Like all fire protection systems, the types of fire sprinkler systems vary based on a facility’s needs. For facility managers to properly maintain their fire sprinkler system, they must understand the type of fire sprinkler and the kind of sprinkler head that protects their facility. One of the characteristics that define a fire sprinkler head is its’ thermal response characteristics or lack of them.

What are the Differences Among the Three Basic Types of Fire Sprinklers?

  • Standard Response – slowest activation time; temperature activation
  • Fast Response – release water higher on the ceiling to prevent spreading; temperature activation
  • Open – ideal for high hazard areas; alarm system activation

Standard Response Fire Sprinklers

Standard response fire sprinklers have the slowest activation time of any type of fire sprinkler. These sprinkler’s 5mm thermal bulb or fusible link must reach a certain temperature to break the element and release water. Only fire sprinkler elements that reach their temperature breaking point activate. By spraying water on items in the immediate area these fire sprinklers prevent fires from spreading. Light hazard occupancies already equipped with standard response fire sprinklers should install the same standard response sprinklers during fire sprinkler system expansion and modification projects.

Fast Response Fire Sprinklers

Fast response fire sprinklers activate when its’ 3mm thermal bulb or fusible link breaks after reaching a designated temperature. These fire sprinklers release water higher up on the ceiling to cool it and prevent flash-over. Light hazard applications have small amounts of combustible material and use this type of fire sprinkler. The materials found in light hazard occupancies include ordinary combustible and flammable liquids like paper, wood, gasoline, or paints. In small amounts, these materials will produce a low-temperature fire. Typically, apartments, hospitals, hotels, offices, and schools utilize fast response fire sprinkler systems. Any facility that’s equipped with a quick-response, residential, or early suppression fast response sprinkler has a fast response type of fire sprinkler.

Open Fire Sprinklers

Unlike standard response or fast response sprinklers, open fire sprinklers have no thermal element and the nozzles are completely open. Deluge fire sprinkler systems are open fire sprinklers that utilize a fire alarm initiating device to detect heat. The initiating device or devices send a signal to the fire alarm panel which then activates the deluge valve. Then the water flows out of every fire sprinkler nozzle. These types of fire sprinklers are used in high hazard occupancies where there’s a lot of combustible material. When large amounts of these combustibles catch on fire, they produce a lot of heat and these fires can spread quickly. Industrial and manufacturing type facilities utilize open fire sprinkler systems since these facilities contain large amounts of combustible material.

Service interval requirements for standard response, fast response, and open fire sprinkler systems vary. To properly maintain fire sprinklers, you must identify the types of fire sprinkler systems that protect your facility. Then you can develop a fire sprinkler maintenance plan that suits your system’s requirements.

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