Addressable or Conventional Fire Alarm System?

So you are looking to install a fire alarm system in your building. The question, however, is which approach should you take? Should you go with the simple conventional fire alarm system? or the more intelligent addressable fire alarm system? In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of both types of systems in the hope of assisting with the best method for you and your project.
Conventional Fire Alarm System

Let us start with the simplest of the two systems. A conventional fire alarm system is a fire alarm system wired using a radial method (single legs of cable). These radials are wired from the main fire alarm panel and are either fire alarm zones or sounder circuits.

Fire alarm zones are the radial circuits that monitor the detectors and manual call points. These zone circuits can accommodate multiple detectors and call points on each radial circuit.

Sounder circuits are the radial circuits that control the fire alarm sounders and Visual Alarm Devices (VADS). These circuits can accommodate multiple sounders, but they are generally limited to each sounder’s power consumption, along with how much output the panel offers on each sounder circuit.
Due to the conventional system’s simplistic form, should a fire or fault occur, it will only highlight a fire/fault in that area (on the specific zone). It cannot identify precisely where the fire outbreak is or which specific detector has registered a fire/fault. It only identifies which zone has the fire or circuit fault. The problem with a conventional system is that it makes fault finding time consuming for fire alarm engineers. It means an extended time on site and, in hand, more costs when repairing the system despite the lower price of the fire alarm devices and fire alarm panels.

As a conventional system uses separate radial circuits for both detectors and sounders, the installation cost can sometimes be more than an addressable system. It is due to the amount of cable used, which can be significantly more than the addressable system.

Conventional systems are pretty basic in electronics due to their simplistic nature. Therefore, the build cost is considerably less than an addressable system. The small price to produce the equipment means it is cheaper for the consumer to buy. It makes a conventional system an affordable solution to a fire alarm system in smaller projects like shops, small offices and small schools.
ot suitable for larger projects.
Fires and faults are only shown in a zone and not an exact location.
Possibly, more cabling than an addressable system.

Protec offers a range of conventional fire alarm control panels known as the 3000 range. The range provides a low-cost solution to fire detection. Should you want to know more about these systems, take a look at our conventional systems on our product pages.

Addressable Fire Alarm System

An addressable system utilises a loop configuration containing all the fire alarm devices, including sounders and beacons/. A loop wired system uses less cable compared to that of a more extensive conventional system.

Each device on an addressable system utilises a system-wide protocol. A protocol is a language the fire alarm panel uses to talk to each fire alarm device. The panel allocates each of the devices with its own unique number/code. This number is known as the device address. When adding a device to the system, the commission engineer logs the device address and then inputs the device’s real-world location into the fire alarm panel.

The fire alarm panel continually communicates with the devices on the system. It enables the fire alarm panel to identify the exact device or manual call point in an alarm condition. Therefore, reporting a fire’s location, system faults and false alarms in a matter of seconds.
Addressable systems can accommodate a lot more fire alarm devices and fire zones. It makes an addressable system ideal for medium to large projects. The Protec 6500 addressable system can also link to other Protec 6500 addressable fire alarm panels, repeat panels and expansion nodes via a secure network, making it almost limitless in size.

But Is It Possible To Have The Best of Both?

In the past, only medium and large projects benefitted from addressable systems. However, Protec has developed the 6100 fire alarm control panel. The 6100 is a single loop addressable fire alarm control panel. A cost-effective addressable solution for small to medium fire alarm systems. The panels are priced slightly higher than a conventional panel. However, the time and money saved installing the 6100 over that of a conventional system due to the loop configuration soon makes up for that initial cost. With that in mind, plus the benefits that addressable systems offer, it makes the Protec 6100 a serious contender in featuring in your next small building project.
For more information on our digital addressable 6000PLUS series fire alarm systems such as the 6100 and 6500, head over to our products page’s addressable section to find out more and encounter the full range of digital addressable devices Protec produce.
Fire Alarms

Improvements in technology have helped drive down costs. Should your organization choose a conventional or intelligent fire alarm system? The answer is easy…it depends. It depends on the building you are looking to have the system installed in. Best utilized for smaller applications, a conventional fire alarm remains a viable fire protection solution. The main difference between conventional and intelligent fire alarm systems is that with intelligent fire alarm systems, you can pinpoint exactly which device has been activated. Conventional systems are not able to provide exact details of the event.
A conventional fire alarm system uses one or more circuits, connected to sensors wired in parallel. Each device is connected to the control panel with its own wire. You will find one end of the wire connected to the device, and another connected to the control panel. The main advantage of the conventional fire alarm system is that they are cost effective for the smaller applications.

