What are 5 Types of Fire Alarm Cable?

Fire alarm cables are multiconductor electronic cables with fire-rated protection. These products have multiple applications and variations that designate where a type of wire is installed. The National Electrical Code (NEC) published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is responsible for establishing regulations for installing power limited and non-power limited cable types. The standards also apply for non-electrical cables like those used in audio, visual and wired internet transmission.

When choosing the right cable for your application, you first need to understand and compare all of your options. Each type of cable is more suited for specific environments, and using the wrong one could be dangerous. The designer or installer must consider specifications like fire resistance or smoke generation, which could cause costly flaws with the automatic detectors or manual activation devices.

These types of wires are suitable for more than fire alarms. Fire alarm cable can also be incorporated into systems used for security, closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance, public announcement systems or intercoms. These applications also include addressable fire alarm systems (FAS) with interconnected devices and a monitoring panel that provides a more precise location when a threat has been detected.

Whether you’re installing a conventional or addressable FAS or another alert or communication system, knowing the difference in cabling keeps you compliant and protects lives and property.

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1. What Is FPLR Cable?

Fire power limited riser (FPLR) cable is the cheapest of the bunch because it’s the most basic. When you don’t need a shield or plenum insulation, you go with a riser fire alarm cable that gets installed vertically, hence the name “riser.” These cables come in sizes 22 AWG through 12 AWG with two, four, six or eight possible conductors.

FRLR riser cables, including the shielded variety, must pass UL 1424 and UL 1666 tests for resistance to fire spread.

2. What Is FPLR Shielded Cable?

FPLR shielded fire alarm cables include an aluminum polyester foil shield over the conductors to protect against electromagnetic interference (EMI). A foil shield is the only type of shield offered in standard riser alarm cables. A drain wire is also used within these shielded cables to provide sufficient grounding and avoid interference. This additional EMI protection will cost a little more than its unshielded counterpart. If you need a braid shield or foil/braid shield, you will need to wait about 4 to 6 weeks and purchase about 20,000 feet.

3. What Is FPLP Cable?

Fire power limited plenum (FPLP) fire alarm cables are plenum rated for horizontal overhead installations. Plenum cables can be installed in the plenum, which is where the name came from. You’ll notice that plenum cables are much more expensive than riser cables because of the additional engineering and protection they offer. The plenum jacket is made from low-smoke plastics like PVC and limits fire spread throughout the ducting system. They’re both offered in similar sizes because the amount of copper, or current, doesn’t change when the insulation changes.

FPLP and its shielded variation must pass UL 1244 and 1666 tests.

4. What Is FPLP Shielded Cable?

FPLP shielded fire alarm cables also include an aluminum polyester foil shield over the conductors to block electromagnetic interference. Sometimes there are a few cables running next to each other in the plenum and need shielding to block interference between one another. However, if the cable is installed by itself, it shouldn’t need a shield.

5. What Is FPL Cable?

Fire power limited (FPL) cable is non-plenum rated and boasts less protection against fire. FPL cables are not suitable for installation in environmental air spaces like plenums, risers or ducts unless installed in a conduit.

Type FPL cables must pass UL tests 1424 and 1581.

What Are Non-Power Limited Cables?

The NEC lists different regulations for non-power limited cables regarding power sources. Power-limited fire alarm cables are rated for circuits powered by sources that comply with NEC 760-41, whereas non-power limited cables use sources complying with NEC sections 760-21 and 760-233.

There are two types of non-power limited cables used in fire alarm systems:

  1. Non-Power Limited Fire (NPLF): Similar to FPL since it is suitable only for general purposes like surface wiring, this variation has no plenum jacket. It’s excluded from installation in risers, plenums, ducts and other spaces unless a conduit is used for protection. NPFL cables undergo UL 1424 and UL 1581 testing.
  2. Non-Power Limited Fire Protective (NPLFP): These fire alarm cables are surrounded by a plenum jacket. Therefore, they have adequate fire and smoke mitigation for installation in environmental air spaces. These options must pass UL 1424 and UL 910.

What Wire Should You Use for Your Fire Alarm System?

When buying fire alarm cable, consider safety precautions and performance ratings such as fire resistance or its susceptibility to burning. Another characteristic is the cable’s smoke propagation or the amount of smoke created from contact with fire. When selecting electrical cable for these critical fire, security and communications systems, you should refer to the NEC’s acceptable limits of burning and smoke emission. Consider also the extreme conditions your wiring layout could face and any applicable local fire and electrical codes.

Buy Fire Alarm Cable Online From WesBell Electronics

At WesBell Electronics, we carry several types of fire alarm cables covered here. Our stock of multiconductor electronic cables is priced competitively, so you can save money and time moving your projects forward. Our team carries a wide selection organized by American Wire Gauge (AWG) size and conductor count. What’s more, we partner with reputable manufacturers to verify compliance. If you need assistance with our inventory of fire alarm cables, our knowledgeable representatives are happy to advise you.

Before placing your order, consider in-house services like cutting to length, stripping outer layers and preparing assemblies. We are an ISO 9001 certified company and ensure quality with every service we provide.

Contact us today with your questions about the right type of fire alarm cable for your application.