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Improve Your Fire Protection By Installing Duct Detectors!

Posted on: May 13, 2011

Forced air HVAC systems are the most common ways that most Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC buildings are kept warm or cool. Unfortunately, since they blow air through ducts into every room in a building, they can also blow smoke through the ductwork to every part of your building. Worse yet, fires can even start INSIDE the ducts – if a fan motor overheats and sparks, for example. If this happens, you might not even know about the fire until flames start shooting out of our vents! This type of situation can be extremely hard to prepare for, and therefore extremely dangerous – unless you have duct detectors!

What is a duct detector?

A duct detector is a specially designed smoke detector that goes in your HVAC ducts that detects smoke circulating through the system. Duct detectors are designed to prevent injury, panic and property damage in a couple of ways: first by letting you know that smoke is traveling through your building’s ducts, and then by immediately shutting down the building’s fans and air handlers. This is what makes duct detectors so effective – not only do they emit an audio alarm and send a signal to your alarm panel when they sense smoke, but they also shut down the fans and air handlers to stop the flow of the smoke through the ducts! Some systems take this a step further, closing the dampers in your ductwork to prevent the smoke from escaping and moving through the ducts on its own.

Duct detectors can also be programmed to only stop the supply fan in your building while keeping the return fan running. This method actually works better in many cases because it helps pull the smoke and other contaminants caused by fire out of your building, helping you escape by allowing you to breathe and see more clearly during your evacuation.

Duct detectors are extremely useful in cases where a fire could start in a place where you wouldn’t be able to see it (until it’s too late!). For instance, if the fan motor in your ductwork overheats and sparks, it could potentially start a fire that would normally be easy to take care of, but could bring down your whole building because you had no time to react. A duct detector would be able to pick up on the fire much more quickly than a regular fire alarm or smoke detector and would not only alert the people inside your building, but in many cases would be able to effectively prevent the spread of the smoke or fire until the fire department arrived on scene.

Things to Consider When Installing Duct Detectors

Duct smoke detectors are highly effective at responding to smoke hazards in your ductwork. However, it’s important that you keep some things in mind when you use them.

  • Duct detectors should not be a substitute for area smoke detectors
  • Duct detectors are not meant to be a substitute for early warning detection
  • Duct detectors are not meant to be a replacement for a building’s regular fire detection system

The NFPA supports these points by saying that duct smoke detectors are only intended to prevent the distribution of smoke through the supply air duct system and, preferably, to exhaust a significant quantity of smoke to the outside. Neither of these functions can guarantee the early detection of fire or the detection smoke concentrations before the concentrations reach dangerous levels. As a result, it is important that you only install duct smoke detectors as a supplement to your existing fire protection system.

If you own a building in the Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC area and you want to upgrade your level of fire protection, call Guardian Fire Protection today. We can install a duct detector system in your HVAC ducts to make sure that you are protected on all sides, and of course, we can service and maintain your existing duct detectors!

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