Don’t let terms like AWG and fire alarm cable throw you off your game. Most of the time, the technical jargon associated with electrical cable is relatively easy to understand provided that you have a little context.
To get AWG out of the way, it is a measure of the cross-sectional area of wire, so to speak. It stands for American Wire Gauge and is a measurement of the cross-sectional area of wire to cable and thus corresponds to how much current it can carry. The voltage an insulated wire can carry is determined by the quality and thickness of the insulation applied to it. Because alarm cable is typically only used in very low voltage situations for communication and monitoring purposes, it is typically not rated to very high voltages, but we will get there momentarily.
Alarm cable in general is the cable that is used to continuously monitor systems and to provide for communication between the different nodes on the system. Therefore, fire alarm cable is the cable that is used to monitor fire alarm systems, as well as to allow for communication between the nodes on the system. It’s a simple for critical difference between the two since they are basically used for the same purposes.
With alarm and security systems like a fire alarm system, continuous, uninterrupted monitoring is critically important, not only to safety but to code. Most buildings (if not all) are required by law to implement and maintain a fire alarm system, an important part of which is the cable that goes into its construction. If a system does not have quality monitoring systems, the system itself is no good. With respect to fire alarm systems, there are some critical factors that determine a cable as of the highest quality.
Most fire alarm cables are made to withstand a high level of heat while still providing for functional service. The reason for this should be clear enough without explanation, but giving the reader the benefit of the doubt, the cables are still expected to be able to relay information even under high heat in the event that they are exposed to a fire. Fire alarm cable that doesn’t work when exposed to high heat is like a boat that doesn’t float when it rains.
Something else to look for in fire alarm cable is insulation that is non-toxic and does not produce toxic smoke when it burns. During a fire you will have your hands full with other problems and you don’t need the failure of your fire alarm system, or toxic smoke produced by it, to be added to the pile of problems in the situation.
Most fire alarm cables are rated either for use in plenum space or outside of plenum space. Plenum space is the area of the building that is cleared space above the ceiling, and wires need to be made according to specific criteria to be used in those areas. Otherwise, the differences between them are mundane.
In addition, there are shielded and non-shielded cables. Shielded cables are capable of withstanding electrical interference in the atmosphere or from neighboring wires or systems that could cause a disruption in the system, which is unacceptable. Not all systems require the use of shielded cables but some do – work with an engineer in order to audit your location and determine your needs.
Speaking of which, if you need to find fire alarm cables, regardless of your needs in them, check out EWCS Wire at EWCSWire.com. There you will find a collection of alarm and instrumentation cable along with a number of different electrical wires and cables, including those for specialty purposes, such as armored cables and marine cables. Check out their website, and if you have further questions on AWG fire alarm cable or instrumentation cables, call their team at 800-262-1598.