Since 1874, automatic fire sprinklers in buildings have helped in protecting lives and property. Initially, fire sprinklers were only present in commercial buildings. But recently, they are also present in residential buildings. This article will explore how a fire sprinkler works and the steps taken to ensure they are successfully installed.
How Do Automatic Fire Sprinklers System Work?
Fire sprinklers help to contain a fire and sometimes put them out. A sprinkler system includes pipes running on the ceiling carrying water under pressure.
A sprinkler consists of a heat-sensitive glass bulb or metal. Inside the glass bulb is a liquid with a specific boiling point. When there’s fire, the heat from the fire heats the fluid to its boiling point, causing the glass to break and let out water to suppress the fire till firefighters arrive, and in other instances, put it out completely.
Apart from the automatic sprinklers, there’s also a need for test valves for periodic checks, a drain connection to empty pipes during maintenance, and fire department connection- where fire department can attach hoses and let water into the sprinklers.
Fire sprinklers give an allowance for occupants to vacate the building, mostly a 10-minute water supply period. Meeting this demand depends on the following factors.
- The size of the building which determines the pipe lengths and number of sprinkler heads.
- The type of material for the pipes and the diameter
- The water source, and whether it meets the pressure requirements for enough flow.
Fire Sprinkler System Installation
Successful installation of fire sprinklers involve the following steps.
Start at the Drawing Board
This step of fire sprinkler system installation involves identifying the occupancy classification and the hazard class of the building. The fire sprinkler contractors then use the findings to determine the building’s requirement based on the International Building Code.
The designers will then proceed to the National Fire Protection Association, NFPA 13, for spacing, piping, minimum pressure requirements, and component options; and use the information to create a comprehensive fire sprinkler system design for the building.
Implementing the Fire Sprinkler Design
Upon completion of the design, the installation process starts. Depending on the requirements of a region, there might be a need to seek approval for the drawings from the relevant authorities before or after installation.
The fire sprinkler designer uses this blueprint to guide his team on the proper installation of the fire sprinkler system. The pipefitters are often the ones who install the sprinkler system at the construction site. Upon successful installation, testing, and inspection follow.
Testing and Inspection
The NFPA 25 contains provisions that govern testing and inspection schedules. Different fire sprinkler companies carry out inspection and testing in different periods, either monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually, depending on the type of building and occupancy.
The testing and inspection is a critical phase. While designers are keen to create a system that will work, technicians ensure they continue to work for as long as they are in use. Only assign this work to trusted professionals.
Types of Fire Sprinklers
The Wet-pipe System
In this set-up, the sprinkler head is made of Wood’s metal, which melts when there’s fire, letting out water. Pipes carrying cold water under pressure run above the ceiling and release the water whenever the metal melts to suppress the flames and reduce the effects of toxic gases from the fire.
The Dry-pipe System
In this type of fire sprinkler system installation, the pipes carry nitrogen gas instead of water. During a fire, Wood’s metal melts, letting out the gas, which causes a drop in pressure. A valve further opens, allowing water to flow into the main pipes, thus letting out the water through the sprinkler head.
This set-up is suitable for cold buildings where the water inside pipes might freeze and burst, causing a flood.
Losing property and lives in fire accidents is devastating. Getting a fire sprinkler system installation is the first step to reducing the impacts of such disasters.
Even as they help you to contain a fire, research shows that fire sprinklers help reduce the water used in putting out a fire by 90%. So they are efficient and effective, giving you another reason to consider getting them.