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Addressable or Conventional? What’s The Difference

Home / Fire Safety Systems / Addressable or Conventional? What’s The Difference

If you’re new to the fire safety industry or maybe you’ve been tasked to manage the fire safety for your company, a common term you will hear and come across is Addressable or Conventional fire system.

As a recent recruit myself into this vast industry, these terms baffled me, and so after speaking with colleagues and searching the web, I now have a better understanding, which I will share with you in this post.

So what exactly is the difference?

To keep this simple, I will lay out a list of features for each type of system, starting with conventional.


  1. Typically used on smaller buildings such as restaurants, apartments and stores.
  2. The detectors are hard wired into a circuit or zone.
  3. In the event of an alarm, you can locate the particular zone but not the individual detector.
  4. Conventional systems are less expensive, making them ideal for smaller applications.

Conventional systems were the first type fire systems designed and due to the lower costs are normally only used for smaller facilities. For larger buildings with many different floors, rooms and areas, a conventional system cannot provide the information required to locate a potential hazard quickly. This is where an addressable system shines.



For most large buildings such as hospitals, you will find an Addressable system installed. Such a system provides the safety staff of the building with much more information to locate where an alarm has been raised.

An addressable system uses a series of loops, with each loop typically assigned to a zone. For example, you may have a loop assigned to each floor of the building. Each loop will have a series of devices attached to it. These can be smoke detectors, heat detectors, sounders and manual call points.

Each device can be addressed (programmed) onto the loop so when a device is triggered, the fire alarm control panel will display exactly where the alert has come from. This provides the staff and emergency services greater information and control to keep people safe.

Addressable Panel Example

In the picture on the right, you can see what one loop on an addressable fire system looks like. If any of those devices is triggered, a zone location is displayed on the fire panel at the bottom and on the repeat panel at the top. Having multiple fire panels on the loop allows for multiple locations in the building to operate the fire system, whether it’s to locate a potential hazard, silence a false alarm or run a fire alarm test.
I hope this quick overview has helped you understand the differences between conventional and addressable fire systems. If after reading this guide you are unsure which system you will need, just give us a call. We can assess your building and recommend the perfect system for you.
If you have anything extra to add, or have a question, then please leave a comment below.
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