler system in accordance with section 903.3.1.1.  The automatic sprinkler system shall be provided with a supervised tamper switch and alarm initiating water flow switch on every floor of the building.  Note, the following areas are prohibited from having automatic fire sprinkler protection:

  • Elevator Machine Rooms  
  • Elevator Machinery Spaces
  • Elevator Control Rooms
  • Elevator Control Spaces
  • Elevator Hoistways of the Fire Service Access Elevator

The lobby on each floor served by the fire service access elevator shall have an approved method of preventing water from the operation of the automatic sprinkler system from infiltrating the FSAE hoistway.

Lastly, a means for elevator shutdown or Shunt Trip in accordance with IBC section 3005.5 shall NOT be installed on elevator controllers used for fire service access elevators.

Fire Service Access Elevator Hoistway Enclosure

fire service access elevator hoistway

The shaft or hoistway enclosure shall comply with IBC section 713 "Shaft Enclosures" as well as section 403.2.3.1 "Wall Assembly" and sections 403.2.3.4 "Other Wall Assemblies".

Another important aspect to keep in mind is the hoistway lighting for the FSAE shaft.  When the Fire Service Access operation is active, the entire height of the hoistway shall be illuminated at NOT less than 1 footcandle (11 lux).  This measurement is to be taken from the top of each fire service access elevator cab.  

**The fire service access elevator status panel (located in the FCC room) shall have a switch to manually operate this lighting feature.    

Fire Service Access Elevator Cab Dimensions


Although this is not a direct requirement for FSAE rather buildings that are four stories or more, it still applies and is worth mentioning.  IBC section 3002.4 "Elevator Car to Accommodate Ambulance Stretcher" gives us the dimensions required for the cab.  "The elevator car shall be of such a size and arrangement to accommodate an ambulance stretcher 24 inches by 84 inches with not less than 5 inch radius corners, in the horizontal, open position.  ADA Table 407.4.1 breaks this down a little further and gives us the following:  The cab shall be provided with a minimum clear distance between walls and door excluding return panels not less than 80 inches by 54 inches and a minimum distance from wall to return panel not less than 51 inches with a 42 inch side slide door.

Fire Service Access Elevator Car Dimensions
Fire Service Access Elevator Car Dimensions

FSAE Lobby Requirements


Egress through the fire service access elevator lobby is permitted in accordance with IBC section 1016.2 "Egress Through Intervening Spaces" item #1.  The exception to this rule is if the FSAE lobby has two entrances onto the floor, the second entrance shall be permitted to open into an elevator lobby in accordance with IBC section 3006.3 "Hoistway Opening Protection".

The fire service access elevator lobby shall have direct access to to an enclosed interior exit stairway or ramp.  The interior exit stairway or ramp can be in a protected pathway that has a level of protection not less than the FSAE lobby.  The path of travel and FSAE lobby shall be separated via an opening protected by a smoke and draft control assembly in accordance with IBC section 716.5.3 "Door Assemblies in Corridors and Smoke Barriers".  

The FSAE lobby enclosure shall have smoke barrier having a fire-resistance rating of not less than 1 hour.  The FSAE lobby doors shall be 3/4 hour fire door assemblies in accordance with IBC section 716.5 "Fire Door and Shutter Assemblies".  This rule does NOT apply to the hoistway doors, elevator control room doors or elevator control space doors.  FSAE lobbies are not required to be enclosed at the levels of exit discharge.

Keep in mind the elevator lobbies for fire service access elevators shall be no smaller than 150 square feet in area with a dimension not less than 8 feet.  This rule applies no matter how many FSAE cabs are served by the same lobby.  Example 8 feet x 19 feet would give you 152 square feet of lobby area.  

How are Fire Service Access Elevators Designated or Noticed?


IBC section 3007.6.5 gives us the following information.  A pictorial symbol of a STANDARDIZED design shall be placed on each side of the hoistway door frame on the portion of the frame at right angles to the fire service access elevator lobby.  To clear that up, the symbol shall be installed on the frame where it is noticeable immediately upon entry to the FSAE lobby.

Here is a picture of the symbol depicted in the IBC figure 3007.6.5

Fire Service Access Elevator Symbol
Fire Service Access Elevator Symbol

The following are guidelines for the design of the symbol:
  • The FSAE symbol shall not be less than 3 inches in height
  • The helmet shall contrast the background.  It states you can use a dark helmet on light background or light helmet on dark background.
  • The symbol shall be located on center line of the symbol and FSAE door frame at a height of not less 78 inches or more than 84 inches.  

