How Honeywell VESDA Pays for Itself – Both Up Front and Over Its Lifecycle

    There’s likely no facility with a greater need for very early smoke detection than a data center. Survival for these facilities in a high-risk, competitive landscape depends on maximizing uptime because going offline for just a few minutes can wreak havoc with their revenues and reputation. Even a false alarm can cause 20 minutes of downtime, which on average costs a data center $9,000 a minute.[i] Early and reliable smoke detection and alarm notifications are critical if an incipient fire is to be dealt with quickly and efficiently and downtime avoided.

    Honeywell’s very early smoke detection apparatus (VESDA) has proven itself over several decades to be the most effective and technologically advanced fire protection solution, so one might assume it also costs the most. In fact, it costs less to install and maintain a VESDA system than a conventional array of spot detectors. Its more accurate detection and a range of sensitivity settings means Honeywell VESDA also reduces the likelihood of costly false or nuisance alarms to an unprecedented minimum. VESDA-E, the latest generation, also integrates seamlessly with a Li-ion Tamer lithium-ion battery rack monitoring system, which provides very early off-gas detection for a data center’s battery storage system – instrumental in preventing thermal runaway events that can lead to catastrophic fires.

    Data centers have special considerations when it comes to fire protection

    When assessing total cost of VESDA ownership, it’s important to factor in the unique environmental challenges that data centers typically present. With a large quantity of electrical equipment packed densely into tight spaces, they often host a range of microclimates – some with high temperatures and heat loads. Cooling solutions, airflow characteristics, air temperatures and pressures can vary drastically from one area to another, all of which have a direct impact on smoke propagation.

    These together with other challenging data center characteristics – containment structures, high airflow, and complex ceiling configurations – can be addressed proactively with VESDA’s aspirating smoke detection (ASD), which continuously samples air from all areas and passes it through a central, laser-equipped detection chamber. Data centers also typically house high-security areas where access is controlled, making installation and maintenance of smoke detectors difficult. Even servicing spot detectors in such areas can require downtime, increasing their maintenance cost exponentially.

    Five ways Honeywell VESDA pays for itself

    1.     Design and Installation – Using Honeywell’s Aspire pipe network design software, building managers and installers can collaborate on designing the most efficient but also most economical layout, based on an individual facility’s specific challenges. Unlike an array of hundreds of spot detectors with associated wiring and integration, VESDA uses a single network of tubing and – in some cases – capillaries, which make for better detection in concealed spaces above drop ceilings or below raised floors. Even with capillaries, there are many fewer parts to install and connect.

    2.     Programming: Honeywell VESDA can be programmed centrally to adjust for different sensitivities at different locations, which greatly reduces the chance of false alarms. This allows for strong airflow from computer room air conditioners (CRACs), stratification and other conditions that can mask smoke, such as evacuation of (potentially smoke-laden) interior air, often used to augment CRAC cooling in data centers. A VESDA system can also adjust for conditions that can trigger false alarms – for example, intake of potentially polluted or dusty outdoor air. It can likewise be programmed with a range of alarm stages, so fire suppression systems won’t activate unless truly necessary, thus potentially protecting assets from damage and downtime.

    3.     Maintenance: Honeywell VESDA has a single detection chamber situated centrally for easy maintenance, so there’s no need for technicians to service hundreds of spot detectors. Nor do they need to enter secured areas, which would likely require downtime. VESDA’s numerous built-in predictive maintenance features – such as end-to-end system integrity monitoring and automatic sampling point cleaning at set intervals – further reduce life-cycle costs.   

    4.     Operations: ASD technology actively pulls in and samples air, providing the earliest possible smoke detection when a potential fire is still in the smoldering stage. The system enables pinpoint addressability of all sampling locations, allowing operators to locate the exact origin of the smoke and extinguish it instantly, often without disrupting business operations.

    5.     Service and Support: A fire protection system is only as good – and as cost-effective – as the service network that supports it. Honeywell provides unmatched service and support of VESDA systems, maintaining more than 500 local and regional engineered systems distributors (ESDs) worldwide whose experts are trained and certified specifically to service VESDA. Because they’re local, ESDs keep systems in compliance with applicable codes and regulations and know how to adjust for climatic conditions that might affect VESDA operations. 

    Table: VESDA Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Comparison*

      VESDA Spot
    Total Cost per detection point  $390  $470  $80 
    Maintenance & Support ($/yr)  $2,796  $8,582  $5,787
    Total Life Cycle Maintenance Cost $27,957  $85,824  $57,867 
    Detection Equipment/Materials  $69,218  $42,062  ($27,155) 
    Installation Labor  $43,067  $93,307  $50,240 
    Total Capital Expenditure  $112,285  $135,369  $23,084 
    Capital Expenditure per sq ft   $2.25  $2.71  $0.46 
    Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) $140,242  $221,193  $80,951 
    TCO per sq ft   $2.80  $4.42  $1.62 

    *Based on 50,000 sq ft of floor area and Honeywell pricing

    VESDA-E technology provides long-term protection of investment

    The new line of four laser-enabled VESDA-E models – each of them designed to a different set of use cases – offers approximately 15 times the sensitivity of older VESDA models. This effectively provides about 40% greater coverage in a high-airflow environment such as a data center, further reducing capital expenditure. The detector architecture can be replaced in the field, which cuts life cycle costs and allows upgrade to the next-gen VESDA architecture when it comes available. Numerous built-in maintenance features, both in the detector and sampling network, further reduce the operating spend. In addition, the new VESDA-E detectors are completely backward-compatible with older VESDA systems.

    Reputation and peace of mind: priceless

    Besides protecting irrecoverable client data, very early smoke detection safeguards an owner’s reputation and peace of mind. There’s a lot to consider when selecting the optimal solution for a data center,but taking the time to research the available technology can help gain better control over potential risks. Honeywell VESDA identifies the very first signs of smoke, giving operators enough time to investigate the threat and take better-informed action in terms of evacuation, fire containment, asset protection and business continuity.


    [i] Ponemon Institute, The cost of data center outages, January 2016. [Accessed April 13, 2022]


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