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Sprinkler system types
Wet-Pipe Sprinkler Systems
- Applications: Wet-pipe sprinklers are the most frequently installed fire sprinklers due to their low-margin of error and simplistic design. They are ideal for indoor environments such as office buildings, retail stores, and commercial high-rises. However, because wet-pipe sprinklers are constantly filled with water, they have the potential to freeze. These systems should only be installed in temperature-regulated environments.
- Operation: Fire will activate the heat-sensitive automatic fire sprinkler in the sprinkler heads closest to the fire. The pressurized water will flow from the activated sprinkler heads. Because the fire only activates the sprinkler heads closest to the fire, water damage is minimal. In fact, much less water is used when extinguishing a fire from a fire sprinkler than fire department extinguishment tools. When the fire sprinkler initiates, alarms will sound and continue sounding until the water flow is manually disabled.
- Special Considerations: Because wet-pipe sprinkler systems have pressurized water within the pipes at all times, they should only be installed in temperature controlled environments. If wet-pipe sprinklers are installed within an area of a building that is not insulated, the pipes run the risk of freezing and eventually leaking.
Dry Pipe Sprinkler Systems
- Applications: Dry-pipe sprinkler systems are best used in environments with temperature fluctuation. The lack of water within the pipe eliminates the risk of a frozen pipe.
- Operation: To make this type of system ideal for environments that could reach below freezing, dry-pipe fire sprinkler pipes are filled with pressurized air or nitrogen. When a fire initiates the opening of the heat-sensitive sprinkler head, the dry pipe valve opens and allows the water to flow into the pipes.
- Special Considerations: There is a time delay in dry-pipe fire sprinklers because the pipes are not already filled with water. This can possibly allow a fire to grow larger than it would have with a wet-pipe fire sprinkler. To compensate for the delay, a quick opening device for the valve can be added to rapidly remove air or nitrogen from the pipes.
- Applications: Pre-action systems offer a water-damage conscious solution for rooms that hold equipment that could be harmed by water. Computer rooms or institutions that house equipment or materials that could be harmed by water should utilize a pre-action system. This type of system requires a fire detection event to precede the activation of a fire sprinkler.
- Operation: Pre-action fire sprinkler systems are a mixture of wet, dry, and deluge systems – based on the facility’s needs. The three types of pre-action systems are non-interlock, single interlock, and double interlock. Non-interlock: The fire sprinkler valve activates once a fire has been detected by an alarm system or heat-sensitive sprinkler head. Once the valve has activated, water is introduced into the pipes. Single-interlock: A fire detection device initiates the deluge valve. This floods the water into the pipes. The sprinkler fuse will then signal the sprinkler head to activate. Double-interlock: Much like the dry pipe system, water is only introduced into the piping system after a fire alarm sounds and the sprinkler fuse is signaled.
- Special Considerations: Because this system is interconnected with fire detection and control systems, all systems must be modified in the event of future renovations or enhancements to guarantee proper performance. Pre-action fire sprinkler systems have pre-defined size restrictions, so scalability can be an issue.
- Applications: Deluge systems are primarily used in outdoor areas that have equipment that is high-risk, but not vulnerable to water damage. They are ideal for environments that have the potential for a fire that could spread quickly because deluge systems activate immediately in a flood of water.
- Operation: In a deluge fire sprinkler system, a detection system initiates the flow of water into the piping system. Deluge sprinkler heads are continuously open, so water flows freely with quick results.
- Special Considerations: Because sprinkler heads are constantly open, deluge fire sprinklers should be installed only in environments that do not run the risk of water damage.
Water Mist Systems
- Applications: Water-mist systems work well in environments that have high personnel traffic, but with equipment that is sensitive to water. A light mist is produced from this type of sprinkler, using minimal water and creating a steam that controls the fire.
- Operation: Water is converted into steam, redirecting the oxygen from the flames. This results in flame extinguishment. Through this process, the fuel is cooled to prevent the fire from reigniting.
- Special Considerations: Water mist fire sprinklers work well in the event of a heavy fire because the process requires intense heat to create the steam. If the fire is small with minimal heat produced, the sprinkler may not work as effectively.
How a Fire Sprinkler System Works: Water filled systems are the most common and are normally connected to a public water source through a street connection. It comes from the source to a valve and can be turned off and on for repair, testing and maintenance. These valves are designed to be open and closed slowly. DO NOT SHUT OFF THE SYSTEM UNLESS YOU ARE SURE THE FIRE IS OUT! The valves are usually monitored by an off site company that can monitor water flow, valve tampering, freezing and air pressure. The fire system is water and air tight. If a usable link (sprinkler head) is opened, water will flow through the opened head(s) only. Pressure gauges show the system pressure and the source pressure. The Main Drain Inspector test Anti-freeze Filled System or Section: Works the same as the wet (water) system but allows the pipes and heads to operate in below freezing temperatures. Some sections must be protected from freezing temperatures.
Dry System: Same as a water based system, except the pipes are filled with air and can be from an air compressor or air tanks. The water is held back at the dry valve by the air pressure until the system is opened by a fuseable like head(s).