FSAE Monitoring


The fire service access elevator shall be continuously monitored at the FCC by a standard emergency service interface system meeting requirements found in NFPA 72 the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.

FSAE Electrical Power


The following that sere each fire service access elevator shall be provided with both normal power as well as Type 60/Class 2/Level 1 standby power:
  1. Elevator equipment
  2. Elevator hoistway lighting
  3. Ventilation for elevator machine rooms, elevator control rooms, machine and control spaces.
  4. Elevator cab lighting
He is the big one to watch out for.

Protection of Wiring and Cables for Fire Service Access Elevators


Wires and cables located OUTSIDE of the fire service access elevator lobby and machine room that are provided for the fire-detection system shall be protected by construction having a fire-resistance rating of not less than 2 hours, shall be circuit integrity (CI) cable with a rating of not less than 2 hours or shall be protected by a listed electrical protective system having a rating of not less than 2 hours.

Phase 1 Recall for Fire Service Access Elevators


This is currently taken from our home state of California out of the California Building Code 2013 of CBC section 3007.2.  Activation of ANY initiating device within the building shall active the phase 1 recall of all fire service access elevators.  All standard elevators shall remain in the normal operation unless they are manually taken over via key or the activation of their associated fire alarm initiating devices.  

San Francisco Takes it a Step Further with Heat Monitoring



San Francisco's Administrative Bulletin AB #5.08 requires an approved means for firefighters to monitor heat conditions in the FSAE lobbies and associated machine/control rooms.  This is intended to provide firefighters with more information to determine whether the FSAE lobby protection has been compromised. This means shall include a dedicated FSAE Status Panel located at the FCC. (Reference NFPA 72-2016 Section 21.5 indicated in item 4.g below).  For Notifier we use the addressable FMM-4-20 module along with a Veris Industries TW or TE wall mounted temperature sensor.  We then provide a custom LED status panel by Space Age Electronics with each elevator lobby broken down into 5 temperature levels.  See image below of a Fire Service Access Elevator Status Panel for San Francisco, CA.

Read this article to see how Notifier is accomplishing the monitoring of individual temperature ranges within each fire service access elevator lobby.  "Temperature Sensors for Fire Service Access Elevators"

Fire Service Access Elevator Status Panel
Fire Service Access Elevator Status Panel

Cable Toner Kit Doubles as Fire Speaker Test

fire alarm cable toner kit

Play a Tone Through Your Fire Alarm Speakers with a Toner


A cable toner kit can prove to be a very useful tool in the fire alarm system installation and service business. If you do not know, a cable toner is a battery operated device that places a tone across cables assisting in location and verification. You can simply connect the toner to a pair of wires and then move between junction points with the provided wand looking for the tone. Here is a little trick to help verify your fire alarm voice evacuation speakers are connected correctly.

Of course it is highly recommended to test out your fire alarm speaker circuit with a multi-meter before connecting to your amplifiers. With a multi-meter, you can test for reverse polarity (with the diode check), ground faults, shorts and continuity with the resistance setting and finally check for AC inductance with the AC voltage setting. Once you have verified all is good on your fire alarm speaker circuit we can move on to the cable toner test. I have included a simple video to show the connections and the tone you should receive at all of the speakers connected to the fire alarm circuit. Make sure to turn the cable toner to the "TONE" setting and connect it to the circuit. Red to red and black to black. This will allow the cable toner to produce a tone across the fire alarm speaker circuit and play it through the actual fire alarm speaker appliances. Once this step is completed, walk around the site and verify that you have a fire alarm sound or tone on all of the speakers on the circuit.


If you are interested in taking the NICET Test for "fire alarms" or "Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarms", then we have you covered!  We are now selling our CBT Levels 1 - 4 NICET practice test with preparation material.  This material is packed with tons of NICET practice test questions along with all code references as to where to find the answers.  We have also supplied the material with all of the necessary NICET applications, CBT calculator demonstrations, links and more.  If you need more information, feel free to send an email.  You can find the link to purchase our NICET Practice Test on the top left section of this site.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Low Frequency Sounders for Sleeping Areas

What are Low Frequency Sounders for Sleeping Areas?


