Fire Sprinkler System Maintenance: 3 Inspections And Tests To Perform

Construction & Contractors Articles

Here's a shocking fact: 369,500 home fires that caused $6.8 billion worth of direct property damage were reported in 2013. Civilian deaths, injuries and property damages from home fires can be mitigated or lessened with the installation of fire sprinklers. Only three states mandate fire sprinkler installation in all residential construction. They include California, Maryland, and the District of Columbia; however, this doesn't mean that it's not a good idea for all residential buildings in other states to install fire sprinkler systems as well. Simply installing fire sprinklers is not sufficient. It is your job to make sure that the sprinklers are functioning properly by performing regular inspections. You can either do this yourself by completing the three tasks outlined below or get a professional inspection done.

Make Sure None of the Sprinkler Components Are Blocked

The fire sprinklers are only effective if the water can reach the fires that are detected. Make sure to regularly check the sprinkler heads and the cover plates of the fire sprinklers in order to confirm that they are not blocked. In particular, you want to make sure that none of the fire sprinkler components have been painted over, as this will interfere and affect whether water is able to sprinkle out efficiently and effectively. In addition, you also want to make sure that you haven't stacked any boxes or even shelves near the sprinklers. These obstructions may prevent the sprinklers from doing their job efficiently and effectively, as they will block the water flow.

You should also take this moment to inspect for damages, such as leaks. Make sure that every fire sprinkler component is properly sealed into place. 

Perform a Flow Test

Water from the pipes and valves should run smoothly to and from the sprinkler heads to the valves located outdoors. To verify that none of the pipes are leaking or frozen due to lack of insulation, perform a flow test. You can do this by looking for the flow-test valve. Turn on the flow-test valve, and water should run through the pipes located outdoors within a couple of minutes. If the water runs through, you'll also know that the water storage tank is full and the water shutoff valves are open.

Do keep in mind that some fire sprinkler systems have built-in sensors. When you perform the flow test, it may trigger the fire alarm. You want to determine whether this will be the case or not. If the flow test will trigger a fire alarm, make sure you call and notify the fire department and the alarm company ahead of time.  

Take a Look at the Internal Mechanisms

Once you have performed a visual inspection of the sprinkler components, you should also take a look at the internal mechanisms of the sprinkler system if possible. This includes checking all of the sprinklers, hangers, pipes and fittings. It also includes testing the main drain of the sprinkler system and also priming water levels and inspecting the low pressure alarms. The valves should also be inspected. 

To look at the internal mechanisms of the fire sprinkler system, you may have to take the sprinkler heads off. You will also need to take a look at the blueprint of your home to determine which pipes and valves are involved with the sprinkler system. 

Conclusion

By inspecting the fire sprinklers regularly, you'll get a good idea as to whether any repairs or maintenance work are needed. By verifying that the sprinkler system is in good condition, you can rest assured that it will do its job in the event of an emergency. A functional and efficient fire sprinkler system can significantly reduce the damages that are caused by home fires, and can enhance overall safety for residences.  

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