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Innovative Optical Technology - New EN 54-23 Certified LX Range

Development Process

For over 30 years, Fulleon has led the development of sounders and visual alarm devices in the fire industry. To meet the challenges of the new EN 54-23 beacon standard, Fulleon has called upon the expertise of Eaton’s Cooper Lighting business to co-develop an innovative approach to light management. Fulleon has worked hand in hand with teams of highly skilled engineers at Eaton’s Cooper Lighting’s LED Innovation Centre based in Peachtree City, USA. The Innovation Centre is a 60,000 sqft facility dedicated to the research, development and manufacturing of proprietary LED and other advanced lighting technologies. This collaboration has led to Fulleon producing a market leading solution that complies with the new beacon standard, EN 54-23.

Three years in development, the innovative LX range leads the industry with a solution that ensures extensive room coverage at minimum current. Mandatory from March 2013, the standard specifies that all visual alarm devices (VADs) must now meet a minimum light output of 0.4 lux. The distance at which this required illumination is met, known as its coverage volume, should be quoted with the product. If a manufacturer fails to meet this requirement the device is not compliant to EN 54-23.

The Fire Industry Association (FIA) and Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) have jointly published COP 0001 Code of Practice for Visual Alarm Devices used for Fire Warning, which directly complements EN 54-23 and BS 5839-1 (fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings – Part 1: Code of practice for design, installation, commissioning and maintenance). It highlights the requirements for the planning, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of EN 54-23 certified VADs. A range of support documents written by the Fulleon technical team are available for download at www.cooperfulleon.com including a handy pocket guide containing useful tips and summarising key points made in COP 0001.

 Importance of visual alarm devices (VADs)

Over recent years, the use of VADs has become more widespread. This is due to the influence of the Equalities Act 2010 and the recommendations of BS8300 which states that an audible alarm may be supplemented with a VAD in any area where the hearing impaired may be left alone such as bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens.

However, there are other situations where people can be isolated or may not have others around to warn them of an emergency. In areas of high noise level or where there is a need to wear hearing protection those with normal hearing will miss an audible alarm signal. The use of personal headsets and music players in office environments is also becoming more common and must be factored in to the decision to install a beacon. The ultimate decision whether to use VADs in any particular location will come down to the results of the risk assessment. Further information on the implications of EN 54-23 on risk assessment can be found in the Fulleon LX range brochure, also available to download online.

 New LX range

To meet the challenges of EN 54-23, Fulleon released the much anticipated and highly innovative LX range at the Essen Security show in September 2012. The range is based on the familiar product platforms of the ROLP, Symphoni and Solista, providing the reassurance of quality and performance associated with the Fulleon brand. With a solution for both wall and ceiling applications, the range is designed around patented optical technology, which distributes light with extraordinary efficiency and therefore keeping the number of devices required to a minimum.

Due to the physics of light and more specifically the inverse square law, doubling the coverage distance takes four times the power at the same level of illumination. Consequently the larger the area to be covered, the higher the required light output and the higher the current consumption. EN 54-23 stipulates that the coverage volume must be quoted with the device (height, width and depth of the space which can be covered). The more efficient the device the lower the power required to cover a given volume will be and therefore power consumption is the biggest technical challenge facing manufacturers and system designers. The LX range adopts three unique technologies to alleviate this problem, LED technology, patented lens design and a new flash technology known as - ChromaPlus™. With current consumption as low as 12mA the unique LX range offers the equivalent to 1.6mA per meter of coverage (applies to the dimension of the floor area covered by Wall and Ceiling devices only).

LED technology

Over recent decades, there has been widespread growth in the use of LEDs in many industries due to their advantages of power efficiency and long life when compared to xenon and incandescent technologies. With this in mind, the LX range incorporates the latest LED technology, guaranteeing a bright and reliable light output across the entire range.

A key benefit of these latest LEDs is that they can offer a large amount of light from a very small source. The combination of a small high intensity light source with specialist lens design allows a smooth and even spread of light across the target area. Unlike LEDs, xenon light sources are larger in size and their often complex shape makes the design of compact and effective lenses challenging. Adopting LED technology was therefore the key to designing a compact and slim line product with clean, contemporary aesthetics suitable for even the most select interior.

The LX range uses the latest generation of silicon carbide based LED chips, delivering up to 40% higher light output than other LED technologies whilst still guaranteeing long life and low maintenance. This delivers high efficiency and ultimately lowers system costs as the number of units required to fill a given space is reduced with high intensity LEDs.

