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Aspiration Smoke Detection

Positioning Paper
Until we developed the high sensitivity Pinnacle laser optical point detector,
aspiration systems were the most effective way of providing very early
warning protection for areas such as manufacturing clean rooms, telecoms
facilities, high-tech diagnosis equipment in hospitals, data centres, computer
suites, control rooms and other high value environments. Here there is
substantial cost for downtime, or a significant investment in installed
equipment has been made, so it is imperative that any fire is detected at the
very earliest time. Given that such environments will often be temperature
and humidity controlled with dust filtered out of the atmosphere, it is possible
to increase significantly the sensitivity of the smoke detector without running
the risk of frequent nuisance alarms.
Traditionally, the technique used to achieve smoke detection sensitivities as
high as 0.005% obscuration / meter in a specific area has been the aspiration
system. A dedicated network of pipes is installed in the protected areas and
air is sucked through the pipes, either to a central remote detection chamber
that addresses each protected area in sequence or to a number of
centralised remote detection chambers, each one dedicated to a specific
protected area. The detection chamber contains a highly sensitive, smoke
detector, typically a large chamber optical type using a laser as the light
Although these systems are significantly more sensitive to incipient fires or
overheating equipment than general application optical smoke detectors,
they do nevertheless have several major disadvantages.
The main two are as follows:
1. They are a separate independent system, installed in parallel to the
main fire protection system, consequentially incurring additional cost.
2. Unlike an addressable detection system, the location of an alarm
condition can only be identified to a general area, not a specific
detector position.

There are of course benefits to aspiration technology however:

They rely upon electro-mechanical equipment to draw air in from the protected area

The air is drawn in through a series of small holes spaced along the whole length of the
pipe, so particles of combustion are significantly diluted with clear air drawn in from other
parts of the room.

The location of an incipient fire cannot be identified more precisely than to the overall
areas covered by the particular intake pipe.

Some of the holes used to draw air in from the protected area can become blocked with
dust or fibres, reducing the coverage of the protected area without the user becoming
aware of the problem.

Failure of a single critical component such as the detector or suction fan results in a
complete loss of protection to the area.

They do however have some significant advantages.

Aspiration systems are an effective method of providing high sensitivity protection for
difficult areas such as under-floor cable voids in computer rooms, where air velocities
can be quite high as the false floor is typically used to feed cooling air into the enclosures
housing the equipment.

They also have obvious applications for inaccessible and difficult to reach areas, and by
incorporating suitable filters in the inlet pipes, dusty and dirty areas can also be effectively

False alarms in dirty areas can be minimised by careful adjustment of the detectors
sensitivity and optimising the number of suction holes in the detection tubes.

System Sensor has recognised that there are applications where an aspiration system offers the
best protection, but it has always seemed illogical and unnecessarily expensive to have to install,
maintain and monitor a completely separate system purely to protect minority areas in the
building. To provide an elegant and more cost effective solution in applications where an
aspiration system is appropriate, we have developed a hybrid system to take full advantage of
the best features from both point detection and aspiration detection.

System Sensors range of aspiration detectors consists of two families:

1. The fully featured high sensitivity A200 Series LASD (Laser Aspiration Smoke Detector).
Available in single channel (A211E-LSR) or dual channel (A222E-LSR) versions that are
loop controlled or stand-alone units, factory-fitted with Pinnacle laser detectors
2. The entry level A300 Series ASD (Aspiration Smoke Detector).
Available in single channel (A310E) or dual channel (A320E) versions supplied without
detectors or bases, which can be user-fitted with either Series 200plus, ECO1000 or
Vision detectors with communication direct from the fire panel to the detectors.
In both versions, the single channel device can optionally be fitted with a second detector to give
either failsafe redundancy or double-knock detection operation where connection to an automatic
sprinkler system is available.


