Determining the power requirements of every systems product taking into account their integration with one another is critical
 Selecting the optimum power supply for a system is critical to an installation 

When it comes to selecting power supplies, knowledge is power. Determining the power requirements of every systems product, taking into account their integration with one another is critical to ensure that you are selecting and installing the power solutions most appropriate for your installation. Such information will enable you to select the power supplies that will be required to keep your security system running efficiently in the long run. Paul Rizzuto, Technical Sales Manager, Altronix Corp outlines some of the key factors to consider when choosing the right power solution for security installations - including those of video surveillance systems and access control systems - and fire alarm systems.

Questions to consider when selecting the optimum power supply

Before commencing the evaluation and selection process, three fundamental questions/issues need be addressed:

Approvals and conformance to norms:

Are there any specific agency approvals that the installation must conform to?

Each state, county and even municipality has their own requirements regarding agency approvals. There are a variety of compliance issues such as UL listings for video, access control and fire/life safety that need to be adhered to along with specific local codes. It's imperative that you check with the local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) to find out what agency listings you must conform to during the design process to assure your security system is in compliance before installing any components and power supplies.

Features required:

What are the application specific features required for the installation? 

Selecting power supplies for a security or fire alarm system is a complex process due to a number of variables

Before starting the design process, a comprehensive analysis of the facility's security systems are required to determine feature sets of the power supplies. Up until recently, selecting power supplies often required the need to combine various components to deliver the functionality desired. For example, does the system need battery back-up in case of a power failure?  All that has changed with the introduction of a new breed of integrated power solutions that deliver both cost and installation advantages.

Quantity, location and power requirements of the security system components

What is the number of devices in the system, the power requirements for each, and their physical location?

This information is necessary to determine the size and quantity of the power supplies, how many security devices they will run, and where they will be physically located.  It is always a good rule of thumb to add 20% more power to your calculations as a safety factor.

Power consumption is a primary issue when configuring fire alarm systems 
 Alarm signal generation is a key consideration when dealing with power consumption in fire alarms systems
Dealing with power consumption issues in fire alarm systems

Power consumption is a primary issue when configuring fire alarm systems. One of the most critical considerations revolves around how alarm signals are activated. When an alarm condition exists, Notification Appliance Circuits (NAC) are output from the Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP) to activate notification appliances such as strobes and horns commonly used to indicate an emergency situation. The number of notification appliances to be activated, along with the current draw for each device and its distance from the FACP, sometimes makes the deployment of NAC Power Extenders a necessary system component.

For example, in large commercial installations or multi-tenant buildings, the total current draw of the notification appliances may well exceed the power output of the FACP. In these instances, one or more NAC Power Extenders need to be installed for those notification appliances where the wire runs are too long for the FACP to deliver sufficient power. 

Features to consider when selecting a NAC Power Extender:

  • Number of Class A or Class B indicating circuits.
  • Total power rating (ex. 6.5 amp, 8 amp or 10 amp).
  • Number of Aux. power outputs with or without battery backup.
  • Programmable outputs:
    • Synchronization
    • Temporal Code 3
    • Input to output follower mode.
  • Enclosure capacity:
    • Room for battery backup
    • Ample knockouts and room for wiring
  • Agency approvals UL, MEA, CSFM and FM.

NAC Power Extenders are available with programmable features that maintain horn/strobe synchronization by either producing internally generated sync protocols utilized by major signal manufacturers, or by electronically repeating these sync protocols from the FACP outputs.

Power supply requirements for access control systems - key standards to follow 

any device or system intended to actuate the locking or unlocking of exits, must be connected to the facility's fire alarm system so that all doors will release when an alarm signal is generated 
 To ensure safety any device designated to lock or unlock an exit must be connected to the fire alarm system
Access control systems manage entry and exit points at a facility by means of controlled locking devices. NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) requires that any device or system intended to actuate the locking or unlocking of exits, must be connected to the facility's fire alarm system so that all doors will release when an alarm signal is generated.

To comply with NFPA requirements, there are two classifications of locking devices that need to be addressed: Fail-Safe and Fail-Secure. Fail-Safe locking devices such as magnetic locks release when they lose power. Fail-Secure locking devices such as electric strikes unlock when power is applied and may be manually released from inside a secured area. This determines the manner in which your power solution removes or provides power and the sequence and timing of each action.

Access control power supplies come in both AC and DC versions and some provide multiple voltages simultaneously. Features include independently trigger controlled Fail-Safe/Fail-Secure outputs, power supervision, battery charging and fire alarm interface. Wall and rack mount models are also available.

To comply with NFPA requirements, there are two classifications of locking devices that need to be addressed: Fail-Safe and Fail-Secure

Some systems may also require the installation of panic hardware devices. Upon activation, the devices' high current power demand can reach up to 16amps, but not all power supplies can handle these high inrush currents.  As a result, you need to specify a power supply designed for this type of application.  Some operate a single panic hardware device and require optional modules to add features like timing functions, output relays, fire alarm disconnect, or power for additional panic hardware devices.  Therefore, these "base" models almost always require additional modules to deliver the functionality you need and may not be cost effective. More advanced models offer integrated features and supply a comprehensive solution. In addition to the convenience of these integrated devices, they are highly cost efficient with respect to total cost of ownership and installation.

Video surveillance systems - typical power consumption guidelines

Video surveillance systems typically run 24/7/365 placing high demands on power supplies. These video power supplies need to deliver a clean and consistent source of 24VAC or 12VDC power to assure uninterrupted operation. Depending on the video component's specific power requirements and its location, there is a wide selection of power supplies to select from. They can be wall or rack mounted, designed for use indoors or outdoors, and feature AC or DC outputs. Configurations typically range from 1 to 32 outputs and some models offer additional features like 115 or 230VAC input with current ratings as high as 25 amps, power LED indicators, and PTC or fused protected outputs. Certain models provide both 24VAC and 12VDC to power both types of surveillance cameras simultaneously.

 Temperature differences due to change of seasons, day or  night, can often be extreme and can have a direct affect on the performance of both the video components and the power supp
Environmental conditions can affect the performance of video components and the power supply when situated outdoors 
A few additional variables to consider when selecting video surveillance power supplies include:

Environmental conditions: Temperature differences due to change of seasons, day or  night, can often be extreme and can have a direct affect on the performance of both the video components and the power supply when located outdoors. Enclosures for outdoor power supplies should be rated to withstand the elements.

Ground Isolation: In some cases, the surveillance cameras are not equipped with internal electrical isolation. Should this be the case, it's important to specify a power supply with this feature.

Video Transmission Systems: For years, the use of structured cable has been an inexpensive method for transmitting video and data between head end equipment and camera systems. The introduction of UTP transceiver hubs with integral camera power make it possible to transmit both video and data via structured cable along with the power needed for the cameras. This is accomplished via video balun/combiners which pass the power and data to the camera and send the video back to the head end equipment.

New highly versatile devices with integral power provide system designers with a highly integrated solution. This new breed of integrated device greatly reduces the time and expense of configuring and installing separate components while helping to minimize bandwidth requirements for large security systems.

Paul Rizzuto, Technical Sales Manager, Altronix Corp
Paul Rizzuto
Technical Sales Manage
Altronix Corp 


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