Anyone in the fire alarm design and installation industry has more than likely heard the term low frequency sounders.  These newer sounders first appeared in the NFPA 72 2010 edition under section 18.4.5.3 and stated an effective date of January 1, 2014.  In short these are re-designed audible appliances for sleeping areas only!  Multiple studies have been performed on sleeping parties to see how they react in different scenarios.  Some of the scenarios involved older individuals who have a difficulty with their hearing,  others were individuals who are under the influence of narcotics.  The original thought was that these people would have a difficult time awaking from a sleeping state via the standard 3 Hz sound put out by a typical mini-horn commonly found in apartment and hotel sleeping areas.  The newer low frequency sounders have a square wave signal with 520 Hz plus or minus 10 percent.  Below are two links to show you the difference between the two sound outputs:

Listen to a 520HZ Low Frequency Tone

Listen to a 3 KHz Standard Tone 

Now that it is 2017, most of the country is currently enforcing the NFPA 72 2013 edition.  If your AHJ is enforcing the 2013 version of this standard, you have been required to provide these low frequency appliances in all sleeping areas for nearly 4 years.

Are you Installing Low Frequency Sounders Correctly?  


Now the same installation factors found in the NFPA 72 standard apply to low frequency sounders.  They shall have a sound level of at least 15 dB over average ambient, 5 dB or maximum sound level (duration of at least 60 seconds) or 75 dB whichever is highest.  Now seeing that NFPA 72 2013 has been nice enough to provide us with a chart depicting average ambient sound levels for different types of occupancies, this cannot be used in lieu of actual readings taken at the site.  However we can take away from this chart that a residential occupancy has an average ambient sound level of 35 dB.  If we use this as an example and tack on the additional 15 dB per NFPA 72 2013 18..4.5.1, we only come up with 50 dB.  This is 25 dB lower than the required 75 dB per the same standard section.  An example of the only time you would be going higher than 75 db is a sleeping area with an average ambient sound level of 61 dB.  61 dB plus 15 dB = 76 dB.  In short, 99 percent of the time, a designer will be aiming to achieve 75 dB.

Occupancy Average Ambient Sound Level NFPA 72
NFPA 72 Occupancy Average Ambient Sound Levels
Tips to keep in mind:

  • If you double the power to the sounder, you will gain 3 dB
  • The dB from the appliance is measure at 10' away.  Every time you double the distance from the appliance, you loose 6 dB.  Read more here.

What Exactly is a Sleeping Area?


Seems like a pretty easy question to answer right?  Well I'll have you know this comes up a lot and more often than not, designers get it wrong!  A sleeping area is obviously associated with a bedroom and a bedroom is not classified as such unless it has a closet.  However, as defined by NFPA 72 2013 A.18.4.5.3, low frequency sounders are required for use in areas intended for sleeping (bedrooms) as well as areas that might be reasonably used for sleeping (Living Rooms).  Most apartments or hotel rooms are outfitted with a comfy couch in the living room.  It's not uncommon to find yourself falling asleep in this area.  This is what has prompted the requirement for low frequency sounders to be installed in not only the bedrooms but the living rooms as well. 

How Does this Affect my Design?  


It is pretty common knowledge that these 520 Hz low frequency sounders draw a lot more current than the standard 3 Hz mini-horns.  You will need to take this into effect when calculation voltage drop and battery calculations for the remote power supplies serving the areas in question.  Depending on the size of the project, this may mean you need additional notification appliance circuits and remote power supplies. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

NFPA 72 2010 Code Book Secrets

Well the title says secrets but to be honest it really is public information.  However not too many readers are aware of it.  Check this out.  The 2010 edition of NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code has a few items throughout the text that can help the readers better understand the changes and new layout.

    NFPA 72 2010 Margins for New Content
  • A vertical bar in the margin indicates that a change other than editorial has been made.
  • A bullet indicates that one or more complete paragraphs have been deleted.
  • A reference in parenthesis () following a paragraph indicates technical committee responsibility.
  • A reference in brackets [] indicates exacted material from another document.

If you are interested in taking the NICET Test for "fire alarms" or "Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarms", then we have you covered!  We are now selling our CBT Levels 1 - 4 NICET practice test with preparation material.  This material is packed with tons of NICET practice test questions along with all code references as to where to find the answers.  We have also supplied the material with all of the necessary NICET applications, CBT calculator demonstrations, links and more.  If you need more information, feel free to send an email.  You can find the link to purchase our NICET Practice Test on the top left section of this site.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Fire Alarm Calculations

If you are preparing to take the NICET exam for Fire Alarm Systems, there are numerous fire alarm calculations you must understand in order to properly design a code compliant system.  These calculations can break down exact requirements for sound pressure (dB) levels, voice intelligibility, voltage drop on a circuit, back up battery sizes, candela settings and dB line loss for speaker circuits.  There are additional calculations however these are some of the most common and important so this article will concentrate on the following:

You can also download our Fire Alarm Calculation Tool here.


