What You Need to Know About Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems
Posted 2/21/2013 by erics
When people are building or remodeling a home they have several decisions to make — are they looking to improve the aesthetics of their home, increase functionality and usability, add safety or increase the perception of value and worth? Sometimes there are code requirements that must be met and the decision point for these items often becomes cost driven.
So, when the client makes cost-based decisions, it may limit the opportunity to “sell” the best solution. Product choices become limited to low-cost or budget items, overlooking big-picture improvements. Unless homeowners are working with the few truly forward-thinking builders and remodelers, they are likely not considering a residential fire sprinkler system as part of their construction project. However, in a growing number of communities, they might have to consider fire sprinklers to meet code requirements.
This is an opportunity for contractors and builders to set themselves apart from their competition by educating their clients on the types of systems available, the benefits of each, and how to incorporate the requirements into an overall upgrade. This education is the key to overcoming cost-based decisions.
Residential fire sprinkler systems are typically installed as either a multipurpose or a standalone system. Multipurpose systems are integrated with the home’s cold-water plumbing and are often installed by specially trained plumbing contractors. As defined in NFPA 13D, Standard for Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, multipurpose systems are intended to serve both fire sprinkler and domestic needs. They are usually installed as a looped, or flow-through, system where the sprinkler pipe feeds most sprinklers from two paths. This is a common design approach when using crosslinked polyethylene (PEX) pipe for multipurpose systems. In essence, all sprinklers are located within a PEX loop with water being supplied from two directions. Cold-water plumbing fixtures are then fed from this fire sprinkler loop. Each time a plumbing fixture is used, fresh water circulates through the fire sprinkler system. The system is essentially tested every day, providing peace of mind to occupants that their sprinkler system is ready to protect them in case of a fire.
Standalone systems are defined as a piping system that supplies water only to the fire sprinklers. The most common standalone system utilizes a trunk-and-branch piping layout with most sprinklers being fed by a direct, dedicated piping line. Although PEX is allowed for standalone systems according to the 2013 Edition of NFPA 13D, these systems have historically been installed using rigid CPVC pipe. Because the piping in these systems is dedicated only to the fire sprinklers, there is usually a requirement for backflow prevention to keep the stagnant water from the fire sprinkler system from contaminating the fresh water supply. The local water purveyor may also require annual testing of the backflow device.
In new construction, both systems are viable choices and the final decision will likely be based on factors such as material preference, contractor relationships, maintenance requirements and homeowner preference. For renovation projects, the flexibility of PEX tubing can provide significant advantages over rigid piping products; especially if the homeowners desire the continuous-testing benefit and minimal maintenance of a multipurpose system.
Regardless of the type of system, regular inspections will ensure it is in good working operation. In the case of a multipurpose system, if water is available from the cold-water fixtures, there is water available for the fire sprinklers. In standalone systems, test the water supply by ensuring the main control valve is in the open position and operating a test valve. Additionally, visually inspect the sprinklers periodically to ensure they haven’t been damaged. And ensure escutcheons or cover plates are intact and properly aligned.
Presenting clear facts and a thorough understanding of residential fire sprinkler systems can increase business for the contractor and ensure life safety and peace of mind for homeowners. By becoming an educator, your clients will view you as a knowledgeable partner, and cost negotiations can become collaborative discussions focused on features and the life safety benefits of residential fire sprinklers.
PETA GARBIN said:
11/10/2013 3:21 AM
I am interested in knowing more about your company and your products.
jose marban said:
1/11/2014 7:57 PM
Were does a plumbing contractor get train to install uponor multipurpose system.
John Coffey said:
3/7/2014 1:01 AM
I would like information on purchasing a residential fire protection system.
Thank you, John