Loop Controlled or Stand-Alone

High Sensitivity Laser Aspiration Smoke Detector

Our recommended fully-featured system takes the best of both worlds, using Pinnacle laser
detectors addressed from the fire system loop as the detector for the aspiration system to offer
high sensitivity smoke detection. The units are available as single channel or dual channel
devices; in the single channel version, the second Pinnacle detector can be fitted to give doubleknock detection, a mandatory requirement if the system has automatic initiation of sprinklers or
gaseous extinguishing systems as one of its features. The second detector can also be used to
give automatic redundancy capability, a particular benefit for installations in remote, unattended
buildings such as mobile communication base stations.
The aspiration unit has a significant advantage when used as part of a Series 200 plus system:
the embedded translator interface enables the Pinnacle detectors to appear as standard optical
devices to the panel, thereby doing away with any need for the software upgrade that is required
if the panel is to address the Pinnacle directly.
A single fan, mounted in the unit, is used to draw air through the input tube; in two channel
systems, the fan is common across both tubes. High and low flow indicators for each channel
are provided locally as a bar graph display in the unit. A single fan is used to draw air through
both single and dual channel systems; for VdS approved installations, pipes can be up to 75m in
length (up to 750m2 coverage) in a single channel unit and up to 50m each (up to 1000m2
coverage) in a dual channel device. The device has been designed to work with significantly
longer pipe lengths where installations approved to other Approval Authorities are acceptable.
The pipes are typically 25mm in diameter and the sampling points, which are introduced into the
pipe at the appropriate places during installation, are nominally 3mm diameter holes in the tube,
although their exact size, and spacing will depend on the distance from the detector and the
number of holes in the pipe. Depending on the size and shape of the protected area, the hole
layout can be calculated during the fire system design by using the spacing rules developed over
many years for point smoke detectors for standard sensitivities; where higher sensitivities are
required the spacing rules should be in accordance with other generally accepted Codes of
Practice such as BS6266. Our guides to conventional, beam and addressable fire systems
contain the detailed calculations for standard sensitivity spacing if required.

Each unit will have two or four loop addresses, depending on the number of detectors fitted.
Each detector appears as a detector address with a ghost address from the sensor in the
module address space that will report faults from the aspiration unit. The entire unit, including the
detectors, is powered from an external 24VDC supply. The obvious application is the integration
into an addressable system, but they can also operate as a stand-alone device with volt-free
relay outputs for fire and fault (conventional system). Loop-powered or stand-alone operation is
user-selectable using the units integral software. In both modes, local information can be
configured and displayed by LEDs and bar graphs in the unit.


Loop Controlled Aspiration Smoke Detector

These units are similar to the A211E-LSR and A222E-LSR, except that the translator interface is
not fitted, so communication from the detectors fitted within the aspiration unit is direct, As
standard, the unit is supplied without detectors or bases, as any System Sensor detector: Series
200 plus, ECO1000 or Vision may be fitted to suit the application and the detector family used for
the rest of the system.
There is no stand-alone mode for the unit and a control panel is always needed. This offers the
opportunity to install less sensitive conventional or analogue detectors if the application doesnt
warrant high sensitivity due to the risk of false alarms.
This means that if Pinnacle laser detectors or any other detectors are fitted, the control panel
must be able to communicate directly with the installed detector, and all sensitivity settings and
parameter changes need to be carried out at the control panel. All faults from the aspiration unit
will only be transmitted to the control panel by the removal of the appropriate channels detector,
as there is no means for communication with the control panel other than through the detectors.
Two channel devices have duplicated airflow indicators and status indicators for each channel;
parameters common to both channels are indicated on a single set of LEDs. All airflow-related
parameters are set up locally in both versions as part of the installation and commissioning

Local Indicators
Both versions are fitted with local indicators showing the status of the airflow side of the device;
the fully-featured A200 versions also have additional status indicators.
Both the A200 and the A300 Series have local indicators:
Fan fault
Power On & power fault
Mains failure
Per Channel
Airflow: low, high, OK
10 LED bar graph of air speed

