When the temperature drops below freezing, facilities are subject to fire protection system freeze-ups. These freeze-ups can be costly to repair and in some cases temporarily shut down facilities. These detailed freeze protection tips will explain how to prevent fire protection system freeze-ups from damaging the following systems and components:

  • Wet-Pipe Fire Sprinkler
  • Dry-Pipe Fire Sprinkler
  • Fire Pumps
  • Fire Department Connection
  • HVAC System

Wet-Pipe Fire Sprinkler

Wet-pipe sprinkler systems are filled with water and are highly susceptible to freezing when they’re exposed to the cold. Unfortunately, simply setting the temperature in a facility to 70°F doesn’t completely prevent a fire sprinkler freeze up. Facility managers need to monitor buildings for open windows or doors that expose sprinkler systems to cold temperatures. Some other ways to prevent fire protection system freeze-ups include:

  • Maintain 40°F temperature throughout the facility
  • Insulate pipes subject to the cold
  • Check fire sprinkler systems regularly during freezing temperatures

Dry-Pipe Fire Sprinkler

Dry-pipe systems don’t remain completely dry, despite what their name might suggest. Over time, water and condensation will build up in the system and flow to the low point drains. You can easily avoid costly repairs by emptying this drain before the onset of cold weather. Also, verify that the dry-pipe’s compressor is in proper working condition. If the air pressure decreases, then it will trip the valves and allow water into the system. Lastly, ensure all the dry-pipe systems are set to each manufacturer’s air pressure ratio specifications.

  • Empty low point drains
  • Evaluate air compressor’s working condition
  • Check air pressure ratio setting

Fire Pumps

Fire pumps provide the water pressure that fire sprinklers need during a fire. Freeze-ups in either of these systems can be detrimental in an emergency. Fortunately, you can easily prevent a fire pump freeze up by draining the test header after an annual fire pump test. This will prevent water from freezing and splitting the test header valves.

  • Drain test header after annual fire pump test
  • Maintain at least 40°F temperature in pump room
  • Maintain at least 70°F in pump room for diesel pumps without engine heaters  

Fire Department Connection

Since the FDC is located on the exterior of buildings it’s subject to extreme weather conditions and temperatures. This can take a toll on its internal components. Check your fire sprinkler service records and make sure that the auto ball drip passed inspection. If there’s a deficiency, make sure you schedule the repair immediately. Otherwise, the water sits in the connection and can freeze. Also, find out whether your service provider performed an internal check valve inspection within the past 5 years. An impaired check valve allows water to flow through the FDC. This has the potential to damage the entire assembly.

  • Functional auto ball drip
  • Internal check valve inspection every 5 years

HVAC System

Even though an HVAC is not a fire protection system it affects them and can cause fire protection system freeze-ups. Schedule regular HVAC maintenance to ensure your facility’s system continues to function properly throughout the year. It’s critical that you maintain the entire facilities temperature above 40°F especially in the concealed spaces and area between floors. Facility managers often forget about these areas, but fire protection system freeze-ups frequently occur there. Parts of fire sprinkler systems that run through these spaces can freeze if they’re not properly heated or insulated.

  • Regular HVAC maintenance

Fire protection system freeze-ups are preventable. Facility managers should work closely with their staff and fire protection service provider to ensure their systems are ready for the cold. The facilities maintenance team should also regularly check fire protection systems during freezing temperatures. By following these tips, you can prevent fire protection system freeze-ups in your facility.

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