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Monday, December 19, 2016

Smoke Detectors for HVAC Shutdown

"For fire smoke dampers, should I use an in-duct spot type smoke detector or a duct detector?"

Sampling tube style duct detectors are listed for a minimum air velocity of 100 fpm (feet per minute). If you are to ensure the rating of the wall at duct penetrations (dampers), you must provide coverage per The International Building Code IBC 2012 Edition Section 717.3.3.2.  

717.3.3.2 Smoke damper actuation. The smoke fire damper shall close upon actuation of a listed smoke detector or detectors installed in accordance with Section 907.3 and one of the following methods, as applicable:

1. Where a smoke damper is installed within a duct, a smoke detector shall be installed in the duct within 5 feet (1524 mm) of the damper with no air outlets or inlets between the detector and the damper. The detector shall be listed for the air velocity, temperature and humidity anticipated at the point where it is installed. Other than in mechanical smoke control systems, dampers shall be closed upon fan shutdown where local smoke detectors require a minimum velocity to operate.

2. Where a smoke damper is installed above smoke barrier doors in a smoke barrier, a spot-type detector listed for releasing service shall be installed on either side of the smoke barrier door opening.

3. Where a smoke damper is installed within an air transfer opening in a wall, a spot-type detector listed for releasing service shall be installed within 5 feet (1524 mm) horizontally of the damper.

4. Where a smoke damper is installed in a corridor wall or ceiling, the damper shall be permitted to be controlled by a smoke detection system installed in the corridor.

5. Where a total-coverage smoke detector system is provided within areas served by a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, smoke dampers shall be permitted to be controlled by the smoke detection system.

The 1st method above states that you must provide a smoke detector installed in the duct within 5’ of the fire smoke damper, and that the smoke detector shall be listed for the air velocity.  If you shut down the fan, there will not be a minimum air velocity of 100 fpm to achieve the proper listing of a sampling tube style duct detector (System Sensor D4120 for example).  Notice that this same paragraph states that “Other than in mechanical smoke control systems, dampers shall be closed upon fan shutdown where local smoke detectors require a minimum velocity to operate”.

What if we decide to use sample tube duct smoke detectors?



System Sensor D4120 Sample Type Duct DetectorIf we are using duct detectors for damper control, then whenever the fan is off, the dampers must be shut since the duct detectors such as the System Sensor D4120 require a minimum velocity of 100 fpm to operate.  Does this mean we then have to monitor fan status, and shut dampers upon fan shutoff, or shall the mechanical contractor have to inter-tie with all the dampers associated with that fan?  If we decide to monitor the fan, that creates another issue—per the IMC (International Mechanical Code), if a damper has automatically been activated to close, the associated fan must be shutdown.  Picture this scenario—AHU1 turns off, so we shut down the dampers.  The damper circuit we are controlling also serves dampers associated with AHU2, therefore we must shut that one down as well.  Since AHU2 is serving other areas of the building, we must shut those circuits of dampers as well, and so on until the whole building has typically been shut down for HVAC equipment including dampers.

What if we use spot type In-Duct Smoke Detectors?


In-Duct Smoke Detector Spot TypeOn the other hand, if we are protecting the fire smoke dampers with an in-duct detector, you can have the fan shut down upon duct detector for the fan, and the dampers throughout the rest of the building may remain open and the other fans may remain on.  The damper is still protected with the in-duct smoke detector to ensure the rating of the wall to shut the damper upon detection of smoke, and if the in-duct smoke detector activates, then we go through the shut-down process of the fans and dampers throughout the building as exampled above.  Note that in-duct detectors have a listed minimum air velocity of 0 fpm, meaning that it does not “require a minimum velocity to operate“, therefore not requiring shutdown of the building upon a single fan being shut down.

Building owners really don’t like when their building heats up because they are servicing one of their fans, or one of the many fans in their building turns off due to a number of circumstances that are not necessarily indicative of a fire, and our fire alarm system shuts down all HVAC movement in the building.  Mechanical contractors don’t like it when they are forced to interface with individual dampers to close upon fan shutdown.  And finally, electrical/mechanical contractors really don’t like it when we force them to give us a true status of the fan via a Current or Differential Pressure switch when the fan is not a part of a smoke control system and it was not shown on their drawings or bid docs.

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