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The Right Fire Sprinkler System: Property Owner Essentials

Updated: Jan 22

Large red indoor sprinkler system piping

According to a 2021 report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “local fire departments responded to an estimated 1.35 million fires in the United States. These fires caused 3,800 civilian fire deaths and 14,700 reported civilian fire injuries. The property damage caused by these fires was estimated at $15.9 billion.” Needless to say, fire protection is a critical aspect of property management. And a fire sprinkler system is a critical safety measure for any large residential structures or commercial buildings as it can help control or contain fire outbreaks before they spread and cause significant damage. In the event a sprinkler system is activated, you will have to deal with water damage, but that’s better than the alternative. Fires can cause extensive destruction, leaving buildings uninhabitable and businesses unable to operate until they are repaired or rebuilt. Automatic sprinkler systems used in large apartment complexes or office buildings help minimize fire damage by quickly containing the fire before it spreads. Investing in a fire sprinkler system may require an upfront cost but when compared to the potential costs and safety risks of fire damage for residents or occupants, it is well worth it. It’s essential to choose the right system for your needs so we’ve answered some of the most common questions about fire sprinkler systems below so you can make an informed decision about the best way to protect your property.

Are Fire Sprinkler Systems Legally Required?

Fire sprinkler alarm in ceiling with smoke

Fire sprinkler systems are not legally required in all properties, but fire codes vary from state

to state and even at the local level. In many areas, it may be mandatory to install sprinklers if certain occupancy thresholds are met. For example, in California, automatic sprinklers are required for buildings with a fire area greater than 12,000 square feet (or three stories in height).

It’s important to check local fire codes and/or consult with fire safety officials and a local fire marshal to determine whether fire sprinklers are mandatory for your property and the type of fire sprinkler systems they recommend.

Warehouse sprinkler alarm system

What type of fire sprinkler system is best for an apartment complex?

There are four different types of fire suppression systems permissible by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA): wet pipe, dry pipe, deluge, and pre-action.

a sprinkler alarm in white ceiling

Wet Pipe Sprinkler Systems

The most commonly used fire sprinkler system is a wet pipe system, which uses pressurized water to suppress the fire. In these types of automatic sprinkler systems, fire sprinkler heads are usually mounted on ceilings or walls and typically use a network of pipes to connect the fire sprinklers within a building. A wet pipe system is triggered by a heat-sensitive element inside the fire sprinkler, which activates when the temperature reaches a certain threshold and releases the water from the pipes to fight fire.

Pros of a Wet Pipe Sprinkler System

The two major benefits of a wet pipe system are reliability and affordability. Compared to other sprinkler systems, they have low installations costs and require minimal maintenance.

Dry Pipe Systems

Unlike a wet pipe sprinkler system, dry pipe sprinkler systems are not constantly filled with water. Instead, these systems hold water behind a dry pipe valve that is typically located a moderate  distance away from the sprinkler heads.

When temperatures rise to a certain point, the system is triggered and a drop in pressure is created, which opens the dry pipe valve and releases air. There is a delay between the release of air and the flow of water through the pipes so dry pipe systems are not typically used for large areas (to decrease the delay time before water is delivered).

Pros of a Dry Pipe Sprinkler System

Dry pipe systems are a good option for buildings or spaces that are unconditioned because they function better under low temperatures where there is a possibility of water freezing in pipes. Even in these situations, however, you’ll want to be sure that the portion of the building where the dry pipe valve is located is warm enough to avoid freezing.

Deluge Sprinkler Systems

Deluge Sprinkler Systems

Deluge fire sprinkler systems work by using a network of fire sprinklers that are connected to a fire alarm system. When a fire or smoke alarm is triggered, this signals the deluge valve to open and release pressurized water from the pipes into the fire area.

The biggest difference between a deluge system and all others is the sprinkler heads. A deluge system has open sprinkler heads at all times, whereas a sprinkler head in wet pipe, dry pipe, and pre-action systems will remain closed until activated.

Pros of a Deluge Sprinkler System

Deluge fire sprinkler systems are highly effective and efficient when it comes to fire suppression. That makes them a good choice for high fire hazard areas (e.g. airplane hangers) because they can deploy large amounts of water in a short amount of time.

Pre-action Systems

Pre-action systems are the most complicated fire sprinkler systems and actually contain three sub-types: a single interlock system, a double interlock system, and a non-interlock system. Pre-action systems differ from dry and wet systems primarily in that specific events are required to trigger the release of water through sprinkler heads.

Pros of a Pre-action System

The primary benefit of a pre-action system is versatility. The three sub-types allow for a complete fire protection system to be better tailored to the space you are protecting. Considerations like temperature, size, and potential downsides of water damage can all be factored into which pre-action system will deliver the best results.

Red pipes for large sprinkler system

How to Choose

In order to ensure maximum safety at your property, it is important that you choose a trusted contractor who specializes in installing fire suppression systems and routinely inspects your equipment regularly.

Investing in high quality technology as well as engaging trained professionals will not only provide more efficient protection but also help avert disasters before they occur due to negligence or lack of knowledge on how these types of safety measures work. With multiple options available, an experienced fire protection contractor can help you choose the right fire sprinkler system for your building’s unique fire protection needs.

