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BatteryCalculationsforFireAlarmandSignalingSystems

NEMA

Jul1,2013

Poorplanningandmissing,incompleteorincorrectsecondarypowercalculationsareamongthe
mostcommoncausesforrejectionofasubmittaltoanengineerortotheauthorityhaving
jurisdiction(AHJ).Apreviousarticleaddressedtherequirementsforthefeaturesandperformance
ofbothprimaryandsecondarypowersupplies.1Thearticleshowedhowtodeterminetherequired
demandanddurationsforthesecondarypowersupply.Thisarticleshowshowtousethedemands
anddurationstocalculatethenetrequiredcapacityforbatteriesthatareusedaspartorallofa
secondarypowersupply.
Figure1showsthatbatterieswillalwaysbeapartofasignalingsystempowersupply.Themost
commonconfigurationiswherebatteriesareincorporatedtoprovideseparate,switchedsecondary
powertothesystem.Inthatconfiguration,thebatteriesareconnectedinawaythatallowsthe
controlunitpowersupplytoswitchfromtheprimarysourcetothesecondarysourcewhenthe
primaryislostordisconnected.

Figure1.PowerSupplyRequirements
Thefigureshowstwoarrangementsfortheuseofbatteriesasaswitchedsecondarypowersupply.
Thefirstiswherethebatteriessupplytheentiresecondarypowersupply.Thesecondiswherethe
batteriesbackupaprimarypowersupplythatalsoincludesabackupgenerator.
Inthepreviousarticle,itwasshownthatthecodepermitsareduceddurationfortheoperationof
thebatterieswheretheprimarypowersupplyincludesabackupgenerator.2NFPA72doesnotrefer
totheUPSoptionassecondarypower.Still,thebatteriesoftheUPSprovidethatfunction.As
notedinthepreviousarticle,thebatteriesontheUPSrequirethesameduration,hencecapacity,as
thoseconnecteddirectlytothecontrolunit.Operationally,theUPSisaType0(perNFPA1113)
wherethebatteriesalwaysprovidepowertothesystemandarerechargedbytheprimarypower
supply.Thus,thereisnoswitchoverthatmusttakeplacewhenprimarypowerislost.

ForeachofthethreebatteryconfigurationspermittedbyNFPA72,thecodehasspecifiedthe
requiredduration(time,t)forbatteryoperation.Theload,ordemandistheamountofcurrent(I)
suppliedbythebatteriesataparticulartimeandisafunctionofthesystemdesignand
configuration.
Mosterrorsincalculatingtherequiredbattery(andgenerator)capacity(storedenergy,E)occurin
determiningtherequiredload.Thecodespecifiestwotypesofloads(demands)andassociated
durationstobeusedfordeterminingtherequiredsecondarysupplycapacity.Thefirstisthe
normal,quiescentload.Thisistheamountofcurrentthatthesystemdemandsduringitsnormal,
nonalarmstate.Dependingonthetypeofsystem,thecoderequiresthatthebatteriesbecapableof
providingthatamountofcurrentforaspecifiedperiod(seethefirstarticle).Thecoderequiresthat
attheendofthespecifiedquiescentperiod,thesystemmustbecapableofsupplyingthealarmload
foraspecifiedperiod.
Forgeneralalarmsystems,thedemandcurrentisbasedontheentiresystemoperatinginthealarm
mode.Thismeansthatallnotificationappliancesandemergencycontrolfunctioninterfacesare
operating.Thedemandforemergencyvoicealarmindicationsystems(EVACS)andmass
notificationsystems(MNS)willactuallyvaryovertherequiredduration.Therefore,thecode
permitsthecapacitytobecalculatedusingthefullalarmload,butoverareduceddurationinorder
tosimulatetheintermittentoperationoveralongerperiod.Thetotalrequiredcapacityis
determinedbysummingthecapacityrequiredtoservethequiescentloadandthecapacityrequired
toservethealarmload.
ETotal=ENormal+EAlarm
ET=INtN+IAtA
WhereIiselectricalcurrentinamperes,tisthetimeinhoursandEisenergyinunitsofamp
hours.
Asaminimum,thecoderequiresthatthebatteriesbesizedtosupplytheactual(design)quiescent
loadandalarmloadsforthespecifieddurations.However,howoftenisthefinalinstalledquantity
ofdevicesandappliancesthesameastheoriginaldesign?Whilecalculationsbasedonadesignare
ausefulstartingpoint,thecoderequiresthatthesecondarypowersystembeadequateforthefinal
installedload.Therefore,engineersshoulddooneoftwothingstoassurecompliance:1)require
recalculationafterthefinalsystemconfigurationor2)requirethecapacitytobecalculatedusing
thefullloadcapabilityofthesystem.Ifthefirstoptionisused,itisonlyfairthatthecontractorbe
compensatedforanychangeordersthataddloadthatmustbeaccommodatedforthecompleted
installation.
Thesecondoptionisthebestpractice,butisnotrequiredbycode.Forthatoption,ifacircuitis
ratedfor2.0ampsbythemanufacturer,thecalculationwouldassumeitisfullyloadedevenifonly
0.75ampsofloadisinitiallybeinginstalled.Thiswouldensurethatallfuturechangeswouldnot
requireachangeinbatteries.Thesameargumentforthesecondoptioncanbemadefor
determiningtherequiredwiresize.

