Plenum cable is cable that is laid in the plenum spaces of buildings. The plenum is the space that facilitates air circulation for heating and air conditioning systems, by providing pathways for either heated/conditioned or return airflows.
Space between the structural ceiling and the dropped ceiling or under a raised floor is typically considered plenum. The plenum space is typically used to house the communication cables for the building’s computer and telephone network. Additionally, no high-voltage powered equipment is allowed in the plenum space because presence of fresh air can greatly increase danger of rapid flame spreading should the equipment catch on fire.
Note that diligence is required to make sure that a non-plenum airspace stays that way. A non-plenum airspace can become a plenum airspace by accident if the ductwork is disconnected and not properly repaired. Ductwork degradation can occur due to building damage such as earthquakes, aging or adverse environment causing the metal to corrode and fall apart, or simply negligence on the part of building contractors that leave work unfinished. Discovery and repair of unintended plenums is difficult due to the hidden nature, limited space, and difficult access of most installed drop ceilings. For highest fire safety it is best to assume all drop-ceiling airspaces are plenums, whether or not they are officially designated as one.
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