Express Plumbing Heating & Air Blog

There are one of the things we install that we hope never gets used: fire sprinklers. Fortunately, it is not common that we are in the position to see these in action. Most of what many people know about them they got from the movies. As you can imagine, the mechanics of them are dialed up for dramatic effect. There are a few things we can clear up about fire sprinkler myths.

First, did you know that the sprinklers are not activated by smoke? The system is actually activated by heat. Also, one sprinkler head going off doesn’t set off a chain reaction. Just the sprinkler heads closest to the source of heat will go off. This minimizes water damage. If all of the sprinkler heads went off at once, they would often cause more harm than good!

The sprinkler heads are connected to a system of pipes in the walls or ceiling of a room. These pipes are made of copper, steel, or special fire-resistant plastic. The most common system for commercial buildings is a “wet pipe system”. These are steel pipes that are always full of water. The water is under a moderate amount of pressure. When the sprinkler head is triggered by heat, the pressurized water is released.

Another form of a sprinkler system is a “dry pipe system”. These pipes are filled with compressed air instead of pressurized water. When the sprinkler head is triggered, the air is released from a valve. Once all of the air is released, the pressure in the pipe changes. This allows water to fill the system. These systems have a slower reaction time, but they release a larger amount of extremely pressurized water. Because of the cost and maintenance required for these systems, they are usually only used in conditions that specifically call for them.

Sprinkler systems have been installed in commercial buildings for over 100 years. They have been so instrumental in preventing damage and death over the years that codes and regulations have been established to require them. Even though most fire deaths occur in residences, no precedent has been set for requiring systems in homes as of yet.

Since it is not legally required, most homeowners will not install these potentially life-saving systems. Believe it or not, most people’s reasoning is aesthetic. People tend to think the sprinkler heads are an eyesore. Modern technology and advancement have done wonders for this. You can now get sprinklers that rest flush with the ceiling. Not only could you minimize damage to your home or family, but you may also even get a decrease in your home’s insurance premium. It is definitely food for thought.

Brad Jordan

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