Planning for freezing temperatures during the sweltering summer might not be the first thing on anyone’s to-do list in the fire sector. But in the case of sprinkler system freeze protection, 2021 is the year it should be. Advance planning, insights from the field and a broad perspective on where winterizing is needed will be useful to prepare for safe, effective freeze protection in sprinklered applications this winter and next.
During the years when there were no listed antifreezes to protect fire sprinklers from freezing in severely cold weather, dry pipe systems were often chosen to fill the void after NPFA put into place new regulations requiring listed antifreezes for new systems. The most common applications affected by this included attics, unheated warehouses, commercial freezers, overhead canopies, loading docks and parking garages. Now that listed antifreezes are commercially available, however, it’s worth evaluating experiences from the field where dry system use increased in situations where it might not have been best suited. While these systems can be the right solution in some scenarios, they can have significant drawbacks in others.
Fire sprinkler contractors who have an inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) business are looking at new protocols for water-based fire protection systems.
Sprinkler pipes must be safeguarded when temperatures cannot reliably remain at or above 40ºF (4ºC) ambient temperature. New and existing sprinkler systems in Residential, Light Hazard, Ordinary Hazard and Storage applications can be protected against severe cold with freezemaster™ antifreeze, a new UL-listed, factory premixed freeze protection technology.
Building owners need assurance that their fire protection systems are functioning to lower the risk of an uncontrolled fire loss. Fire suppression system contractors need confidence that the systems they install will not freeze and will provide the best corrosion protection on the market.
NFPA fire sprinkler standards require new antifreeze systems to use an agency-listed antifreeze. And these same standards require that existing systems use an agency-listed antifreeze by September 30, 2022. These standards are intended to ensure an antifreeze system is designed and installed using the safest and most reliable practices in the industry.
Have you ever wondered why antifreeze in water-based fire sprinkler systems requires yearly testing before the onset of freezing weather? Simply put, testing ensures that the antifreeze maintains its proper concentration and freeze point. It must always remain in a liquid state and address the life safety issues associated with antifreeze use. To ensure this, the concentration of antifreeze solution should always be no more than the least amount necessary for the anticipated minimum temperature. In the event of leaks, pressure surges or temperature changes to the system, antifreeze can flow out of the system or water can flow into the system, leading to changes in the freeze temperature and antifreeze concentrations. If concentration conditions deviate from allowable tolerances, as illustrated by the chart below for freezemaster™ antifreeze, the fluid must be replaced. Because freezemaster™ antifreeze is a UL-listed, safe to use, factory premixed antifreeze, the percent concentration by volume would always be 100 percent.
Many are not aware that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) fire sprinkler standards require new antifreeze systems to use an agency-listed antifreeze. And these same standards require that existing systems use an agency-listed antifreeze by September 30, 2022. In fact, when safety concerns led to these NFPA updates, no listed product was available.