New LED Technology delivering a 40% performance increase

Lens design

To maximise light distribution, different light dispersion characteristics are required according to the intended mounting position of the VAD. This has required intricate state of the art design by the Fulleon team resulting in the development of patented ceiling and wall lenses that meet the challenges of EN 54-23. Both lenses refract light to remove hot spots and redistribute to where it is required. This increases the coverage distance of the product as the minimum light standard (0.4 lux) is projected further for the same amount of power. It is important to control the available light accurately, as any light outside of the prescribed volume wastes power unnecessarily and increases the cost of the system. Without the use of lenses traditional LED solutions would fail to meet the minimum requirement of the standard or only be useful in very small rooms.

Manufactured to exacting standards and tolerances, the lenses maximise the efficiency of the light emitted from the LEDs and ensure an equal distribution of light on the wall and floor as well as reaching into all corners of a given area. The unique and highly innovative material used in the lens reduces light loss, improves performance and makes the system more cost effective than using other lens solutions.   

Light dispersal pattern of the LX ceiling lens 

The patented wall lens crafted to achieve maximum light dispersal

Challenges of a red flash

Across most of Europe a flashing red light denotes a fire alarm signal. Traditionally to achieve red light the colour spectrum within white light is filtered, allowing only the red wavelengths to pass through. Consequently, the energy emitted is reduced and up to 80% of the light output is lost. Given that the new standard enforces a minimum illumination of 0.4 lux, red flashing products will demand considerably more power to achieve the equivalent output of a white flash. This has implications for system design costs.

The illumination demands of EN 54-23 mean using red light requires a big increase in current consumption versus the same illumination for white light; this is exacerbated when room size is factored in. With the required illumination fixed at 0.4 lux system designers are presented with a dilemma; should they offer a white flash to save power consumption and move away from red light and the association with fire, or should they factor in the price of additional power supplies labour and installation time to accommodate the use of a red flash, increasing the total cost of the final system?

The LX range offers complete flexibility and options for the system designer. Although the range is available in a white flash only or a red flash only version, Fulleon has designed a unique flash technology providing the ultimate flexible solution - ChromaPlus™.

ChromaPlustechnology

ChromaPlus™ is Fulleon’s new patented technology designed to overcome the dilemma of the excess power penalty of using a red flash. It capitalises on the human perception of light, to give the impression of a red flash whilst still delivering high room coverage and low current consumption. ChromaPlus™ only consumes 10mA more than the white flash versions of the LX range. Products set to ChromaPlus™ flash will require a reduced number of devices, compared to standard LX red flash products and consequently lower overall installation and system costs.

Benefits of the LX range over a xenon system

The key difference between installing LX products over a standard xenon alternative is the difference in current consumption. The example below demonstrates that to cover the same area of 15m x 15m, the LX products will draw 95% less current than a xenon installation.

Ultimate flexibility

The LX product range has been developed specifically to comply with EN 54-23. As part of the development process Fulleon canvased the views of customers and interested parties across the fire industry. These views and ideas have been incorporated into the product to provide practical solutions to everyday issues.

As well as different flash colour options, the LX range has the flexibility to alter the room coverage and flash rate at the flick of a switch. The coverage is factory set to 7.5m, but the system designer can specify that the lower coverage setting of 5m be used allowing the power consumption to be reduced by almost half for smaller rooms. The flash rate can be set to 1Hz or 0.5Hz offering a current saving of 50%. These settings allow the products to meet the unique requirements of each specific area and manage power consumption.

Diverse applications

Recommendations from BS8300 and Part M of the UK Building Regulations suggest that visual alarm devices are fitted into areas such as bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens where the hearing impaired may be alone. As part of the risk assessment, consideration should also be given to their use in open areas and public spaces where the occupants are diverse and may benefit from a visual alarm.

In most cases the wall mounted devices such as the Solista, RoLP and Symphoni from the LX range can be used. Wall mounting at 2.4m above the floor is usually convenient in most rooms although care does have to be taken that furniture and other fitments do not block viewing of the VAD. Ideally the layout of VADs should allow for direct viewing from any part of the area covered; practically this may not be possible so extra VADs may be required or the VADs arranged so that reflected light can be used. The 0.4 lux used in EN54-23 has been chosen to allow people, even facing away from a VAD, to become aware of its flash.

As with audible alarms it is better to have a larger number of lower output VADs than to try to cover an area with a few very high output devices. Very bright devices will be effective for those close to the limit of their coverage, but will cause glare and possible disorientation for those situated close by. The LX range has therefore been specifically developed to optimally balance light output, current consumption and spacing between installation points. A single LX product will cover a room up to 7.5m square. For larger rooms multiple LX wall mounted units can be used in rooms up to 15m in width, with beacons positioned on opposite walls, the length of the room is unlimited with LX units mounted side by side.

