So it is 2014 and the methods of construction have changed and with it the codes that govern how to protect your home from fire. With the evolution of information and technology we see lots of new alternatives to protect your home from fire that simply were not available 10 or 20 years ago or maybe more importantly, were not cost effective.
Now a days most homes are required to have fire sprinkler systems if they are built brand new, but what about all the existing homes. What is a good idea now should be even a better idea for those old homes that were built with materials that have been proven to be highly flammable and huge fire risks compared to our current construction materials.
The topic today is – Making sure you have adequate water supply to meet the needs of a fully sprinkled home. A Fire Sprinkler System for your home that does not have adequate water supply is like “Trying to put out a blazing fire with a squirt gun”. You’ll feel real good with the sprinkler head in every room but when it comes time to shoot water it will be a real let down! The point is it will create a lot of smoke but won’t suppress the fire. This is the reason NFPA-13D has created standards by which the sprinkler system should operate to contain and suppress a fire properly.
NFPA-13d states that the sprinkler demand in a residential system should be calculated by the water flow required to run 2 sprinkler heads (it does not use the word “heads” as that is an industry jargon) simultaneously for 10 minutes. The minimum rate of flow should be 7 gallons per minute and this would be achieved by selecting the proper “K” factor for the head used. Most commonly 15GPM rule of thumb is used and it is because it is worst case scenario. This would mean that a normal house with a normal system would require about 30GPM supply in order to meet the code.
Now here’s the problem; most residential water meters are not rated to produce this much flow, so you either find out if it can be upgraded (keeping in mind that you will most likely be charged much more for it up front and on a monthly basis) or you buy the new type of fire sprinkler water tanks with an integral fire pump. The advantages of the water tanks/fire pump are that they are relatively inexpensive to install and they are hassle free to maintain.
Talco Fire (www.talkcofire.com) has one of the best packages available and it comes with the water tank (300-500 gallon choice), high/low water level float indicator, electronic controller, the fire pump with internal shut off valve that may be supervised. Keep in mind to meet the demand of our math above you would need a 300 gallon tank.
Now is that the end of the story? Have we gotten rid of our “Squirt Gun” and brought a “Master Blaster” to the party instead? Not exactly! There is another factor that still remains and that is, pressure. NFPA makes the stance that unless you have enough pressure for the sprinkler head to cover the area effectively you still cannot suppress the fire. However, pressure without flow won’t put out a fire either! This brings us full circle back to the two choices above: 1.) a larger water meter or 2.) a water tank/fire pump package.
So if you are thinking about retro fitting your home with a sprinkler system please bring in a professional contractor and make sure you bring up the question, “Do I have adequate water supply to extinguish a fire in my home?”