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Types of Sprinkler Systems for Commercial Properties

May 17th, 2024

Last updated: May 17th, 2024

Sprinkler systems are one of the most effective tools for fighting fires, and in some new buildings in the UK they are even mandated. Different types of sprinkler systems are designed to meet varying needs and environments.

Understanding the differences between sprinkler systems and their types can help property owners and managers make informed decisions about fire safety or assist when planning a commercial building.

Rules Around Sprinkler Systems

In the UK, many high-rise residential buildings require sprinkler systems by law, and though the rules can be tough to understand, businesses with a fire area of 20,000 square metres or above also need to have sprinkler systems.

Of course, on top of that, businesses employing five or more people or that are open to the public need a fire risk assessment, too, and this could outline sprinkler systems as one of the best methods for fire protection. Even if not mandatory, the sprinkler system could be wise. BS 9251 is the British Standard for sprinkler systems and is a good way to explore in more detail.

Types of Sprinkler Systems

Let’s explore the different varieties of sprinkler systems and the differences between them.

Wet Pipe Sprinkler Systems

Wet pipe sprinkler systems are the most common and straightforward type of fire suppression system. In these systems, the pipes are always filled with water. When a fire activates a sprinkler head, water is immediately discharged to extinguish the fire. Wet pipe systems are reliable and relatively easy to install and maintain, making them a popular choice for a variety of commercial buildings, such as offices, schools, and retail spaces. However, they are not suitable for environments where freezing temperatures can occur, as the water in the pipes can freeze and cause damage.

Dry Pipe Sprinkler Systems

Dry pipe sprinkler systems are designed for use in areas where extreme cold temperatures are a concern. Unlike wet pipe systems, the pipes in a dry pipe system are filled with pressurised air or nitrogen. When a sprinkler head is triggered by heat from a fire, the air pressure drops, allowing water to flow into the pipes and out through the activated sprinkler heads. This delay in water discharge can be a drawback, but it is necessary to prevent the pipes from freezing. Dry pipe systems are commonly used in unheated warehouses, parking garages, and other areas exposed to cold temperatures.

Pre-Action Sprinkler Systems

Pre-action sprinkler systems combine elements of both wet and dry pipe systems and usually have pressurised air or nitrogen within instead of water and are typically used in environments where accidental water discharge could cause significant damage, such as data centres, libraries, and museums. These systems require a two-step process to activate. First, a detection system must sense a fire and send a signal to open a pre-action valve, allowing water into the pipes. Then, individual sprinkler heads must be triggered by heat to release the water. This double interlock provides an added layer of protection against accidental discharges, ensuring water is only released when absolutely necessary.

Deluge Sprinkler Systems

Deluge sprinkler systems are designed for high-hazard areas where rapid fire spread is a significant concern, such as chemical plants, aircraft hangars, and industrial facilities where fire could spread quickly and cause catastrophic effects. In these systems, all sprinkler heads are open, and the pipes are empty until a fire is detected by a separate detection system. When a fire is detected, the deluge valve opens, and water is discharged from all sprinkler heads simultaneously, quickly covering the entire area. This type of system is particularly effective in preventing the spread of fires involving flammable liquids or other hazardous materials.

Foam Water Sprinkler Systems

Foam water sprinkler systems are also a type used in facilities where flammable liquids are present, such as refineries, chemical storage, and processing plants. These systems mix foam concentrate with water to create a foam solution much like some fire extinguishers, that is then discharged through the sprinkler heads. The foam helps to smother the fire, cutting off the oxygen supply and preventing re-ignition. Foam water systems can be configured as wet pipe, dry pipe, or deluge systems, depending on the specific needs of the facility.

Water Mist Systems

Water mist systems use high-pressure water to create a fine mist that cools the fire and displaces oxygen, effectively suppressing the flames. These systems are highly efficient and use less water than traditional sprinkler systems, reducing water damage. Water mist systems are ideal for use in areas where water damage is a significant concern, such as in data centres, and commercial kitchens. They can also be used in environments where traditional sprinkler systems may not be effective, such as in areas with high ceilings or complex layouts.

Installing or Maintaining Sprinkler Systems in Your Commercial Property

If you are looking to get a sprinkler system installed, Robinsons Facilities Services can provide you with the advice and support you need, with an experienced team offering plenty of options for commercial buildings of all types.

Sprinkler system maintenance is also a crucial part of ensuring that your fire protection plan is optimised. We offer Planned Preventative Maintenance ensuring personalised servicing schedules, rapid response times (under four hours across Yorkshire), optimal peace of mind

We also offer reactive maintenance – “As and when needed” packages for small companies that need occasional services from a reliable provider.

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