Q: How long have sprinklers and sprinkler systems been around?
A: In 1872, Philip W. Pratt patented the first fire sprinkler system. However, it wasn’t until 1874 that the first practical automatic sprinkler head was developed by Henry S. Parmalee.
Q: How do fire sprinkler systems work?
A: Most sprinkler heads contain a small bulb with a colored liquid inside. This bulb acts as a plug to prevent water from accidentally escaping from the sprinkler. Heat from a fire will cause the liquid to expand, once the pressure gets too high the bulb will burst and the water in the system will be released. The liquid in the sprinkler head comes in a variety of colors, which indicates the temperature required to activate the head:
- Orange – 135° F
- Red – 155° F
- Yellow – 174° F
- Green – 200° F
- Blue – 286° F
- Purple – 360° F
- Black – 440° F
Q: Are sprinklers activated by smoke?
A: No, fire sprinklers are activated by heat not by smoke.
Q: Do sprinklers ever activate accidentally?
A: It is EXTREMELY rare for a sprinkler to activate by accident. The chances of a defective head are less than 1 in 16,000,000 and the chance of accidental discharge is even less than that. If one should discharge without a fire event, it is typically caused by freezing or structural damage.
Q: If one sprinkler head goes off, will they all go off?
A: Only in the movies! Only the sprinkler head that experiences a certain degree of heat will activate. In approximately 95% of activations, there is only a single sprinkler head that is activated to fully extinguish a fire.
Q: How much does a fire sprinkler system cost?
A: This will depend on the brand, size and type of sprinkler system that is installed, but on average you could expect to pay anywhere from about $1.00 to $2.00 per square foot for a brand new fire sprinkler system install. A retrofit (existing building) with a new fire sprinkler system is more expensive, usually around $2.50 per square foot. Keep in mind that these are only guideline prices and that the actual price will vary based on the overall size of the fire sprinkler system installation.
Q: Are there any insurance benefits for having a fire sprinkler system?
A: Yes, there are usually discounts associated with installation of a rated fire sprinkler system. You can ask your contractor for a specific description of the system that is being installed and contact your insurance agent for more information. These discounts should be factored into the cost of the lifetime cost of the installation of a fire sprinkler system.
Q: Other than insurance discounts, why do I need a fire sprinkler system installed?
A: Many municipalities require fire sprinklers because they are a proven way to limit death and extensive property damage. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), buildings with a working fire sprinkler system see an average property loss and risk of death per fire that is 50 to 66 percent lower than buildings without sprinkler systems. The key to keeping a fire from reaching potentially dangerous and life-threatening proportions is early detection. Fire sprinkler systems save money, and more importantly, save lives.
Q: How should I maintain my sprinkler system?
A: Frequent fire sprinkler inspection(s) will help catch any potential problems with your system so they don’t prevent it from operating properly when you really need it to. Allied Fire Protection Systems, Inc. provides a full line of inspections, testing and maintenance on all fire sprinkler systems. There are some specific things that you can do to help maintain your system, as well as some things that you should NEVER do. These include:
- DO – Test your fire sprinkler system monthly by opening the test valve and listening for the alarm bell.
- DO – Know the location of the fire sprinkler system shutoff valve.
- DO – Make sure the fire sprinkler system control valve is always open.
- DO – Report any damage, leaking or fires immediately.
- DON’T – Paint the sprinkler heads or escutcheons.
- DON’T – Hang any objects from any part of the system (sprinkler heads, valves or piping).
- DON’T – Obstruct or cover the sprinklers.
- DON’T – Damage sprinklers or piping (report any damage immediately)
Q: How often do I need to have my fire sprinkler system inspected?
A: NFPA requires fire sprinkler systems to be inspected a minimum of once per year. Many insurance companies and municipalities will require this to be done on a more frequent basis. For the best answer to this, check with your insurance agent to see what they require.