Some of the most advanced models of Aico Smoke alarms and Heat alarms use an innovative technology of interconnecting with the base and with one another: the wireless connection, called RadioLINK. Below are some of the questions and answers regarding the function, usage, benefits, and even maintenance of the RadioLINK technology:
- What is RadioLINK?
- Which Aico Smoke/Heat alarms can be used with RadioLINK?
- Do I have to wire the alarms at all?
- What benefit is there in RadioLINK if I still have to connect the to the mains?
- How can the alarms interconnect without a cable connection?
- Will interference from other RF devices be a problem?
- Will security systems and car alarms affect the smoke alarm system?
- How far will the radio signal travel?
- If all the alarms can interlink how can I stop the next door sounding the ones in my house?
- Can you use RadioLINK to interconnect between as well as within properties?
- How will I know if the RF interconnect line has failed?
- Are the RadioLINK units kitemarked to BS 5446:Pt.1?
- To which standards does the Ei168RC conform?
- Is RadioLINK suitable for use in all properties?
- How many alarms can be interconnected using RadioLINK?
- Is there any method of controlling a RadioLINK system?
- BS 5839: Pt.6: says that all alarms must be on one final circuit. Will RadioLINK comply with this?
- Can the smoke alarms be connected on different phases of the mains supply?
RadioLINK It is a totally new concept enabling smoke alarm systems to be interconnected without the need for cabling between the alarms. Instead, a radio signal is used to trigger all the alarms in the system.
The Aico Ei141, Aico Ei144, Aico Ei146, Aico Ei161RC, Aico Ei164RC and Aico Ei166RC smoke and heat alarms can all be used with an Aico Ei168 base to make a RadioLINK system. These all require a mains supply to them. The Ei405 and Ei405TY are battery operated alarms, these contain all the RF components and do not require the use of an Ei168RC base.
The Aico Ei168RC RadioLINK base requires a mains supply to each of the alarms in the system. The power supply can be taken from any convenient light pendant, with a permanent live feed, to where the alarm is to be sited. The Ei405 and Ei405TY don’t require any cabling as they are battery powered, but they will not be suitable for use in new build and most tenanted properties.
There are significant savings to be made, mainly in time, but also in materials.
- There is no need to feed the wiring from one alarm to another. This can be very time consuming and can cause problems with tenants not wanting to have trunking running up walls and across ceilings. There is no need to lift floorboards either. Both of these points mean that damage claims to floors, carpets and decoration are minimised, if not eliminated.
- Less cable and trunking is required so further reducing costs.
A radio signal is sent when the test button is pressed, or the alarm senses smoke. This is received by all the RadioLINK alarms in the system and they will also sound.
The frequency and duration of the RF signal used by the Aico Ei RadioLINK system meets strict European guidelines. These are designed to virtually eliminate interference. Interference cannot be completely ruled out but it is our experience that hard wired cable connections are far more likely to be affected by interference than RadioLINK will be. There have been problems with doorbells using RF causing interference with other doorbells of the same type. These problems were mainly due to there being only a few codes available that the user could choose from. This made it very easy to select a code that was used by a neighbour. The consequence was that when one doorbell was pressed, a number of them sounded! This cannot happen with RadioLINK because each alarm base has a unique code that is set at the factory. The code cannot be repeated so interference is eliminated.
Security systems may use the same frequency as the RadioLINK but they will normally be on a different band and/or be restricted to using the channel for 1% of the time, for a maximum of 4 seconds at any one time. Also, the unique code used by RadioLINK units means that interference is a very remote possibility. Car alarms and mobile phones use a completely different frequency so interference is not possible from either of these. Television remote controls mostly use infra-red, which cannot affect the RadioLINK system.
The radio signal can travel a very long way if there are no obstructions to block it – 250 metres or more. But, it is more relevant to consider the practical application of RadioLINK where there will be walls, ceilings and many other obstructions to impede the radio signal path. In the vast majority of properties,where there will be 2 or 3 alarms, the signal from a RadioLINK unit will be more than adequate. In fact, it is quite probable that the radio signal will transmit well beyond the limits of the property. This is a very important reason why the alarms in a property must be ‘House Coded’ – see question 9.
Simply House Code each separate system of alarms. In this way they cannot cause nearby alarms to sound. ‘House Coding’ takes a matter of minutes after installation of all the alarms in the system and can be easily undertaken by anyone following the instructions supplied with the product.
