Residential Fire Sprinklers

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Residential fires are the cause of  3,000 deaths each year in the US. When residential fire sprinklers are installed though, the risk of dying in a house fire decreases by 80%. So let’s take a look at the facts about installing them in a new home today.

Cost of residential fire sprinklers when building a new home

The overall cost of installing fire sprinklers has decreased recently, with the NFPA showing that the average cost per square foot of fire sprinklers being $1.61 in 2008 while decreasing thirty cents by 2013, to around $1.30 per square foot. For the median size home of 2,477 square feet, that’s $3,220–or roughly the equivalent of an on-demand water heater, a low-end hot tub, or sodding a 10,000 square foot lot. You can always add those things later. Installing fire sprinklers later is much more difficult and less cost-effective, so installing them when building a new home should take precedence.

Maintenance of residential fire sprinklers

For the most part, fire sprinklers are relatively easy to inspect and maintain; the average home owner can do the basic inspection. The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition suggests that home owners check to see that the water shutoff valves are open, and that the storage tank (if you’ve installed one) is full.

Since fire sprinkler water does have the chance of back-flowing into the water system, you’ll need to have a backflow device installed when you first put in the fire sprinklers. You’ll need to have this tested annually by a licensed backflow prevention tester, which typically runs around $40 or so and takes less than 30 minutes.

There are always common sense things to consider too–don’t block the fire sprinkler heads with a hanging light fixture, or accidentally paint over the heads, or let the little ones hang dinosaur toys from them. (Don’t hang anything else, either!) Crowding them simply won’t allow them to work at full efficiency, and if a box or cabinet is blocking them, there’s a higher chance they won’t be triggered if a fire begins.

Residential fire sprinkler myths

There’s an abundance of common fire sprinkler myths out there-from water damage being more than fire damage, to the idea that fire sprinklers were designed to protect property, but has little effect on safety of persons. Let’s put those myths to rest.

A fire sprinkler typically puts out 10 gallons of water per minute. A fire hose rescuing your home from fire? It puts out 200 gallons a minute. So if it’s water damage you’re fearful of, you’re better off with fire sprinklers to begin with. Another myth is that if one sprinkler head is triggered, all the sprinkler heads will discharge, which is false. Most commonly, only one or two sprinklers are required to operate in the event of a home fire.  

Other common misunderstandings are that residential fire sprinklers both leak and freeze during winter. This may have been true before there were strict guidelines for how to install them, but the likelihood of fire sprinkler pipes bursting is no more likelier than your regular water pipes bursting if they are installed correctly by a contractor.

“I’ve heard that fire sprinklers aren’t reliable. Am I really saving myself a headache?”

The short answer is yes, of course. Around 98% of all residential fires that have residential fires sprinklers installed are extinguished with the sprinklers. You might save yourself a little cash up front, but the peace of mind fire sprinklers offer more than pays for itself in the long run.

The obvious truth is nobody plans on having a house fire when they’re building or remodeling their dream home–but if it happens, you’re immensely better off having the protection that the residential fire sprinklers offer.

 

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Comments

  1. Taylor Bishop  September 13, 2017

    Thanks for the interesting read on fire sprinklers. I actually had no idea that there would be a backflow device that would be installed, and that it would have to be tested every year. I’m a bit interested to learn what this testing entails, especially if it can determine how well the system is functioning. At the very least, it could be good to know if there are any signs that you could look for to know if there is a problem so that it could be fixed immediately.

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    • Sasha  September 13, 2017

      That’s a great idea – We’ll put together a blog in the next coming weeks about what to look for if you think a backflow preventer might have failed. Ultimately, if you have a backflow technician testing your sprinkler system annually (or semi-annually, depending on your jurisdictions) then you are typically going to be fine.

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