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What is the difference between a Conventional and Addressable Fire Alarm System?

Understanding the differences between conventional and addressable fire alarm systems

When you decide to update or install a new fire alarm system at your commercial premises, it is important to understand the differences between conventional and addressable systems and which is most suitable for your operation. For a lot of businesses cost can be a main factor as to which system they choose, however, it is important that you understand the risks associated with fire and the best preventative measures you should take.

What are the differences between conventional and addressable systems?

Both systems link devices such as call points and heat detectors to the main panel, however the main difference between the two is in the way in which they are connected.


A conventional system uses multiple wires in which each individual device is connected to its own wire which connects back to the panel, rather than sharing one. For each wire, one end touches the panel and the other end touches the device.

With an addressable system, the devices are all connected with one wire which runs in a loop from one side of the panel to the other (As shown below).

Addressable and Conventional Fire Alarm Diagrams

Fire Detection

Every device that is connected to the addressable system has its own unique address meaning that when a fire is detected, it pinpoints the exact location and displays it on the panel. This makes it easy to find and extinguish quickly in an event of fire.

With a conventional system there’s no way of pinpointing the exact location of the fire when it is detected. The system is split up into zones and this gives you a general area to which the fire has been detected. Dependent on the size of the building depends how many zones you have. If the premises is small enough but over two floors, you may only need two zones. For example, if you named the bottom floor zone 1 and second floor zone 2, when a fire is detected in zone 2, you would know that it is somewhere on the second floor.


Of the two different types of fire alarm system, the addressable system is generally more reliable. This is because of the wiring. On the addressable system, if one end of the wire loop is damaged or broken, the signal can still be sent to the control panel via the other end of the loop. A device can be removed or disabled in any part of the loop and it will not affect any other devices.

With a conventional system, if a wire breaks or is damaged, that device will be disconnected from the system and no signals from that device are transmitted back to the panel.


As the addressable system uses one wire loop, it means it is a lot more flexible when wanting to change the number of devices on the system. It is a lot easier to add devices onto the loop than having to add another circuit to add a device on a conventional system. Because addressable systems require less wire, they can accommodate a lot more devices.

False Alarms

Conventional fire alarm systems are more prone to false alarms as dust and other contaminants on the sensors can trigger false alarms and signal to the control panel. These are difficult to avoid as there is no way of knowing if the alarm is false until responders find the exact detector which triggered the alarm.

Addressable systems however monitor the sensitivity levels of all of the detectors which help to prevent false alarms. They can distinguish between subtle changes such as dust which occurs over time and a quick change which would result from a real fire.

Which Fire Alarm system is most suitable for your business?

Conventional systems are generally more suitable for smaller buildings or lower risk environments whereas addressable systems are more advanced and so are more suitable for larger or higher risk buildings.

Need advice on which fire alarm system to choose for your business? Get in touch with one of our knowledgeable sales executives and they will talk you through your options. Our team have years of experience in the fire and security industry and are regularly trained on new systems. You can get in touch on 01706 751990.

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