FIRE SAFETY: CABLES WITH FIRE FUNCTION – KEY INFORMATION
We introduce you to one of the segments of fire protection, where every detail can be crucial for saving life and property in case of fire – cables with fire function. Considering that the topic is complex and the seriousness of the risks and consequences are big, in the text that follows we will try to summarize as much information as possible about these special cables – from their role in fire protection to how the credibility of the product and the testing laboratory are checked, as well as the necessary documentation that guarantees reliability.
THE ROLE OF CABLES WITH FIRE FUNCTION IN THE FIRE PROTECTION SYSTEM AND CONTRIBUTION TO MAINTAINING THE FUNCTIONALITY OF THE SYSTEM Designed to be reliable, cables with fire function are vital elements responsible for system stability during fire evacuation. They ensure the functionality of systems whose operation in fire conditions is of crucial importance and the projected evacuation time (units, hydrant pumps, ventilation systems, elevators, necessary lighting, etc.).
We will take a step back to differentiate primarily between halogen-free cables and cables with fire function. Halogen-free cables (“fire retardant”) do not release toxic gases when burning, while cables with a function in fire (“fire resistant”), in addition to the above, have the characteristic of maintaining their function and circuit integrity in conditions of exposure to fire, and allow the flow of current during the time interval for which it is declared.
MARKINGS ON THE CABLE: E30, E60 AND E90, FE180, PH120 The cable with fire function is not difficult to recognize. They are most often orange or red and marked with FE180/ E30, E60 or E90 PH120. The FE180 designation refers to cables that have successfully passed rigorous testing in accordance with the IEC 60331-21 standard, which sets high requirements for insulation durability in the event of fire, which relates to circuit integrity. The cable is tested under laboratory conditions, where it is exposed to flame for 180 minutes without shorting or breaking the cable. E30, E60 and E90 is the result of conducting a system test according to the DIN 4102-12 standard. Testing involves cables laid in a cable rack or with a clamp in a simulated fire for 180 minutes whereas a result the cable retains its function for at least 30, 60 or 90 minutes. This test can only be performed by a laboratory that is certified according to the ISO 17025 standard. The PH120 mark can be found on power, telecommunications, optical and data cables and is used to mark cables that have been tested and meet the European standard EN 50200 for cable systems in internal fire protection installations. PH120 indicates that the cable has passed tests and can maintain functionality for 120 minutes in the event of a fire. Testing is performed during burning with shock in laboratory conditions, where every few seconds the cable experiences physical stress during burning. One important distinction needs to be made: PH120 is not always 120 minutes. According to the EN 50200 standard, only fire and physical stress are present in the test conditions, and in those conditions and in reality, 120 minutes of functionality can be achieved, i.e., any target time PH30, PH60, PH90 or PH120. If water spraying is included in the testing, the functionality of the cable and its categorization are significantly changed, which means that the testing was carried out according to the EN 50200 + Annex E standard, which defines a test time of only 30 minutes in conditions of fire + physical stress + water. STANDARDS IN FOCUS All cables with a fire function must be manufactured according to the standards: DIN VDE 0276-604 (VDE 0276 Teil 604): defines the requirements for cable insulation and sheathing, as well as the required tests in case of fire for power cables of type NHXH…; DIN VDE 0815: defines general requirements for cable insulation and sheathing in case of fire for telecommunication cables type J-H.., JE-H…; EN 50200 and EN 60331-21: define the parameters and range of test results. To be a little more precise, only cables that have a valid VDE certificate can really provide assurance that they have a function when burning in a fire. When choosing cables, it is important to pay attention to the VDE mark on the cable. Cables that are certified according to the standards of the VDE German Institute bear the mark (VDE) on the cable along its entire length. The mark must have two triangles on the side, which indicates that the cable is certified according to VDE standards. We especially insist on the above, because cables containing the VDE mark without triangles are appearing on the market, which can mislead investors and technical persons, and thus the project is inadvertently exposed to a great risk. Therefore, a cable that does not have a VDE mark or has a VDE mark without a triangle is not manufactured according to VDE standards, even if the manufacturer has a VDE certificate. Such cables often do not comply with the minimum quality requirements, but they are certainly financially more favorable than certified ones, and this fact prompts the user to make a purchase decision, without knowing that he has bought a risk with his own money.
Thanks to modern times and the availability of information, all issued certificates are listed on the website of the VDE Institute www2.vde.com, in the VDE Approved Products section where anyone can check.
Testing according to the DIN 4102-12 standard is a very rigorous treatment carried out under fire conditions that are more severe than those that can occur in real life circumstances. The tests are carried out in special chambers where the temperature is raised to 1,000°C, while observing the behavior of the cable during the given time.
It is important to note that for testing, according to this standard and the certificate obtained after testing to be valid, the testing must be carried out by an independent accredited laboratory. We cite three examples from our positive practice, namely the EFECTIS laboratories, the MPA Institute and the VDE Institute. They perform product testing and certification in a variety of areas, including fire testing of cable systems and racks.