Where rooms are wider than 15m then ceiling versions can be employed, but the limitation here is that the ceiling height has to be taken into account. The LX range is suitable for ceilings up to 3m in height, making it ideal for locations such as open plan offices and hotel lounges. Larger areas can be covered either by using all ceiling mounted types or a combination of wall and ceiling types.

Common mounting points for VADS and detectors

Installation of ceiling mounted VADs can be simplified by employing the Squashni G4 LX device, the output has been tailored so that spacing between devices is the same as smoke detectors, allowing a common mounting point for both alarm and detection.

Smaller rooms like cellular offices and bathrooms may not warrant the full output provided by the LX range so the ability to switch the coverage from 7.5m to 5m offers a valuable saving in power consumption. Bathrooms and similar areas are subject to condensation so the IP65 RoLP LX Wall and IP66 Symphoni LX WP Wall are useful items for damp areas or exposed conditions that can be found in loading bays and multi-storey car parks. These higher IP ratings are also favourable characteristics for use in industrial environments.

In some situations, where a staged alarm is required, the use of a VAD to give a “silent” alarm only to staff members allows the situation to be assessed before committing to the full evacuation, potentially avoiding unnecessary disturbance to hospital patients or the audience in a cinema or theatre.

New website

Fulleon has carried out a major upgrade of its website, www.cooperfulleon.com. In addition to a redesign of the layout, it is easier to navigate and incorporates new features to help in the selection of products and information.

Choose between digital page turning versions of the company catalogues or simply navigate to an individual product page to view its installation guide, certificates and part numbers. A search facility located at the top right hand side of the page allows keywords to be entered, such as product names or specification details, ensuring results are generated as quickly and easily as possible. A distributor locator is also available identifying approved distributors of Fulleon products and is conveniently located on the home page under the ‘Quick Links’ panel.

The website has been designed to offer support on the implications of the new European standard EN 54-23: Fire alarm devices – Visual alarm devices. An informative pocket guide based on the Loss Prevention Code of Practice CoP 0001 is available to download from the resources section of the site. This booklet provides guidance and recommendations on the planning, design, installation and commissioning of visual alarm devices. A video is also available, providing a useful overview on how Fulleon’s LX range meets the requirements of the new standard.

Improved and expanded, Fulleon’s range of technical support and services includes installation information, product manuals, details on our same day despatch service (UK only) and access to the Cooper Customer Centre (C3). The latest news from both Fulleon and Cooper is displayed on the home page, together with links to the websites of all other Cooper Divisions, now part of Eaton Corporation plc.

Get Ready For EN 54-23

The introduction of EN 54-23 from March 2013 will fundamentally change how fire alarm beacons are specified and installed. A minimum illumination level of 0.4 lux is technically challenging to achieve as it has a big impact on current consumption and therefore system design and costs. By maximising the light output, Fulleon’s solution minimises the current consumption offering meaningful room size coverage and keeping system costs down.

• Built on an innovative LED platform, the six products in the LX family use a patented lens designed to distribute light with maximum efficiency.

• The ChromaPlus™ flash option overcomes the problems associated with red flash, reducing the number of units required at install.

• At the click of a switch, the flash rate can be dialled down from 1Hz to ½ Hz reducing current consumption and reducing the need for additional power supplies

• The coverage volume can be adjusted from 7.5m to 5m, further reducing current consumption as the higher light output is not required in smaller spaces.

Room coverage and current consumption are the key measures when selecting a beacon. The mA per m offers a good guide to the efficiency of the product. With the release of EN 54-23 the growth in the use of VADs is set to continue. They offer the reassurance of a visual indication to a fire alarm and help to mitigate the risk to the building occupants. Fully automated and highly reliable, used as part of a comprehensive fire detection system, VADs remove human error associated with buddy systems which rely on human interaction or the requirement to ensure that portable tactile devices are working and that the batteries are charged. The new standard enforces a specific illumination level ensuring that any visual alarm is meaningful and inclusive to all.

Visit the new website to find out more about the LX range and access a variety of support resources, including a pocket guide to EN 54-23. A specification tool is available online, but if you prefer working from a plan then A4 system design templates scaled 1:100 are available free of charge, offering a quick and easy solution to designing systems using the Fulleon LX range. Numbers are limited so order today by emailing Fulleon customer services.