When, Why, and How to Use Plenum Cable

What’s the big deal about plenum cable? In a word, safety. Plenum cable has a specially-made coating that’s meant to be fire resistant and non-toxic for use in potentially hazardous areas. The word “plenum” itself comes from the HVAC industry, referring to the spaces above dropped ceilings or below raised flooring that circulate heating, ventilation and air conditioning. In more recent years, builders have discovered that these open spaces are also great for running telecommunications or network Ethernet cables. There’s just one problem: Plenum spaces are also extremely good at quickly spreading fire.

It’s easy to see how cabling and electrical wires can pose a fire hazard, especially if they become damaged or frayed. In 2008, electrical fires, failures and malfunctions resulted in $1.4 billion in property damage throughout 53,600 home fires, as well as 1,400 injuries and 500 deaths. And those were just the fires caused by frayed phone cables. Because of these dangers, cabling in plenum spaces is held to very high safety standards. The coating is usually made of a flame-resistant material like Teflon, as opposed to standard PVC coating. This also ensures that, in the event of a fire, the smoke doesn’t give off toxic fumes that might come from burning PVC.

Plenum cable isn’t just limited to use in plenum spaces, however. In the last decade, data storage centers have sprouted up around the country, but these centers face extremely high fire risks, making plenum cables a popular option. Its high safety rating makes it usable for riser cable and standard cable situations, too. While plenum cable is typically more expensive than other types of cable, its added protection might be worth the costs, especially if you’re able to purchase in bulk.

Buying bulk plenum zip cord fiber optic cables for a hospital or office setting, for example, could ultimately prove more cost-effective from a materials and insurance perspective. According to the West Health Institute, hospitals could save a collective $30 billion a year by connecting medical technology like smart pumps, ventilators, and vital sign monitors to their electronic health records via bulk plenum zip cord fiber optic cables.

Additionally, the added protection could also increase the quality and lifespan of high-end Ethernet cabling systems. Top-grade Cat5e cables are designed to last five to 10 years at minimum, but a plenum coating may ensure an even longer usable lifespan. So why use plenum cable instead of riser cable or PVC coatings? While safety is a huge added bonus, there are lots of hidden perks of the plenum space that any cable set-up could use.

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