How to find the correct Candela Strobe to cover a given space


This is a very important measurement as it allows us to properly calculate the necessary candela power needed for a given space.  If you do not have NFPA 72 2013 edition tables 18.5.5.4.1(a) and 18.5.4.4.1(b) handy or memorized, this formula will save the day!

Take the selected candela (ex. 75 cd) and divide it by 0.0375
75 cd / 0.0375 = 2000
Now take the square root of 2000 to get a spacing of = 44.72136 feet.

If you consult NFPA 72 2013 tables 18.5.5.4.1(a) it shows a spacing of 45 x 45 feet and table 18.5.5.4.1(b) shows a spacing of 44 x 44 feet.

Voltage Drop Calculation


Step #1:  Find the total current from all of your field notification appliances.  If you consult the appliance's specification sheet, you will find the current draw for each setting.  For example, you have four appliances on the temporal high setting and they each draw 50mA or (0.050A).  If you add all four appliances together (4 x 0.050) you have a total current draw of   0.2A

Step #2:  Determine the to and from distance of the notification appliance circuit (NAC).  For this example, we will saw the NAC is 450 feet.  We have to double this distance to account for both conductors.  450 feet x 2  = 900 feet.

Step #3:  Now that we know the distance, we need to know what type of conductor we are using for the circuit.  For this example we will use a #12 AWG solid coated copper conductor.  Once this is determined, we will need to consult the Conductor Properties table 8 in the National Electrical Code or NEC 2011 (click the link to view a copy of the table).  This table can also be found in chapter 9 on page 721.   On the table, located the section at the top under coated.  Now follow the line down under ohm/kFT (ohms per 1000 feet).  Keep scrolling down until you reach the 12 AWG with a quantity of 1 since it is solid.  If you line the left and top rows up, you will see a resistance of 2.01 ohms for 1000 feet of conductor.

Step #4:  Since we do not have a distance of 1000 feet for a out circuit, we will need to break down this resistance according to our actual distance of 900 feet.  To do this simply divide 900 feet by 1000 feet sown as 900/1000 = 0.9.  Now multiply your resistance per 1000 feet (2.01) by your distance breakdown of 0.9.  2.01 X 0.9 = 1.809 ohms per 900 feet.

Step #5:  To determine the voltage at the end of the notification appliance circuit we need to use Ohm's Law.  Since we know know the total amps (0.2A) and the total resistance (1.809) we can now find the voltage.  I X R = E or Amps x Resistance = Voltage.  0.2 x 1.809 = 0.3618 volts.

Step #6:  To find the voltage drop subtract your answer found in step #5 (0.3618) from the starting voltage of 24 volts.  24 - 0.3618 = 23.6382 volts.

Step #7:  Sometimes you may be asked to know the voltage drop percentage.  To find this, take the voltage drop (0.3618 volts) divided by 24 volts and multiply it by 100.  This is shown as (0.3618/24) x 100 = 1.5075%

See more examples of voltage drop for NACs here

Resistor Calculations


Calculating Resistors in Series


If you come across multiple resistors in series with each other, simply add the resistor values.

Resistors in series for fire alarm circuit
Resistors in Series
Example:
R1 = 3.3k
R2 = 4.7k
R3 = 10k
Total Resistance = 18k

Calculating Resistors in Parallel 

fire alarm resistors in parallel
Resistors in Parallel

1/Rt = 1/R1 + 1/R2 + 1/R3

R1 = 200
R2 = 400
R3 = 800

1/Rt = 1/200 + 1/400 + 1/800

If there is a common denominator for the bottom numbers use it by multiplying up both the top and bottom numbers in the fraction.

Example: the common denominator is 800.

Resistor R1 has a resistance of 200.  200 goes into 800 4 times.  Therefore R1 = 4/800
Resistor R2 has a resistance of 400.  400 goes into 800 2 times.  Therefore R2 = 2/800
Resistor R2 has a resistance of 800.  800 goes into 800 1 times.  Therefore R3 = 1/800

Now add the top numbers together (4 + 2 + 1 = 7) and place it on top of 800 like this 7/800.  Now take the reciprocal to make the fraction reverse to 800/7.  Divide 800 by 7 to get your answer of  = 114.286k.

Battery Calculations


Take the total standby current and multiply by 24 (hours for standby)
Take the total alarm current and multiply by (.083 for 5 minutes or .249 for 15 minutes of alarm)
Add the total of (standby current x 24) to (alarm current x .083 or .249)
Multiply the total of above by a safety factor of 1.2.  This gives you a 20% spare buffer.
Round up to required battery amp hour size.

dB Loss and Gain


Every time you double the distance from the audible appliance, you loose 6 dB.