Yes, this is a big advantage in blocks of flats and HMO’s. In ordinary hard-wired installations it is necessary to cross property boundaries with mains cable in order to interlink the alarms (and provide the mains power). This could pose an electrical safety risk if people working in the dwelling were unaware that there are 2 mains power supplies to the property. With RadioLINK each alarm in the system can be connected to a local power supply, the interconnect signal is provided by the radio signal, therefore overcoming this risk. In flats and HMO’s where interconnection between dwellings is not required, but a connection to the communal areas is (for early warning purposes), it is easy to provide a simple, yet effective system. Simply, ‘House Code’ the alarms in each flat separately and then ‘House Code’ the alarms in the communal areas with say a heat alarm in the individual dwellings. In this way, if a nuisance alarm should occur within one of the dwellings it will not affect the other residents. However, if a real fire has occurred, the heat alarm in the dwelling will operate the communal system – and all other dwellings – when sufficient heat has been generated.
How do you know if a hard wired cable connection has failed or not? There is a much greater chance that damage will occur to a cable than there is that the RF signal will fail. Cables can be disconnected, a nail can be put through them, or rodents gnaw through them. An RF interconnect cannot be affected by any of these. The only effective method of checking that the RF interconnect link is operating is by pressing the test button on the alarms and checking that they all sound. This is also the only way that you can check a hard-wired interconnect.
BS 5446: Pt.1 is the standard that smoke alarms should be Kitemarked to. As the Ei405 and Ei405TY are smoke alarms, they have been 3rd Party tested and Kitemarked to this standard. The Ei168RC RadioLINK base is not a smoke alarm; it is a base that a smoke alarm is attached to. Consequently, this standard is not applicable to the Ei168RC.
The Ei168RC is CE marked to demonstrate conformance to BS EN 60065:1998 (Electrical safety), EN 300220-1 V1.3.1 (2000-09) (RF performance), EN 301489 VI.4.1 (2002-08) (EMC) and has been 3rd party tested for electrical safety in accordance with Annex K of BS 5446: Pt.1: 2000.
The simple answer is yes! But it is easier to justify the additional cost when retro fitting smoke alarms as this is where surface trunking often has to be used. Cable is relatively cheap and easy to install in new build properties without the need for trunking so the extra cost may not be a viable proposition. However, some new build properties have concrete ceilings and this may mean that surface wiring via trunking will still be necessary. In these applications the use of RadioLINK could play a useful role. Other applications could include:
- Individual dwellings within a block of flats or HMO’s. We would not recommend interconnecting individual dwellings together as nuisance alarm could cause considerable aggravation to other occupiers. But,many enforcing authorities insist that this is done. RadioLink allows this without the need to cross boundaries with mains cable, so potentially creating an electrical safety risk. In addition, separation of dwellings and communal areas is possible yet still allowing a warning to be given throughout the building via RadioLink.
- Connection of remote areas to a central smoke alarm system avoiding the need to run cable for extended distances.
- Allows existing systems installed without a hard wired interconnect to be connected, avoiding the need for a complete rewire.
- Existing hard wired systems can use RadioLink to extend the system into additional rooms or areas without all the extra wiring and disruption this may cause.
Technically, up to 30 alarms can be interconnected but the limiting factor is likely to be due to distance between alarms and obstructions that may block the radio signal. In most domestic properties a realistic maximum number of alarms would be 12.
A fixed wall switch, Ei411H, is available. This allows Test, Hush and Locate features to be incorporated into a RadioLINK system without having to reach up to the smoke alarms. The switch is the same size as a normal light switch and is powered by a Lithium cell having a realistic 10 year life. This means that the switch is easily installed, as it does not require any wiring, the signals to the alarms being transmitted by a radio link. A Manual Call Point, Ei407, is available for use in larger installations. This also has the benefits of a Lithium cell power supply and no wiring connection being required. In applications where a relay is required to signal to other devices the Ei428 is available; this is mains operated, but has a rechargeable Lithium cell back-up supply to ensure that it is operational even in a mains failure. This is an essential requirement when signalling to Warden Call Systems. The unit is supplied with a cover to enable it is to be sited at any convenient position within the property.
BS 5839: Pt.6: 2004 recognises the benefits of radio communication in the note to Clause 15.5 dealing with power supply requirements for smoke alarms, thus: “This recommendation [for a single final circuit] does not apply if the form of interconnection is not capable of conducting current, e.g. if the means of interconnection compromises radio communication rather than wiring”. Building Regulations Document B (England & Wales) allows the use of a radio link between alarms under section 1.21. The Building Regulations in Scotland and Northern Ireland currently make no reference of a radio link, but it is considered that the new recommendations of BS 5839: Pt.6: 2004 would be an acceptable means of meeting the requirements of both documents.
Yes, the individual smoke alarms and RF bases are not electrically connected so a phase difference will not affect them. The only connection between the alarms and bases is by a radio signal.
To know more about the Aico Smoke and Heat alarms, consult the Aico Fire Alarms FAQ, part 1 and part 2 (or on sparksdirect blog). To view our full offer of Aico Smoke Alarms, Aico Heat Alarms, Aico Ionisation Alarms, Aico Optical Alarms, and Aico CO Alarms, visit the Domestic Fire Alarms section at Fire and Security category on our website.