How to Choose a Fire Sprinkler System

Most people think that fire sprinkler systems are triggered by small amounts of smoke, but in fact, fire sprinkler systems are set off by intense heat, one sprinkler head at a time. Fire sprinkler systems have been designed to use the minimum amount of water required to do the job, saving you from costly water damage as well as the fire damage they are designed to stop.

Huge improvements have been made in fire sprinkler systems over the last 200 years. Early versions caused severe water damage, but modern fire sprinkler systems have reduced loss of property and deaths by a whopping 65%. Since each sprinkler head is triggered separately by a specific temperature, one or two sprinklers can contain a fire to the room where it started, minimizing property damage. Fire hoses use six times more water than a fire sprinkler system, making them much more harmful to your property.

How Fire Sprinkler Systems Work

  • A fire rapidly heats the air above it, and pushes this hot air straight to the ceiling. The heat spreads across the ceiling meeting up with a sprinkler head, triggering the sprinkler to turn on.
  • The fire sprinkler system head must detect a certain temperature to be set off, usually 135-165 degrees Fahrenheit (57 to 74 Celsius).
  • A glass cylinder filled with a glycerin liquid is equipped in the sprinkler head. The glycerin liquid expands when heated to the correct temperature.
  • The glass breaks and the sprinkler head is activated.
  • The fire sprinkler system head is attached to a system of pipes in the ceiling or behind the walls. When the sprinkler head is activated, a valve connected to the pipe opens up and releases water in a downward spray.
  • The water spray extinguishes the fire so it doesn’t spread to other parts of the building.

Types of Fire Sprinkler Systems

The amount of time a fire sprinkler system takes to put out a fire depends on the system. The wet pipe system is the most commonly used in commercial buildings. It is composed of steel pipes with the water in those pipes being under pressure. The water in the pipes is immediately released when the sprinkler head is triggered providing a rapid reaction time. It is a simple, reliable, low maintenance system. However, this system is not recommended where the pipes might freeze due to the fact that they are constantly filled with water.

In a dry pipe system, the pipes are filled with compressed air instead of water. When the sprinkler head is triggered, a valve opens and the compressed air is released through the sprinkler head. The pressure in the pipe changes when all the air has been released, allowing the pipes to fill with water. Since it takes up to a minute to fill the pipes with water, the dry pipe system releases a significant amount of highly pressurized water. This process requires larger pipes. Even though a dry pipe system prevents a possible flood due to a leak, the dry pipe system is complicated and more costly to maintain. This system is only recommended for specific conditions such as an unheated warehouse.

Fire Sprinkler Systems and Building Codes

Codes and regulations require the use of sprinkler systems in public buildings such as hotels, nursing homes, and college dorms. Code sets also usually require fire sprinkler systems to be installed for new construction of high rise and commercial buildings. Even though most fire deaths occur in the home, codes have not been put in effect requiring a fire sprinkler system in a single-family home.

A home fire occurs every 79 seconds according to the American Fire Sprinkler Association. Studies have shown that 3,000 deaths occur every year due to home fires; yet less than 2% of homes in the United States have a fire sprinkler system. Some people don’t like the look of sprinkler heads in their ceilings, but aesthetics should not outweigh safety.

New designs for residential fire sprinkler systems have made sprinkler heads nearly undetectable, and many can be installed flush with the ceiling. Residential fire sprinkler systems require less water and are smaller, and they are normally the dry pipe system, which provides the better protection from leaks than a wet pipe system.

Choose Your Fire Protection System Wisely

The best way to choose the right fire sprinkler system is to contact a fire consulting company. They have a team of fire safety engineers and fire safety inspectors that can help you make the right choice for your home or business.

For comprehensive fire system inspections or to schedule a consultation with one of our expert fire safety engineers, contact AIE Fire Protection Company today.

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