The VDE certificate is issued exclusively by the VDE Testing and Certification Institute, it is a prestigious document in cable production. The name, tradition and reliability of this institute are unquestionable all over the planet. Each certificate is filed under a unique number with an expiration date. Testing is carried out for up to 2 years. After extensive checks of the product and the factory, i.e., production technologies, during the first year of testing, the manufacturer acquires the right to the so-called preliminary It is an interesting fact, which says a lot in itself, that the manufacturer receives the final VDE certificate from several parties without the results of the conducted tests. If he wants to see and own the results, he must buy it additionally, because the institute “doesn’t like” when it is not trusted, so any lack of trust is charged additionally. If the testing was not successfully completed because the product did not meet the requirements, the manufacturer does not have the right to re-enter the testing process for a certain period at this institute.
Noblesse obliges… Having this certificate is a prestige, but also an obligation. Every manufacturer, VDE certificate holder faces the task of maintaining quality. The VDE institute has the right to check each cable sample marked with a certificate without the knowledge of the manufacturer. VDE can get the sample in any way, including by anyone anonymously sending a sample for testing because they express doubts about the quality. In this way, producers who do not respect the quality requirements put a great risk to their certificate, invested time and future.
To avoid confusion, the manufacturer can still produce cables whose quality does not meet the minimum requirements, but in this case, the VDE certificate must not be referred to either on the print of the cable or through the documentation. It is precisely at this point that fertile ground is created for potential deception of investors, supervision and other participants in the process.The first project on which Elektrometal Plus applied this cable was TC Mercator in New Belgrade back in 2002. We intensively monitor the development of technology and are in step with innovations in the cable industry, our priority is the top quality of the products we deliver and their safety, that’s why we always opt for reliable manufacturers. With this text, we want to broaden the horizons of those interested and share knowledge, which is one of the key values of our company. The safety of people is an undisputed priority, followed immediately by the safety of property. An example of proven security for property is insurance with which our manufacturers cover the possibility of damage caused to third parties up to EUR 20 million.
RELIABILITY IN THE FIRST PLACE – CONCLUSION ON CERTIFICATES In order for all interested parties to be sure that the cables with the function in fire are applied in accordance with the prescribed standards, it is necessary to provide: The test report of the cable with the function in fire according to DIN 4102-12, must be issued by an accredited laboratory. This report confirms the success of the test and its results for all tested sections and types of cables, as well as the racks in which they were laid. The VDE certificate issued by the VDE Testing and Certification Institute must be valid and listed on the institute’s website under the manufacturer’s name. Prestigiously proves compliance with product quality standards and its performance.
Certificate of conformity – optional, in Serbia Kvalitet AD Niš and INN Vinča are issued for cables, however, from 01.01.2022. is no longer a mandatory document for cables, and today it is usually replaced by the CE certificate. The main role of this certificate is to prove that products placed on the market are safe for use according to the Low Voltage Directive (LVD), and that they comply with the applicable standards on the market. The certificate of conformity is not a proof of the functionality of the cables in a fire, so in no way should it be treated as a valid certificate for their purpose. The EC Declaration of Conformity is a certificate issued by the manufacturer himself for the cable and by which he officially guarantees for his product that it has been designed and manufactured according to the standards provided for the given type of cable. It is the legal obligation of every importer (since the obligation to obtain a certificate of conformity was abolished) to translate the EC declaration into Serbian with full responsibility.
Declaration of performance (properties) – this document is also known as DoP, i.e., Declaration of Performance by which the cable manufacturer states the characteristics of the product according to the CPR regulation (Construction Product Regulation), thereby assigning the product to one of the CPR classes, which are an indicator of the level of toxic gases that can be released when the cable burns.
Type certificate – a document issued by the manufacturer, or an accredited laboratory (optional) is the result of testing the characteristics of one cable sample for the entire portfolio of cross-sections of that type of cable. The results of measuring mechanical and electrical properties can be seen on it. Test report – a document proving the electrical correctness of each produced length. It is obtained for each drum on delivery. Technical data sheet – with this document, each manufacturer separates and presents the technical characteristics of its cable and provides basic information about the product to its consumers.
Instructions for installation, handling and storage are some of the documents that accompany all cables and are copyrighted works of manufacturers and standards adopted in individual markets. All this information and documentation should be available to supervisory authorities and fire protection experts, in order to guarantee the quality of the cables and the safety of people in the buildings.
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR THE SAFETY OF PEOPLE AND PROPERTY – CORRECT AND UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION Elektrometal Plus always pays attention to safety and quality. When it comes to sourcing cables with a fire function, we carefully select the suppliers and products we bring to market. We source all our cables from reputable manufacturers. Our representatives are always available to answer any questions and ambiguities that may arise regarding the technical specifications of the cable or the regulations that apply to them.