Choose A Home Fire Sprinkler System
Most people have never stopped to consider the various options available for home fire sprinkler systems. That's because, until now, most homes were not protected by a residential sprinkler system.
In response to growing concerns about fatalities caused by household fires, as well as enhanced education regarding the effectiveness of fire sprinkler systems, building codes are changing to prompt an increase in the number of homes having sprinklers.
As a result, homeowners who never gave a second thought to fire sprinklers are now faced with critical decisions.
It's important to realize that not all fire sprinkler systems are the same. Although the general operation of a sprinkler head being activated by the presence of a fire is similar, the overall performance and capabilities of the material in the system vary greatly. That's why it's important to take the time to research all options in order to choose the right solution for your family."
Decisions need to be made relative to both the design of the system, as well as the piping material. A vast majority of homes today have what is called a stand-alone system. This means the fire sprinkler system operates independently of the home's plumbing system. The other design option for homeowners is a multipurpose system which, as the name implies, combines the fire sprinkler and plumbing systems. Despite the fact that multipurpose systems have been on the market for many years, only some areas of the country currently allow the installation of a multipurpose system as a result of concerns regarding the system's long-term reliability and problems with insufficient water flow.
Another important decision is the selection of the material used for the pipe and fittings in the system. For residential fire sprinkler systems, four materials are approved for use - steel, copper, CPVC and PEX. Historically, steel and copper systems were installed. But escalating material costs and problems with corrosion have opened the door for newer, more reliable technologies.
Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, better known as CPVC, is the most specified non-metallic fire sprinkler piping material in the world today. Compared to metallic systems, it offers a number of benefits, including immunity to corrosion, ease of installation and reduced costs.
Its overall cost also compares favorably with cross-linked polyethylene (PEX), another non-metallic material approved for fire sprinkler systems, although only in multipurpose designs.The larger internal diameter (bore size) of CPVC pipe delivers increased water flow and superior hydraulics. Because PEX pipe has a smaller bore size, homeowners often have to pay more to buy larger pipe in order to meet minimum flow requirements. Or, they may need to add a pump, which also increases the overall cost of the system.
With something as important as life safety, however, cost is hopefully not the only consideration when choosing one fire sprinkler system over another. Overall safety performance tops the list of criteria for most homeowners. The superior safety performance of CPVC over PEX is one more reason why the thermoplastic is so popular. Specifically, CPVC will not sustain combustion. It stops burning as soon as the ignition source is removed. PEX, on the other hand, will continue to burn - and drip - long after the flame has been removed, possibly contributing to the severity of the fire. In addition, third-party test results prove that the smoke generated from CPVC is no more toxic than that from traditional building materials, such as wood.
If you are getting ready to build a new home, chances are that you have spent considerable time comparing your options for aesthetic items such as cabinets, carpeting and lighting fixtures. Choosing the right fire sprinkler system deserves at least the same amount of deliberation and shopping for the sake of your family's safety.