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Types of Fire Sprinkler Systems

"Discover The Facts Behind The Major Fire Sprinkler Systems... From Residential To Commercial, Chemical To Water-Based, ESFR To Water Mist"

If you're looking into installing a fire sprinkler system, the terminology can be overwhelming. There are many different types of fire sprinkler systems on the market-and each is designed for a different situation. To add to the confusion, there's chemical fire prevention systems to think about-plus special commercial situations.

It can be difficult to know what to do if you're faced with special concerns about a fire sprinkler system. For example: what do you do when a single drop of water could put your whole business out of commission? How about if you own a high rise with water pressure issues? And what if your fire sprinklers can't penetrate down to the floor of a room because of what's stored there?

In this report, we'll go over types of fire sprinklers, the difference between residential and commercial sprinkler systems, and everything in between.

There are many automatic fire sprinkler systems that fit in almost every sprinkler design. Here are a few of the more common ones.

Control Mode Sprinklers are the standard automatic fire sprinkler system. It "pre-wets" flammable material adjacent to the fire.

Extended Coverage Sprinklers. Each sprinkler head is designed to wet the widest possible area. This automatic fire sprinkler system can be installed as a residential or quick-response system.

Suppression Sprinklers release water directly on the core of the fire. This automatic fire sprinkler system is often preferred in buildings with highly combustible contents.

Residential Sprinklers are usually favoured by developers. They are designed specifically to protect people in the room where a fire starts.

Decorator Sprinklers blend in with the ceiling so as not to be visible. This automatic fire sprinkler system is usually found in homes.

Early Suppression Fast Response (ESFR) Sprinklers are quick-acting sprinklers that are designed for high-risk areas. They are often found in high-pile storage buildings.

Water Mist Sprinklers are often used on offshore oil drilling platforms, as well as in areas where water damage must be prevented.

Low-Pressure Sprinklers are used in tall buildings, where there is less water pressure in the upper floors. This automatic fire sprinkler system can reduce cost, need for a fire pump, and size of piping.

Fast-Response Sprinklers are fast-working and often required for light-hazard buildings.

Commercial vs. Residential Fire Sprinklers:
A Comparison

Residential fire sprinklers protect single-occupancy homes. While homes are among the most likely to catch fire, they don't need a highly modified system. Most homes use the same residential fire sprinklers.

Because they are heated in the wintertime, homes use a wet-pipe instead of a dry-pipe system. Wet-pipe fire sprinklers are less expensive and easier to maintain.

Homeowners tend to be more concerned about unsightly sprinkler heads than businesses are. Residential fire sprinklers come with heads that can be recessed and almost completely concealed from view.

Commercial fire sprinklers protect commercial properties. Because commercial buildings vary so widely, the type of commercial fire sprinkler system varies as well.

Hotels, warehouses, offices, manufacturing plants, nightclubs, and other businesses all have different levels of risk and unique factors-whether combustible materials are used or stored in the building, or whether water damage would seriously hinder the business, for example. As a result, commercial fire sprinklers must be specially designed for each business.

In addition, commercial fire sprinklers are more likely to be dry-pipe or even chemical. This is because of the risk of freezing in unheated buildings during the winter, and also because some businesses are particularly concerned about water damage.

Whether residential or commercial, fire sprinklers are the best method of fire protection you can buy for your building. Studies show both residences and commercial properties with fire sprinklers installed suffer only about 10% of the fire damage as that of non-sprinklered buildings.

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Water Mist Fire Sprinkler Systems: Heavy Duty Fire Protection, Minimal Water Damage

Water mist fire sprinkler systems attack a fire in three ways: by cooling, smothering, and blocking radiant heat.

Instead of dropping water on a fire, a water mist fire sprinkler releases high quantities of steam. A water mist fire sprinkler can produce about 8,000 droplets with the same amount of water a typical fire sprinkler would use to produce one droplet-making the water mist fire sprinkler system one of the most water-efficient systems available.

The creation of the steam literally sucks oxygen out of the room-effectively smothering the fire. Mist is also an excellent cooling agent. It drops the core temperature of the fire, and also blocks radiant heat-keeping the fire's heat from damaging equipment near the fire source.

A water mist fire sprinkler is often preferred in areas where building owners want to avoid water damage. Because a water mist fire sprinkler uses lower quantities of water, in lower concentrations, than a typical fire sprinkler uses, it's less likely to cause water damage to sensitive equipment.

A water mist fire sprinkler is also a good choice in rooms with hot equipment. Steam cools a room very efficiently-but it's less of a shock to hot cast iron and metals than a bucketful of cold water. While water from a typical fire sprinkler may cause thermal shock damage to hot machinery, a water mist fire sprinkler is much less likely to.

ESFR Fire Sprinklers-How They Work

"ESFR" stands for Early Suppression, Quick Response. While the ordinary fire sprinkler design aims to control a fire until the fire brigade arrives, the ESFR fire sprinkler design is intended to completely suppress particularly virulent fires. ESFR is often the fire sprinkler design of choice in high-risk buildings.

The ESFR fire sprinkler design differs from that of ordinary sprinklers in several ways. First, the sprinkler head is designed with a larger orifice to release larger drops of water. The drops are large enough to reach the core of a fire without evaporating. An ESFR fire sprinkler head is similar in this way to that of the large-drop fire sprinkler design, which also releases bigger drops.

The difference is that the ESFR fire sprinkler design reacts more quickly to fire than the large-drop fire sprinkler design. With ESFR, the sprinkler head is fitted with a more heat-sensitive fusible link than that of ordinary fire sprinkler design. The system is designed to react more quickly to fire, catching it in its earliest stage.

In homes and general-risk buildings, the typical fire sprinkler design should be more than enough protection against fire. ESFR is often used in warehouse facilities where stacked goods make it difficult for ordinary fire sprinklers to penetrate, and where fires are especially difficult to extinguish.

Chemical Fire Suppression vs.
Fire Sprinkler Systems

There's no question that a water-based fire sprinkler system is an extremely effective way to protect against fire. It works quickly, is relatively inexpensive to install, and in most cases it only takes one sprinkler head to control a fire.

However, some businesses use sensitive equipment that's particularly vulnerable to water damage. The data centre industry, for example, relies on delicate electronics to provide secure locations for web servers. Downtime of even a few minutes for these companies could be disastrous-and many opt for chemical fire suppression instead.

The most common substance used in a chemical fire suppression system is a gas called FM200. It works by absorbing heat energy from a fire and interrupting the chemical process of combustion.

This system does have benefits. Among those are the fact that gas penetrates closed-off areas more easily than water does. A water-based fire sprinkler system can't always penetrate closed-off cabinets and all components of complex machinery, while gas can in most cases. The gas used is safe for people to breathe, and causes no damage to electronics.

However, an FM200 system is extremely expensive-often hundreds of thousands more than a conventional fire sprinkler system. In addition, the gas is a contributor to global warming. Companies typically only use it if a little water damage would be as serious a problem as a big fire.

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