The Ceiling-Mount Infestation

Only one of my schools are still surviving…

Ok, I’ll stop with the dramatic typing :lol: . Though it seems like all of my schools have completely made the change from wall-mounts to ceiling-mounts. Like three years ago they all had older wall-mounted alarms (larger piezos / vertical strobes type old) and then there’s today. I’m not complaining— they do the job better since they can cover a larger area from the ceiling, but I didn’t expect them to change one after the other, honestly. So, these are all of my schools that have made the change from wall-mounts to ceiling-mounts

Elementary School: Simplex 4903-9219s and a few wall -9127 TrueAlerts —> Simplex 4906-9128 Ceiling TrueAlerts

Middle School: Gentex SHGs/GX-90s/Commander 1-3s/450D+VALS/others —> Gentex Commander 4 horn/strobes and strobes (even on the gym ceiling!)

West High School: Cerberus Pyrotronics MTLs, UMMTs, and ASs —> Siemens ZH-MC-CRs

East High School (very little of the building): Simplex 2901-9846s on 4903-9105s, 4904-9105s, and -9127 wall TrueAlerts —> Wheelock Exceeder HSRC and ONE LHSRC3! (LED Exceeder)

So, that’s the list of all my schools. The only school that is “surviving” through this is my Intermediate School (grades 3-5), which has normal 4906-9127 TrueAlerts, and my East High School building has a lot more of the old alarms than the new. So, what are your thoughts on this, and are any of your schools having the older NAs taken out of the building for ceiling mounts?

That actually only happened with the college that I went to and not my other schools I went to. Originally the alarms were Simple 4051 horns on 4050-80 light plates with no FIRE lettering and the system I assumed was set in some kind of march time. When they began replacing the alarms, they tried wall-mount Exceeders first but then switched to SpectrAlert Advance speaker/strobes that were put on the ceiling and a metal plate was put over all of the places where the 4050-80s were. They were all flush mount so it was easy to put the plates on.

When my elementary school upgraded, all of the SpectrAlert Advance speaker/strobes were put on the walls but no in the places the old alarms were.

Actually, wall mount devices have better coverage than ceiling mount ones, both audible and visual. The only reason I can think of for not installing the new devices where the old ones where is that the old devices might’ve been spaced too far apart to meet current strobe coverage requirements, even with 185 candela strobes, and adding the new devices to the dropped ceiling is easier than adding them to the walls.

When they replaced the HVAC at my school over the summer they also replaced the majority of the dropped ceiling. While most of the old wall-mount devices remained intact, the restrooms, main office, and a few (maybe just one) classrooms received ceiling-mount Exceder horn/strobes and strobes (replacing wall-mount devices). There was only one wall-mount Exceder that was installed (this summer), and it was just a spot-replacement for a broken NS.

Oh! I thought ceiling mounted devices would do the job better since it would be more like a full circle of coverage rather than half. Also, some areas did in fact receive wall-mounted devices in my schools, however, both my Elementary and Middle schools put ceiling mounts in the gym, which makes no sense since the gym ceiling is so high, and that there is so much empty space to install new wall mounted alarms.

Department stores and buildings with large interiors and wide open spaces seem to prefer ceiling-mount for a few reasons

  1. If there are only 4 permanent walls in the building (think Home Depot or BJ’s or large warehouse), then it’s hard to get signal coverage out in the center of the building using only wall-appliances. Sure, you can mount wall-mount AVs to the pillars supporting the roof, but now you have to run conduit and pull wires all the way down from the ceiling at each pillar, and then you have to mount at least 2 signals, 1 for each side of the pillar, so sound and strobe distribution is even. Better hope you’re not directly underneath one of those 2-signal arrangements when they go off! Also, if the business wants shelving out in the open, now we have to account for pillars that will be obstructed and cannot hold signals, and make sure that they keep enough open space to be in compliance with local codes.

    But if we ceiling-mount the devices, they can be put in a series of visually satisfying (if you love even arrangements like I do) arrays on the ceiling and be more evenly spaced, and their wires usually don’t require conduit if the ceiling is high enough (and the wire is appropriately fire-rated).

  2. Keeping all the devices, like smoke detectors, modules, air ducts, light fixtures, speakers, and fire alarm AVs on the ceiling instead of the walls gives the walls of a facility a cleaner look. Also, in places like malls, where you have several storefronts in a row, each with its own style, keeping fire alarm AVs on the ceiling is easier for the installers and aesthetically looks much nicer.

When my elementary school upgraded, the cafe-gymnasium had a metal ceiling so obviously it wouldn’t be feasible to put the alarms on the ceiling unless they replaced the whole ceiling which would mean even MORE money in upgrades (ironically, some of the classroom ceilings had collapsed and that was why they did the upgrade in the first place) so they just put them on the walls. Except they might have gone a little overkill with it. Originally, there were 4 9838s on the longer walls on 4903 strobe plates. After the renovation, EVERY single wall has 2 SpectrAlert Advanced speaker/strobes on it. Some of the classrooms also got a wall-mount speaker/strobe and a wall mount speaker also! Not sure if the setup will stay like that since they are renovating the school again, but since the alarm system was put in back in 2012, I don’t think they will have to upgrade them.

Almost all of my company’s retrofit jobs require pulling new wire. This is because the plans we submit need to meet modern codes for detection and notification which old systems do not meet. Sometimes a system we are replacing is modern enough that we can do a device-for-device swap, but if not, it’s usually easier to abandon old circuits and pull entirely new ones than make a mess of trying to tap new devices into old circuits. You also can’t submit current draw calculations if you don’t know how many devices are on a NAC.

With new retrofit circuits, we almost always use ceiling-mount everything. It’s a thousand times simpler to cut a ceiling tile and hang a T-bar than to try to fish wire into an existing wall through a header, horizontal fire stops, or anything else and to supposedly fire-caulk all these penetrations. If we have to add pull stations, we’ll have the electricians do surface mount conduit if the owners will allow. Usually pull stations are already there though, and we may just need to lower them to ADA height.

New buildings we do about 50-50 ceiling and wall notification. We often mix them in the same building, putting wall devices in rooms with tall ceilings and ceiling devices in corridors.

That’s mostly because speaker-strobes don’t have the same sound output as horn-strobes and it takes more speakers to get the equivalent sound coverage than when using horns. The YMCA I’ve been going to for years upgraded their fire alarm system in the early 2000s and installed Wheelock E70 speaker strobes all over the place. Back then I was so young and had no idea that fire alarm systems could use speakers; I thought they were all horns and I thought the installers were a little excessive putting them everywhere.

Yeah I guess that is true though I do have to admit that it was just a bit jarring and originally I thought they were HORN/strobes rather than speaker/strobes and I was shuddering at thinking what it would be like to be in there when it went off until I realized they were speaker/strobes because if they were horn/strobes, I imagine that would be painful. Especially since it was sort of loud with the 3 9838s in there.