What is a Fire Sprinkler?

A Fire Sprinkler is one of the essential components in a water-based fire protection system. It is a multi-functional device that has been designed specifically for it’s intended use. 

According to NFPA 13, all Fire Sprinklers must be “listed” and/or “labeled” by an organization that is acceptable to the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) that is concerned with the evaluation of products or services, and maintains periodic inspection of the production of listed equipment or materials or periodic evaluation of services, and whose listing states that either the equipment, material, or service meets the appropriate designated standards or has been tested and found suitable for a specified purpose and be acceptable to the (AHJ). 

Although the basic functions of a fire sprinkler are primarily the same for most applications;

  • They are each specifically designed for the occupancy, hazard, and environment of the area where they will be located and the construction and orientation in which they will be installed.
  • Each sprinkler acts as a fast, close-to-open valve and must be replaced after a single use.
  • Fire sprinklers are automatically and individually activated, or opened, when excessive heat from a fire in the immediate vicinity elevates the on-board “trigger” to a specific temperature.
  • Once opened the sprinkler design and orientation forms and directs the water spray pattern (with the deflector) and even helps determine the size of the water droplets in the spray itself, based on the pressure and volume of water present.
  • In most areas, fire sprinklers must be installed according to their listing instructions and as per the building and fire safety code in use, by licensed professionals. (See installation requirements in the edition of NFPA 13 approved for use by the AHJ in your area.) 
  • Only new fire sprinklers can be installed in a “system”. (Once a fire sprinkler is removed from a system it is no longer “new”).
  • When replacing an existing sprinkler, the new sprinkler must meet the exact requirements of the one being replaced, so long as the occupancy and the hazard being protected has not changed. According to code, spare sprinklers must be included in new installations for this purpose.
  • A fire sprinkler cannot be painted, except by the manufacturer.
  • A fire sprinkler must be cleaned if heavily loaded with dust and/or other contaminants. A fire sprinkler can only be cleaned with compressed air, or a vacuum. No touching, or the use of a cleaning solution is allowed.
  • If corroded, has been painted, is damaged, or is leaking and if manufactured before 1920.
  • A fire sprinkler must be inspected on a prescribed schedule according to the listing and code requirements. (See inspection requirements in NFPA 25).

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