Fire Sprinkler Systems, Misting Systems and Retrofitting into Residential Properties

  22 OCTOBER, 2018      INDUSTRY INSIGHTS
A close up of a sprinkler

Fire safety is a topic which all businesses should be considering and always needs to be revisited to ensure that the latest fire safety practices are being taken into account. Within the following article, we discuss the different types of Automatic Water Suppression System (AWSS) that can be implemented and whether retrofitting should be considered for residential properties, including residential care and social housing.

The Benefits of AWSS

In the 2017/18 financial year, the Fire and Rescue Service attended 167,150 fires in the UK, which accounts to about 3214 fires attended a week*. When looking at the statistics of AWSS one key point stands out. In fires where sprinkler systems have been implemented no-one has ever died*. Sprinkler systems will also help in protecting a building’s assets as they will only activate in the vicinity of the fire, ensuring that the spread of fire is limited, which will limit the damage caused to the property. Water damage from a fire is also reduced when using a sprinkler system, as manned fire services often use 15 times more water from hoses, to do the same job as a sprinkler.

According to data from the Home Office, the difference in time taken to extinguish a fire with an AWSS is around 60 seconds, in comparison to the 7 minutes and 41 seconds average response time of the fire service in England for dwellings*. The video below shows the dramatic difference this time can make:

Different Types of Fire Sprinkler System Installation

While having a sprinkler system has proven to save lives and reduce water and smoke damage to properties, there are differing options when it comes to fire sprinkler system installations. There are three main installations which all have their individual benefits and drawbacks:



Mains Pressure Systems

A mains pressure system works using the water provided by the mains supply. This system benefits from having lower capital installation costs and no need to store water; as water is taken from the utility supplied mains. The drawback to a mains pressure system is that there will never be a guarantee of water pressure, or flows supplied by the mains. Equally pipework size may require a noticeable profile of ‘boxing in’ (the process of adding a larger plastic cover, that to some would look unsightly within a room).

Wet Pipe Sprinkler System

Boosted Mains Systems

Similar to the mains pressure system but boosted, via a pump, these systems use an overhead piping array inside the building, avoiding issues around pressures and flow compared to mains pressure supplied systems. Again, these systems don’t require a storage tank and less investment is also needed. While these systems don’t overcome all of the issues of the mains pressure system, it is more expensive and also intrudes into internal spaces, which can be unsightly and require extensive decorative work to hide unsightly pipework.

Tank Bed Sprinkler System

Storage Tank Systems

The main benefit of the storage tank system is that the water must be held on site. Storage tank systems have a number of benefits such as knowing that there will be a guaranteed pressure and flow of water at all times. The system’s pumps also perform automatic weekly tests, giving further reassurance of the system. This is also the most comprehensive sprinkler system for a similar cost to the boosted mains system. The main drawback of this system is that the tank would have to be stored somewhere so would require either loft, or basement space.  

Fire Sprinkler Systems vs Misting Systems

The three options above all operate the tried and tested sprinkler system, which has been a proven technology for over 100 years. One criticism of the traditional sprinkler system is that they use too much water, leading to unnecessary water damage. One option that has solved this problem is the high-pressure misting systems, which can target fires much more specifically and use much less water. Using only one-tenth of the water of a sprinkler system, misting systems are proving that water damage can be avoided while still providing effective fire protection.

Though fire misting systems offer some real positives, they are currently an un-adopted standard. They also haven’t had the same 100 years of rigorous testing that sprinkler systems have endured. Cost is another factor, with misting systems being a new technology and at the cutting edge of fire safety, they are currently more expensive to install, than retrofitting sprinklers.

Retrofitting AWSS

Whilst the regulations on fire safety in the UK differ between England, Scotland and Wales. Within Wales all domestic new builds require sprinklers in: new houses and flats, care homes, rooms for residential purposes and sheltered housing. Scotland requires sprinklers in new build care homes and high-rise buildings, whereas England only require new build high rise buildings over 30m to have sprinklers. However, while regulations are focussed on new builds, retrofitting sprinkler or misting systems is something every property owner should be considering. The safety benefits that the system presents and the peace of mind for occupiers is something that people are beginning to believe outweighs the initial financial cost.

Since many people are now considering it, retrofitting AWSS presents its own challenges when comparing to fitting systems in new buildings, this is where a company like Novus Property Solutions can really help. Retrofitting means working in occupied homes and ensuring as little disruption as possible. Therefore, having a proven track record of being able to work with residents in an efficient and trustworthy manner is essential.

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