Difference Between Replacing and Upgrading a Fire Alarm System

A fire alarm system installation is a legal requirement for every building in the UK. Commercial, residential and industrial building owners have the responsibility to ensure their fire alarm system complies with the current legislation. Fire alarm regulations form part of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. When a fire alarm system installation becomes outdated, it presents technical challenges to the building manager. The most critical challenges being maintainability and compliance with fire prevention legislation. So, should you upgrade or replace your current fire alarm system? This answers some common questions about when to upgrade or replace a system entirely.

What is the lifetime of a fire alarm system?

There are several components which make up a fire detection and alarm system. For simple residential or small commercial installations, there are smoke or heat detectors, manual call points and sounders. These components usually have a life span of about 10 years before they need replacing. Yet, it depends on the installation environment how long they may last before you need to replace them. In more complex systems with hundreds of devices, there is a central monitoring unit or control panel offering users a means to interact with the system.

Is your fire alarm system obsolete?

Communication systems between devices and the fire alarm panel may become obsolete. The computer software running the complex monitoring of every single device may also become out of date, putting the entire installation at risk. While this does not mean your system is no longer fit for purpose, the increasing cost of repairs and maintenance may make it less cost-effective. As fire alarm systems and devices age the reliability of the components decreases. You may experience this as an increase in the number of false alarms. There may come a point where the cost to a business of the false alarms tell you it’s time to consider an upgrade.

The leap in fire detection and prevention technology also mean manufacturers are releasing better devices with greater frequency. While new devices may still work with older or legacy system, it is more common than not that an entirely new system is needed. Fire alarm systems developed within the last 5 years have become more advanced than older devices. From the fire detection devices to control panel and display software, making managing fire alarms easier.

If your system is more than 10 years old, then it is likely components are harder to source and becoming more expensive. Perhaps it’s time to consider an upgrade.

Top reasons to replace fire alarm devices

Once installation and commissioning are complete, your fire alarm system sits there in the background keeping a watchful eye on your premises. For most organisations who manage their fire risks diligently, the only time the alarm sounds is during the weekly alarm tests.

Some building managers often seem to forget that the system still requires maintenance to ensure optimal performance continues. Your alarm maintenance company will advise of any device changes during the 6-monthly and annual service calls.

Below are some of the top reasons for replacing components instead of upgrading the entire system:

  • The fire alarm is less than 10 years old and devices and components are widely available
  • The device manufacturer still supports hardware and software of the system with necessary software upgrades available
  • Your system still under manufacturer and installer warranty
  • The costs of maintaining the system are steady with no increase in repair callouts
  • The fire alarm system still reliable and there are no random false activations
  • There have been no extensive building works which mean a redesign of the system is needed to remain compliant and ensure total coverage

If the above describes your fire prevention system then in the event of a device failure, you will just need to contact your professional fire and security company to replace the faulty device. At this stage, you are still a long way from considering a fire alarm system upgrade. It is always a good idea to have an upgrade plan in place. Carrying out a fire system review every few years will give you plenty of time to make a phased upgrade if you need to.

Why upgrade your fire detection system now?

Deciding to upgrade your fire alarm system is a big decision for any business. Depending on the size of your premises, upgrading your fire protection system can be costly. So how do you know that upgrading is the right decision now? If your answer to most of the statements below is a yes, your system needs an upgrade.

  • More than 10 years have passed since the installation and commissioning date of your current fire alarm system
  • Maintenance costs keep increasing every year
  • Your alarm system maintenance contractor remarks how difficult it is becoming sourcing replacement parts and components
  • The software for your system runs on a version of the Windows operating system without official support from Microsoft
  • Extensive alterations or extension to your building layout which mean a redesign of entire system is needed
  • You are experiencing an increase in the frequency of false activations (building evacuations, costs due to lost production, warnings from fire service etc) insurance costs
  • Reduced system reliability and your insurer recommends you upgrade your fire alarm system

For some companies, it may be just one of the factors above which convince them to upgrade their system. For others, it may be most of them. Whichever group you fall into, it is a wise business decision to consider upgrading your system without delay.

What to do next whether you need to replace or upgrade your fire alarm

With the many options available on the market today, finding the perfect fire alarm system for your business or home is not easy. First, you have to find the right Fire and Security company to deal with. Next, you have to seek their advice on the most suitable system for your type of premises.

What if in just a single call you could solve the problem of finding a professional and experienced fire alarm installation company. Would you make it?

Contact Fire and Security understand that no two clients are the same when it comes to fire alarm systems. We supply a range of fire alarm systems, from fire risk assessment to system design, specification, installation and maintenance. You can view a range of the systems we supply here.

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Iris VBS Fire & Security is a leading provider for commercial and domestic fire and security systems in Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, the South East and beyond.

We provide a personal and professional service tailoring every fire and security solution to each individual client’s requirements, from design to installation to ongoing maintenance packages. We partner with industry leading providers to offer our clients a choice of best-fit unbiased solutions, including accredited fire solutions and advanced security solutions.

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