Example:  If you have a speaker with 75dB at 10 feet, you will have 69dB at 20 feet and 63dB at 40 feet and so on at 80 feet, 160 feet......  Please note, these are not multiples of 10 feet!!!  These are broken down by doubling the distance from the last measurement.
Correct: 10 feet - 20 feet - 40 feet - 80 feet - 160 feet
Incorrect:  10 feet - 20 feet - 30 feet - 40 feet - 50 feet - 60 feet

If you double the power output of the appliance, you gain 3dB.

Example:  If you have a speaker tapped at a 1/4 watt with 75dB and you double the wattage to 1/2 watt, you will then have 78dB.


dB Line Loss Calculation


TLR = Total Load Resistance
TWR = Total Wire Resistance
TWR = Ohms/Foot X (Distance X 2)

12 AWG Ohm/FT is .00193
14 AWG Ohm/FT is .00307
16 AWG Ohm/FT is .00489
18 AWG Ohm/FT is .00777

TLR = (Voltage X Voltage) / Power
20 X Log (1- (TWR / TWR + TLR))

You cannot go over -1.5 dB

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Are Your Aerosol Smoke Testers EPA Compliant

Smoke detector testing with aerosol


Seeing as smoke detector testing is a code mandated requirement to remain compliant, I will assume we all aware of aerosol smoke detector testing cans.  If not, these are the small cans of artificial smoke that utilize different types of propellants for the purpose of testing..... You guessed it, Smoke Detectors.  There is an important change on the horizon due to the EPA's "Significant New Alternatives Policy" or SNAP for short.   As of December 31, 2017, aerosol smoke detector testers that utilize HFC-134a as their propellant will no longer be manufactured.  

What do we do now?


Do not panic.  The rapidly approaching date of December 31, 2017 does not have any bearing on the physical use of smoke detector testers with the propellant HFC-134a as this is NOT a ban.  In fact the EPA has granted some manufacturers such as SDi Specialized Fire Products an UNLIMITED "sell-through" period for any and all existing stock.  The SOLO A4 Smoke Detector Tester will continue to be sold until its anticipated exhaustion date of late 2018.

Are there other products without HFC-134a available now?


The answer is yes.  For simple smoke detector tester can replacements to the Solo A4, we can recommend the three following products:

  • The Smoke Sabre Smoke Detector Tester.  This product has been available since 2009, is approved by NFPA and contains absolutely no HFC-134a making it EPA Rule 20 compliant.  This product comes in a cut above the competition as it is silicone FREE.  The lack of silicone eliminates the concern of contamination and plastic compatibility.
  •   The Smoke Centurion - This product is exactly like the Smoke Sabre, however it can be used as a hand held unit or in conjunction with the SOLO 330 aerosol dispenser.
  • HFC-134a free smoke detector tester
    SDi Smoke Centurion Aerosol Smoke Tester
  • The new SOLO A10 (from what I have heard, should be available some time September 2017).  This unit was developed in partnership with Honeywell and utilizes their Solstice ultra-low global warming potential (GWP) propellant which is also non-flammable, HFC-134a and silicone free.  This unit will be available in two convenient sizes.   

Solo 365 Smoke Detector Tester
SDi SOLO 365 Non-HFC Smoke Tester
If you are in the market for a non-aerosol smoke detector testing unit than you need to read up on the Testifire!  The first of its kind, Testifire is an electronic smoke/heat and CO detector tester.  Available in both Smoke/Heat and Smoke/Heat/CO versions, Testifire allows the user to test without aerosols using a patented smoke generation technology with no silicone.  The unit is Manufacturer approved, listed for testing, as well as NFPA and EPA Rule 20 compliant.

Another product coming very soon is the SDi SOLO 365 smoke detector tester.  This unit is used for smoke detector testing only unlike the Testifire.  The SOLO 365 utilizes the SOLO ES3 smoke cartridges providing a faster and cleaner test.    

Additional fire alarm related aerosols available through the EPA Rule 20



  • The SOLO A7 non-flammable canned air has been granted a lifetime exemption from the EPA.
  • The Smoke 400 aerosol used with the Trutest smoke sensitivity tester will continue to be available as it is not subject to the EPA Rule 20.  


In closing, make sure to inform your managers, technicians, end-users and AHJs of this important change.  As we approach the late part of 2018, these products will become increasingly harder to come by.  Make sure you stock up now or insure your company is migrating to one of the EPA Rule 20 compliant testers mentioned above.   If you have any questions or would like to discuss your experiences with these products, please feel free to join our Facebook Group.