The A200 has additional local indicators showing

Mode (Single Channel only)
Per Channel
Alert alarm
Action alarm
Fire alarm
Smoke level or airflow speed bar graph
Smoke detector fault

Strengths and Weaknesses against Competition

The primary competitors are the suppliers of stand-alone aspiration systems: Vision Systems,
Airsense, Wagner and Kidde Hart are probably the best known.
The major advantage that our new system offers is the ability to integrate an aspiration system
into an addressable fire system, gaining the best of both worlds.
The obvious weakness is that the Pinnacle detector is not as sensitive as typical stand-alone
aspiration systems a maximum of 0.07% against 0.005%, an order of magnitude difference but, having said that, it is a very effective early warning detector. In practice, sensitivities lower
than 0.07% are rarely used, as, unless immense trouble is taken to keep out dust, they may lead
to an increased level of false alarms. Very high sensitivity devices will only be viable in areas
such a clean rooms, where particulate contamination is closely controlled.

The Benefits
The main benefits are the opportunity to offer a solution that combines the performance
characteristics and high sensitivity of an aspiration system with the convenience, flexibility and
sophistication of an addressable fire system. The System Sensor aspiration detector is a very
price competitive addition to our smoke detector capability, enabling mission-critical areas,
difficult to access areas and large open areas to be protected effectively using the aspiration
detector. Specifications that refer to aspiration technology can now be quoted directly without
having to convince the specifier of the benefits of substituting laser point detectors for an
aspiration system. As a positive tool, when specifiers can be persuaded of the benefits of
integrating an aspiration system based on a laser point smoke detector into the main fire system,
it will lock out the competition because the Pinnacle is a unique product, certainly as far as the
mainstream detector manufacturers are concerned.
The other great benefit is that no software engineering resource is required to add the Pinnacle
aspiration unit to the system because the loop interface module translates the output from the
Pinnacle detector to standard optical levels that can be directly interrogated by the panel.

Partner Customers: Fire Engineering Companies

The benefits for partners customers are very similar to those for the partners themselves: where
the partner is supplying equipment kits to the fire contractor, the contractor will be able to
respond to tender invitations involving aspiration systems without having to convince the specifier
of the merits of a point detector alternative. There is also the potential financial benefit of routine
servicing and maintenance covering the aspiration part of the system, rather than a separate
system being maintained separately by others.

The benefits, both for cost and operational reasons of having an aspiration system as an integral
part of the overall fire system are potentially quite substantial. One overall fire protection system,
in which additional areas can readily be protected using either point or aspiration detection,
whichever is the most appropriate, gives a degree of future proofing that is a further benefit of our
hybrid approach.

End Users
The end user has the benefit of a single system, with the detection technology tailored to the
specific areas of the building as required. A single control panel and a robust aspiration unit, with
built-in redundancy if required, will enable full cover of critical areas to be maintained with
minimum downtime in the event of equipment failure.

Potential applications are extremely diverse. The more obvious ones are computer
rooms and their associated under floor and ceiling voids, cable ducts, large open areas
such as conference rooms and auditoria, remote unmanned buildings, data and co-lo
centres, where a single unit could protect a specific bank of server housings, railway
rolling stock, equipment rooms and so on. Since the air being sucked through the unit is
filtered to remove dust and dirt particles, the unit can also be used in harsh and dirty
environments where a standard point detector would false alarm through contamination.
In particularly dirty applications, the in-line filters will have to be regularly cleaned: the low
airflow indicator will give a good indication of the required frequency. Accessories are
available to enable the units to be mounted in very dirty environments or humid areas.
The unit can also be an effective solution for applications such as historic and protected
buildings where point detectors are difficult to install. In restricted access areas, for
example high ceilings in churches, where access to clean point detectors is difficult, it will
be a strong alternative option.