Tocalculatethebatterysizeusingtheminimumcodeapproach,thequiescentandalarmloads
mustbetabulatedandsummedforallequipment,devices,andappliancesconnectedtothepower
supply.Ifthesecondapproachisused,thequantitiesofinitiatingdevicesandnotification
appliancesisimportantonlyfordeterminingthenumberofmodulesandcircuitsthatwillbe
providedtoaccommodatethem.Itisusuallybesttoallowtheinstallerandmanufacturerto
determinethenumberofmodulesandcircuitsbecauseitissometimeslessexpensivetoinstall
additionalcircuitsthanitwouldbetousefewer,butlongercircuits.Also,eveniftheloadwillbe
calculatedusingthefullcircuitcapacity,itisbestfortheengineertospecifythatthecircuitsnotbe
loadedmorethanacertainpercentage.Thiswillfurtherensurethatadditionaldevicesand
appliancescanbeaddedwithouttheneedtoaddmodulesandcircuits.
Thebatterycalculationsshouldbedonebytheinstallingcontractor,systemdistributoror
equipmentmanufacturerandthencheckedbytheresponsibledesignerandbytheauthorityhaving
jurisdiction(AHJ).Thefirststepistogatherthemanufacturerspublishedspecificationsheetsfor
alldevices,appliances,andequipment.Itisnecessarytolistallcomponentsandthequantitiesused.
Foreachitem,thespecificationswilllistthequiescent(normal,nonalarm)current(load)andthe
alarmcurrent(load)inamps.
Table1isasimplifiedexampleforhowthecapacityofsecondarybatteriesiscalculated.Forthis
example,therequireddurationis24hoursinquiescentmodeandfiveminutes(0.083hours)in
alarmmode.Thecalculationwillbedoneforaspecificsystemconfigurationwithaspecificquantity
ofdevicesandappliances.Ifthebatteriesaretobesizedforfullcircuitloading(option2),thelistof
initiatingdevicesandnotificationapplianceswouldbereplacedwithalistingofthecircuitsand
theirfullloadcurrentcapability.

StandbyCurrent,
Amps

AlarmCurrent,
Amps

Part#

Qty

Unit

SubTotal

Unit

PanelEquipment

SubTotal

ModuleA

0.1000

0.3000

0.1700

0.5100

ModuleB

0.0261

0.0783

0.0267

0.0801

MainBoard

0.1370

0.1370

0.3200

0.3200

PowerSupply

0.1000

0.2000

0.1000

0.2000

InitiatingDevices

SmokeDetectors

52

0.0003

0.0156

0.0003

0.0156

PBSmokeDet.

0.0450

0.0900

0.0600

0.1200

NotificationAppliances

Horns

10

0.000

0.0180

0.1800

15cdstrobes

15

0.000

0.0590

0.8850

110cdstrobes

0.000

0.1450

0.5800

Horn/15cdstrobe

10

0.000

0.0830

0.8300

Horn/110cdstrobe

0.000

0.1930

0.9650

Other

Relays

0.0300

0.1200

0.0000

0.0000

NetStandbyLoad,Amps:

0.9409

NetAlarmLoad,Amps:

4.6857

EnterRequiredStandby
Duration:

24 Hours

EnterRequiredAlarmDuration:

5 Mins

0.083 Hours

TotalStandby,AmpHours:

22.5816 Amphours

TotalAlarm,AmpHours:

0.3905 Amphours

TotalCalculatedBatteryCapacity:

23.0 Amphours

RequiredFactorofSafety:
CodeRequiredBatterySize/Capacity:

SuppliedBatterySize/Capacity:
ActualFactorofSafety:

20%
28 Amphours

36 Amphours
57%

Table1.SimplifiedSecondaryPowerCalculationExample
Therequiredcapacityiscalculatedbymultiplyingtheloadbytherequireddurationforboththe
quiescentconditionandthealarmcondition.Inthisexample,forthequiescentcondition,thetotal
standby(quiescent)loadof0.9409ampsismultipliedby24hourstoget22.6amphoursof
requiredquiescentcapacity.Thetotalalarmloadof4.6857ismultipliedby0.083hourstogeta
requiredalarmcapacityof0.4amphours.Theyaddtogetherandroundtoarequiredcapacityof
23amphours.Newinthe2010editionofNFPA72isarequired20%factorofsafety,bringingthe
netrequiredcapacityto27.6,or28amphoursafterrounding.
Mostmanufacturershavecalculationprogramstodeterminethebatterycapacity.Inreality,most
systemswillhavemanymoreentriesforpanelcomponents.
Thereareseveralentriesintheaboveexampleworthdiscussing.Thealarmcurrentlistedforthe
powersupplyisthecurrentthatthepowersupplyusesasitsuppliestheotherloads.Theoption2
methodcouldbemodeledbysimplyassumingthatthepowersupplyisatfullload.So,apower
supplylistedtoprovideamaximumof4ampswouldlist4ampsasthealarmloadregardlessof
howmanymodules,circuits,devices,orappliancesareactuallyconnectedtoit.
Forsmokedetectorsandanyinitiatingdevicesthatdrawpower,howmanyshouldbeconsideredto
beinalarm?Thisexamplehasall52smokedetectorsinalarm,butitisalsocommontousea

