Don’t wait until the temperature drops below freezing before you start thinking about how to protect your sprinkler system.
As temperatures do drop, your fire sprinkler system may become inoperable if the pipes that deliver the water to the detected fire freeze. When water freezes, it expands by up to 9% of its original size. Furthermore, even if there is no fire in your building, a frozen pipe may burst and cause water damage. Properly winterizing your fire sprinkler system can prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.
While inspecting and testing your fire protection system is always important, preparing fire sprinkler systems for winter will keep your fire safety equipment in working order during the winter months. Fire sprinkler systems are an important component of fire protection that can prevent enormous and costly damages. Additionally, sprinkler systems protect employees or residents of commercial buildings by extinguishing fires early.
Keep reading to learn more about the consequences of frozen fire sprinkler system pipes, how to prevent freezing and how you can prepare fire sprinkler systems for winter with some cold weather preventative maintenance.
What temperatures and conditions cause fire sprinkler systems to freeze?
- Wet sprinkler systems hold water in the pipes. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard 25 stipulates that wet sprinkler systems be maintained at a minimum of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also recommended that wet systems not be exposed to freezing temperatures, which can occur when insulation is disrupted when pipes exit and re-enter the building, or where there is a lack of building heat.
- Dry sprinkler systems are those that keep pressurized air inside the pipes and do not contain water until the system activates. As a result, it can withstand freezing temperatures. However, careful maintenance is needed to keep these pipes from freezing if they are exposed to sub-32-degree temperatures. It’s important to remember, the water source must be in a room that is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Do take note, the most common causes of pipe freezing in dry sprinkler systems are water accumulation in low-point drains, insufficient draining of the system after a tripped valve, and improper pipe pitch.
- While dry sprinkler systems are less susceptible to freezing in cold weather than wet sprinkler systems, they can still freeze. This is because the air in the pipes contains moisture, which can condense and freeze and possibly crack in the low points of the pipes.
Areas with the highest freeze potential include:
- Fire sprinkler control rooms
- Mechanical rooms
- Isolated rooms
- Unoccupied rooms
How can I prevent fire sprinkler systems from freezing?
Regular year-long maintenance is the most effective way to keep your fire sprinkler system from freezing. You should contact a professional fire protection company like Summit Fire Protection to discuss how you can prevent pipe freezing through regular fire sprinkler system maintenance. As a property owner, you are responsible for maintaining the proper temperature of your building, especially if you have a wet fire sprinkler system.
There are preventative maintenance steps you can take to keep buildings safe from fire during the winter months and avoid costly repairs later on:
- Monitor your local weather and know when temperatures are expected to drop below freezing.
- Ensure that all buildings have adequate heating during the winter months. If there is an electrical power outage, backup heating options are critical. If all areas cannot be kept at least 40 degrees, you need to insulate your pipes.
- Provide sufficient insulation.
- Contact Summit Fire Protection to conduct regular inspections, testing, and maintenance of the sprinkler systems.
I live in a warm climate – do I need to winterize my system?
Summit Fire Protection recommends checking your fire sprinkler system before the onset of winter, even if your location experiences mild winters. In fact, buildings in warmer climates can be more vulnerable to freezing because insulating measures are ignored. It can be difficult to properly prepare for the onset of cold weather and be aware of whether or not your system is ready without inspecting your system. Even a single cold snap can bring a system to the breaking point if it has not been properly winterized.
Summit Fire Protection can help winterize your fire sprinkler systems
Your fire sprinkler system should be inspected at least once a year. A qualified professional will perform routine maintenance on your fire sprinkler system pipes from freezing during an annual inspection.
- If you have an antifreeze system, a skilled technician will test samples from your fire sprinkler system to make sure the water in your pipes has the correct concentration of antifreeze. Too much antifreeze can damage your pipes, and too little won’t be effective. This concentration is important and prevents the freezing and bursting of pipes.
- If you have a dry system, a professional will drain the fire sprinkler system and then flush it with water to make sure it is operating properly and there are no cracks or leaks. Once the pipes are dry, the technician will seal the pipes and pressurize them with air.
Contact Summit Fire Protection to have a highly qualified fire sprinkler system technician inspect and test your fire sprinkler system at your facility today.