We all have an idea of how fire sprinkler systems work, but for most of us, our expectations are set by the movies. Like many things in film, the way fire sprinklers work in the movies isn’t exactly how it works in real life. So how can we expect the sprinklers to react to a fire when we need them?
What causes a fire sprinkler to activate?
Myth: The fire sprinklers turn on when the fire alarm is pulled.
Fact: Fire sprinklers turn on when the air rising to the ceiling reaches a temperature of 155 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a fire-specific temperature, increasing accuracy. In fact, research has shown that only 1 in 16 million fire sprinklers activate accidentally!
Myth: All the fire sprinklers in a building activate at the same time.
Fact: Only the closest sprinkler to the fire will activate, saving water, energy, and of course, minimizing damage. After all, with how fast and effective fire sprinkler systems are, fire damage is often less problematic than the water damage created by firefighting efforts. In reality, only one or two sprinklers are often needed to fully extinguish a fire.
Myth: Lighting a candle or burning incense can set off the fire sprinklers.
Fact: Smoke doesn’t trigger sprinklers - temperature does. While the smoke from a candle can set off the fire alarm, the fire sprinklers will only react to high heat.
Do fire sprinklers work without electricity?
The short answer? Some do, and some don’t. There are two different types of systems: wet pipe and dry pipe. Wet pipe fire sprinkler systems, as the name suggests, are filled with water under pressure. These systems are most effective in places where freezing isn’t a concern, and they rely on a pressure release valve rather than electricity to work effectively and put out the fire. For those areas in which pipes are at risk of freezing, dry pipe systems are the best choice. The pipes in dry systems are filled with compressed air or nitrogen, holding the water back until it is needed.
Especially in high-rise buildings where water pressure can be too low for the sprinkler heads to work properly on the upper floors, these systems are installed with pumps. These pumps can either run on diesel fuel or electricity, and are most often used with dry pipe systems.
Ordinances regarding fire sprinkler systems are different throughout the country, but the proof is in the research. Not only do sprinklers increase property value, but they also make spaces safer. 90% of fires in structures with systems installed are controlled by 6 or fewer heads, lessening damage to personal property.
Interested in learning more about fire sprinkler systems? Are you interested in installing one in your residential or commercial space? Contact Lange Plumbing & Fire Protection at (702) 500-0936 to get your questions answered.