numberthatrepresentsthelargestoneortwofireareasinthebuilding.Therelaysareshowntobe
energizedinthenonalarmconditionanddroppingout(deenergized)uponalarm.Systemsmight
alsohaverelaysthatarenormallynotenergizeduntilthereisanalarm.
Thefinalstepistoselectabatterythathastherequiredstoredcapacityandthatcandischargeat
therequiredrates.Inthisexample,abatteryisneededthathasacapacityof28amphoursormore
andthatcandischargeatarateof1amp(0.9393rounded)for24hoursandthenbeableto
dischargeatarateof4.7ampsforadurationof5minutes.
Ananalogymighthelp.Agravitywatertankhasacertainmaximumstoredcapacity.Theflowrate
fromthetankisafunctionoftheoutletanddistributionpipingandtheheightofwaterinthetank.
Whenfull,thehydraulicheadisactuallygreaterandthesystemwillflowatahigherratethanwhen
thetankisnearempty.Asthetankempties,theflowratedecreases.
Thesystem(tankorbatteries)mustbedesignedtoprovidetherequireddischargeatallstagesof
use.Batterymanufacturersandsupplierscanprovidedocumentationregardingabatterysabilityto
dischargeatcertainratesattheendofthedischargecycle.
BatteriesarerequiredbyNFPA72tobelabeledwiththedateofmanufacture.Inprioreditionsof
thecode,therewasafiveyearreplacementrequirement.Inthe2013edition,replacementis
requiredasrecommendedbythemanufacturerorwhenthebatteriesfailduringtesting.Thefive
yearrequirementwasremovedinfavorofreplacementasrecommendedbythemanufacturer,
whichmaybelessthanfiveyears.
Withrespecttooccupancyhazardsandrisks,engineersshouldconsiderthatthesecondarysupply
isonlyforthefireorsignalingsystemcontrolunit.Anytransmittersorsubpanelsusedfor
communicationswillhavetheirownpowersupplieswiththesamerequirementsforsecondary
power.ThepubliccommunicationsinfrastructureisoutsidethejurisdictionofNFPA72.
NFPA72recognizesthattheFederalCommunicationsCommissionhasjurisdictionoverthe
installationrequirementsforpartsofthecommunicationinfrastructureusedtotransmitsignals
fromaprotectedpremisestoasupervisingstation.Traditionaltelephonecentralofficesand
managedfacilitiesvoicenetwork(MFVN)facilitiesusedbyInternetserviceproviderswilltypically
have24hoursormoreofstandbybatterycapacityinadditiontobackupgenerators.
However,moderncommunicationsmethods,includingtelephoneandInternetservice,maynotbe
poweredentirelyfromthecentraloffice.Instead,theymayhaveinbuildingcircuitspoweredfroma
networkinterfacedeviceatthepropertythatrequiresprimarypowerandincludesabackupbattery.
Thosebackupbatteriesareapartofthecommunicationssystem,notthefirealarmorsignaling
system,andaresizedforonlyabouteighthoursofstandby.BothtraditionaltelephoneandInternet
servicesprovidedbyanMFVNwillusuallyhavefieldlocatedconcentratorunitsalongthepathfrom
theprotectedpremisestothecentralofficeorMFVN.Theselocalconcentratorunits,whichcan
frequentlybeseenonpolesorinpedestalsthroughoutacommunity,alsohaveprimarypowerand
batteriesforsecondarypower.So,whileafirealarmorsignalingsystemdesignedinaccordance
withNFPA72mightcontinuetooperateduringanextendedpoweroutage,itsabilityto
communicateoffpremisesmightbelimitedtoeighthoursorless.Thisneedstobefactoredinto
emergencyplanningfortheproperty.

Whiletheactualselectionofpowersuppliesandcalculationsofbatterycapacityarenotdifficult,
selectingtheproperparametersandcombinationsofpowersuppliesrequiresengineering
consideration.Thedesignermustconsidertheenvironmentalconditions,hazardsinvolvedandthe
resultingriskswhenspecifyingpowersupplydurationsforfirealarmandsignalingsystems.
References:
1. PowerSupplyRequirementsforFireAlarmandSignalingSystems,FireProtectionEngineering,
1stQuarter2012.
2. NFPA72,NationalFireAlarmandSignalingCode,NationalFireProtectionAssociation,Quincy,
MA,2013.
3. NFPA111,StandardonStoredElectricalEnergyEmergencyandStandbyPowerSystems,National
FireProtectionAssociation,Quincy,MA,2010.