Please click here for information on Intelligent Fire Alarm Systems.

Fire alarms must be inspected and tested on a regular basis. The NICET licensed and certified technicians at Reliable Fire & Security will ensure your alarm is in proper working order and compliant with current code. For more information on our inspection and maintenance services, please click here.

Conventional Fire Alarm System

what is a conventional fire alarm system Conventional panels have been around ever since electronics became small enough to make them viable. They are no longer used frequently in large buildings, but are still used on smaller sites such as small schools, stores, restaurants, and apartments
What is a conventional fire alarm system

A conventional system employs one or more initiating circuits, connected to sensors (initiating devices) wired in parallel. These sensors are devised to decrease the circuits resistance when the environmental influence on any sensor exceeds a predetermined threshold. In a conventional system the information density is limited to the number of such circuits used. At times, a floor plan of the building is often placed near the main entrance with the defined zones drawn up, and LEDs indicating whether a particular circuit/zone has been activated. Another common method is to have the different zones listed in a column, with an LED to the left of each zone name.

The main drawback with conventional panels is that one cannot tell which device has been activated within a circuit. The fire may be in one small room, but as far as emergency responders can tell, a fire could exist anywhere within a zone. The same applies to coded panels, which nowadays are no longer made, but can be found in old systems. These, if the decision is made to keep them, are “grandfathered” in under NFPA regulations.
Advantages of conventional fire alarm systems:

(Note: The larger the system the less competitive the price mainly due to higher installation costs.)
Disadvantages of conventional fire alarm systems:


Conventional fire alarm system employs one or more initiating circuits from the panel, connected to detection devices wired in parallel. These detectors are devised to decrease the circuit’s resistance when the environmental influence on any detection exceeds a predetermined threshold.

With the application of the mimic panel on the control panel, a floor plan with the defined zones drawn up on the mimic panel and pinned with LED lights. The LED lights indicates the status of the circuit/zone in the building. The conventional fire alarm systems is cost effective for small application.
Conventional Fire Alarm Operation Explained

What is meant by the term “Conventional Fire Alarm System”?

When referring to fire alarm systems, you will most likely hear the term “a conventional system”. If you do not work within the fire industry, you may not understand what is meant, by the term conventional.

A conventional system is a fire alarm that identifies the activated detector or manual call point by a zone LED, this is different to the text message shown on an LCD display used for on an addressable system.

See the Video of a Conventional System in Action

In the example shown in the video, a smoke detector is activated on the ground floor. You will observe that the red LED indicating a fire activation is now illuminated, along with another red LED in zone 1. If you look at the zone listing below, you see that zone one is “Ground floor”.

Let us now activate another detector, but this time on the first floor. You will observe that once again the red fire LED has illuminated; however, this time it is the red Zone LED for Zone two. Zone two on the zone listing is the first floor.

Conventional Systems are very basic

As you can see, the information produced by the fire alarm control panel is very basic. The user would have to search the zone/area to either locate the activated device or the fire. This would increase the “seek and search” time and especially if there are many devices on the system.

This is the reason we would advise that conventional systems should not be used in large buildings or systems with lots of devices or devices that may not be accessible.

However, some conventional systems are still in demand.

Due to the reduced cost of small addressable fire alarm systems, more fire alarm companies are restricting the number of conventional systems installed, in preference to addressable systems.

However, there are a few types of conventional systems still in demand; one is the “two wire” or “Twin flex” type system, these systems are very cost effective when using for small budget systems, and other is fire suppression systems, where conventional systems are still the preferred choice at the moment. Addressable systems were increasing in popularity for fire suppression systems, but this appears to have stopped due to the enforcement of the European CE standard. Many manufacturers were not prepared to pay to have their fire suppression addressable fire alarm equipment approved by a third party, therefore, they have withdrawn the products.

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