What is the installation process like for fire sprinklers in apartments?

The installation process for fire sprinklers in apartments typically begins with an assessment of the fire hazards in the building. This will help determine the type of fire suppression system needed and its size. Once this is determined, a fire protection contractor can then start installing pipes, sprinkler heads, and alarm systems throughout the apartment complex according to specific fire safety codes.

The wiring must be done correctly to ensure that all components are interconnected properly and functioning correctly during an emergency. Additionally, any necessary drainage systems must be put into place as well as backflow prevention devices for wet pipe systems (if applicable).

Finally, once the installation is complete, tests need to be conducted to make sure everything is up and running smoothly before handing it over to property management or maintenance staff for regular inspections and maintenance checks.

Fire preparedness image

How often does a fire sprinkler system have to be inspected and maintained?

A fire sprinkler system should be inspected and maintained at least once a year or in accordance with state and local fire codes and regulations, depending on the type of fire protection system installed. Additionally, tests should also be conducted regularly to ensure that all components are properly connected and functioning correctly during an emergency.

All fire sprinklers, valves, piping, and alarms need to be checked for proper operation each time maintenance is performed. Lastly, backflow prevention devices for wet pipe systems must also be regularly tested to ensure they are working as intended.

Multi-family apartment building

Are fire sprinklers safe for an apartment building setting?

Yes, residential fire sprinkler systems are extremely safe for an apartment building setting. They are designed to be reliable and effective fire suppression systems that can detect fire hazards quickly and respond swiftly to contain or extinguish fires in the early stages. Fire sprinklers provide maximum protection with minimal water damage and have been proven to be highly successful at containing small fires before they become large-scale disasters.

When properly installed, maintained, and tested regularly, fire sprinklers are a valuable asset for any property owner as they provide superior fire safety measures that can save lives and reduce property damage in the event of a fire emergency.

indoor fire sprinkler system heads

What are some tips on choosing the right fire sprinkler system for my needs?

When selecting a fire sprinkler system for your apartment complex, there are several

Large red indoor sprinkler system piping

things to consider. First and foremost, you should select the type of fire suppression system that best suits your building’s fire safety needs. This can include wet pipe systems, dry pipe systems, pre-action systems, deluge fire protection systems, or a combination of systems. 

Each one provides different levels of fire protection so it is important to pick the best option for your property.

You should also consider the size of the fire sprinkler system you need based on the area it will be covering and how many sprinklers you’ll need in each room or zone. Additionally, make sure to research the fire safety codes and regulations in your area to ensure that your fire sprinkler system meets all requirements before installation begins.

Lastly, when selecting a fire protection contractor for installation, maintenance, and repairs it is important to make sure they are properly trained and certified. Make sure to ask for references from past clients as well as inquire about their experience with similar projects prior to hiring them. Doing this will ensure that your fire sprinkler system is installed correctly and maintained regularly according to industry standards.

Will I need additional permits or approvals when installing fire sprinklers in my apartment complex?

Yes, fire sprinkler systems typically require additional permits and approvals before installation. Depending on the fire code regulations in your area, you may need to obtain a fire alarm permit for the fire protection contractor or obtain approval from the fire marshal prior to starting any work.

Some areas will also require inspections from local fire departments once the system is installed to ensure that it meets all safety requirements. In some cases, building owners may also be required to provide proof of property insurance prior to obtaining permits or final approval from the fire marshall. Therefore it is important to research and understand all applicable laws and regulations for your area before beginning installation of a fire sprinkler system for your apartment complex.

Do smoke alarm monitoring systems work with automatic sprinklers?

The best approach to fire safety is to use a combination of technology. Smoke detectors, for example, are still required in buildings outfitted with a fire sprinkler system. Smoke alarm monitoring systems, like FireAvert Pro, work with smoke detectors to cut the heat source when a smoke detector is triggered.

In many cases, this could prevent a fire from spreading and keep room temperatures low enough that sprinklers are not triggered, preventing water damage. Minor smoke damage is a much easier problem to deal with then flame or water damage.

Benefits of a Fire Sprinkler System

Investing in a fire sprinkler system for your apartment complex has many benefits, such as improved safety for tenants, reduced property damage from fires, and lower insurance premiums due to increased fire safety ratings. Ultimately, fire sprinklers are a smart investment for any apartment complex owner, as they can help protect life and property from fire-related disasters.

When it comes to fire safety, investing in the right fire sprinkler system is essential. With the right fire protection systems and professional installation, you can have peace of mind knowing your property and tenants are safe. Knowing what types of fire sprinkler systems are available, how to install them correctly and when to maintain them will ensure that these valuable fire suppression devices keep working optimally and provide maximum protection for years to come.

As seen on shark tank, FireAvert's auto stove shutoff

About FireAvert

FireAvert was founded by retired firefighter, Peter Thorpe. After years of responding to calls into the local fire department and seeing that immense destruction caused by largely avoidable kitchen fires, he created a powerful home fire prevention product that stops kitchen fires from turning into tragedies.

Every 4.5 minutes in the U.S., firefighters are called to homes to put out kitchen fires. Too many property owners think that fire alarm systems begin and end with a smoke detector. These fires could have been prevented with proper smoke alarm monitoring.

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