Pros and Cons of Various Fire Panel (FACP) Types

By Andrew Erickson

June 10, 2023

Fire Alarm Control Panels (FACP) or "fire panels" are the core of your fire alarm system. They are responsible for monitoring inputs from devices like smoke detectors, heat sensors, and manual pull stations. They then activate outputs to sound alarms or take other appropriate action depending on the detected situation.

Choosing the right FACP manufacturer and model ensures that your building is safe from fire-related hazards. There are several types of fire panels available in the market today, each with its own pros and cons.

Given the significance of a fire panel, making the right choice when purchasing a FACP for your organization is absolutely mission-critical. Today, let's explore the pros and cons of different FACP devices available in the marketplace to help you make an informed decision.

1. Conventional Fire Alarm Control Panels

These systems have been around for decades and are a common choice for small to medium-sized organizations due to their cost-effectiveness.


  • Cost-effective: Conventional systems are usually less expensive to install and maintain. It's also likely that you have some of these systems already deployed, giving them an effective price of $0 if you can keep using them today.
  • Reliable: These systems have a proven track record of reliable performance over many years. It's true that less complexity means that there is less to go wrong.


  • Limited information: Conventional panels do not provide precise location details about which detector or call point activated the alarm. This ultimately gives less detail to first responders and slows the overall response time to a fire or other alarm condition.
  • Not ideal for large spaces: For large buildings, conventional systems can become complex and costly due to the extensive wiring required.

2. Addressable Fire Alarm Control Panels

Addressable systems provide more features and information than their conventional counterparts. They are designed for larger premises and are more sophisticated.

Addressable fire alarm control panels (FACPs) are designed to be the most reliable and accurate systems available in the market today. They provide much more detailed information about alarms, including their exact location, allowing for faster response times.


  • Detailed information: Addressable panels can pinpoint the exact location of the fire, thus expediting emergency response. Because the location of each initiating device is known and is reported with a unique numbered "address", specific location information can be displayed on your fire panel's LCD screen for first responders. They can also display an array of FACP diagnostic messages when necessary.
  • Scalable: These systems are suitable for large, complex buildings as they can support a large number of devices.


  • Cost: Addressable systems are generally more expensive due to their complex nature and the advanced features they offer.
  • Installation & Maintenance Time: While this will likely just be a component of "cost" for most organizations who hire a consultant, understand that more time and confusion may be involved when dealing with the system components.

3. Wireless Fire Alarm Control Panels

These wireless FACPs represent the most recent advancement in fire panel technology. They use secure, wireless links to communicate between sensors and the panel.


  • Flexibility: These systems offer a high level of flexibility and are ideal for buildings where it is difficult to run wires.
  • Easy installation: Installation is quicker and less invasive as it doesn't require extensive cabling.
  • Resilience during a fire: A great deal of the NFPA fire codes and the NEC (National Electric Code) is devoted to wiring that will survive during an extended fire. Wireless technology means that there are no wires to burn within your system.


  • Battery life: All wireless devices run on batteries, so they need to be replaced regularly.
  • Interference: Wireless signals may face interference from other wireless systems. You absolutely cannot allow any significant risk of failure in a critical situation.

4. Hybrid Fire Alarm Control Panels

Hybrid panels are a combination of conventional and addressable panels, offering flexibility to use a mixture of device types.


  • Versatility: Hybrid panels offer the benefits of both addressable and conventional systems.
  • Upgrade-friendly: They allow existing conventional systems to be expanded or upgraded in a cost-effective way. You may have legacy initiating devices that still work. Upgrading your FACP to a hybrid system lets you still use those legacy devices while adding new addressable devices where appropriate.


  • Complexity: These systems can be more complex to set up and program due to having two types of device circuits in one box.

Choosing an FACP is an Important Decision

Choosing the best possible FACP for your organization depends on multiple factors. You must consider the size and complexity of the building, your budget, and the level of information detail required under relevant NFPA codes.

While conventional systems may be suitable for small organizations, larger buildings might benefit more from addressable or hybrid systems. Wireless systems can be a game-changer in scenarios where wiring is a challenge (or simply time-consuming!).

It's vital to consult with a fire protection professional to assess your needs and help select the best FACP for your organization. Safety is the most worthy investment. Choosing the right FACP ensures that your budget dollars generate as much safety as possible.

How to Handle Your Multiple Incompatible Fire Panels with a Prism LX

One Digitize product that directly relates to choosing and buying different fire panels is the System 3505 Prism LX. This is a modern proprietary monitoring system that can monitor your existing FACPs regardless of its make or age.

Prism LX can integrate with a wide range of Fire Alarm Control Panels (FACP) across many different brands and eras. It is designed to collect alarms and status changes from diverse FACP's and (optionally) transmit those alarms to your computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system.

Broad Compatibility Makes Prism LX Useful

Many organizations face the challenge of having to coordinate multiple, disparate fire alarm systems due to various brands and models being installed over time.

Prism LX alleviates this problem with its unique adaptability, offering a centralized solution that simplifies monitoring and alarm management across all your fire alarm systems. If we don't currently support your particular FACP model, give us a call so we can review the required protocols with the Digitize Engineering team.

Upgrading or changing a fire alarm system is a costly and complicated process, especially when starting with older, legacy systems. The beauty of Prism LX is its compatibility. It allows you to modernize your fire safety system without the need for a complete overhaul, making the process more cost-effective and less disruptive to your operations.

Call Digitize for Help with FACP Selection & Monitoring

We have over 46 years of industry experience at Digitize. Whether you're shopping for FACPs, planning your budget, or you need a fire alarm monitoring system - give us a call. We'll help you sort through the pros and cons of each option.

Call us at 1-800-523-7232. You can also email with any questions.

Our team of engineers is available to answer any questions you may have about fire alarm systems, FACPs, or the Prism LX monitoring system. We look forward to helping you find the best solution for your organization's needs.

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and...Read More