Learn how fire alarm and sprinkler systems are inter-connected. Learn what parts and controls are involved, how sprinkler protection systems are designed, fitted, installed, repaired, replaced and the many types of sprinkler systems.
Fire sprinklers are an integral part of a complete fire prevention and protection system. Since the early 1970’s, they have been mandated for all newly constructed public buildings in British Columbia. Their province-wide implementation has been directly responsible for saving countless lives, preventing wide-scale property damage and stopping the rapid spread of fire.
At Active Fire and Safety Services we provide fire sprinkler installation, maintenance, repair, inspection and testing services in Vancouver and throughout the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.
We service the commercial, industrial, institutional and multi-family residential building sectors with all types of fire sprinklers, including common wet and dry systems, as well as highly-specialized and intricate deluge and pre-action installations.
For more information on various aspects of our fire sprinkler services, jump to any section on this page
Reliable Sprinkler Fitters and Project Managers
At Active Fire, our sprinkler teams consist of project managers, designers, engineers, draftsmen, sprinkler fitters and maintenance and testing technicians.
We are reliable, professional and highly-motivated, delivering superior service and quality work on all projects. We strive for a fail-safe system that will protect occupants and buildings alike.
We are BC Building Code, BC Fire Code, ULC, NFPA, BC Fire Code & ASTT compliant.
An installation is only as good as the workmanship of the sprinkler fitters and technicians who build and maintain the system. All our sprinkler fitters are ticketed journeymen and, along with our project managers, are fully conversant in all aspects of NFPA standards as they pertain to sprinkler installation and maintenance, as well as the BC Building and Fire Codes.
Our teams are available to respond to fire protection emergencies 24/7. The safety of our clients and their property is our top priority.
No matter what type of fire sprinkler system you intend to install or need maintained, our team will provide the necessary expertise.
There are four basic types of fire sprinkler systems. At Active Fire, we install and maintain all four. They are:
The right system depends on many factors. These include but are not limited to: the type of building, the default temperature of the building, the nature or operational use of the building and BC Fire Code and NFPA regulations.
A sprinkler system is a significant cost for any developer or property manager. At Active Fire we’ll ensure you choose the right system for your building or operation.
How wet sprinkler systems work
Wet fire sprinkler systems are the most common and are the easiest and least expensive to maintain and install.
These systems are essentially very simple. A piping system of black steel, galvanized steel, copper or PVC is installed in a grid pattern in the ceiling. The pipes are filled with pressurized water supplied via the public water main. When the ambient temperature near an individual sprinkler head reaches a predetermined point (usually between 57-77°C), the sprinkler head opens, discharging the pressurized water. Note that sprinkler heads are activated individually – not system-wide.
Wet systems are most commonly used in buildings that maintain consistent temperatures above 4°C and do not house especially flammable operations or unique contents. For unheated buildings such as freezers, parkades or outdoor patios, dry sprinkler systems are often the best choice.
How dry sprinkler systems work
In a dry fire sprinkler system, the sprinkler pipes are filled with pressurized air instead of water. This pressurized air prevents the clapper valve that connects the sprinkler system to the water main from opening. As with a wet system, when an individual sprinkler head is activated via an increase in temperature, the sprinkler head opens. However, instead of releasing water, the system initially releases the pressurized air. Once the air has been released, the pressure against the valve falls allowing water from the main to flow into the sprinkler pipes and then out the sprinkler heads. The delay between sprinkler head activation and water release should be no more than 60 seconds.
Dry systems are the second most common type of fire sprinkler installation. They are most frequently used in unheated warehouses and parkades.
In dry systems, like wet systems, sprinkler heads are triggered on an individual basis and fire containment is confined to affected areas only. For highly flammable operations that would require building-wide sprinkler activation, a deluge system may be necessary.
How deluge fire sprinklers work
Deluge systems are used in commercial or industrial spaces that house highly flammable contents that could cause fire to spread rapidly and catastrophically.
In deluge systems, the sprinkler heads are always open. Consequently, the system is activated by a secondary source either heat or smoke detectors, or manually. This secondary activation sends a signal to the alarm panel, which activates the deluge valve that connects the pipes to the water main. Water then floods the pipes and is dispelled system-wide through all the open sprinkler heads.
Deluge systems often contain a parallel pilot line. These pilot lines are either wet or dry, ie filled with water or air. Sprinkler heads which are connected to them are then thermo-activated as in a wet or dry sprinkler system. This triggers the deluge valve, which then floods the pipes system-wide.
Chemical operations, warehouses, airport hangars, electricity generating stations and other industrial applications are where deluge systems are most commonly used.
Pre-Action sprinkler systems are complex and combine elements of wet, dry and deluge systems.
Like a dry system, the pipes are filled with air. As in a deluge system, the system is activated by a secondary device (a heat or smoke detector) which sends a signal to the central alarm panel. This signal causes the valve between the water main and the piping system to open, flooding the pipes with water. However, it takes another trigger like the automatic sprinkler heads activating to actually release water through the sprinkler heads.
Pre-action systems are used when water damage due to accidental system activation could cause excessive damage to a building’s contents. They are more complex and costly than other systems, and are used in places that house priceless artifacts, such as museums and libraries, or in computer hubs or other electronic installations.
Early fire detection and fast response sprinkler system
Early Suppression Fast Response is a system used in more remote locations where the Fire Department is non-existent or would arrive too late to be effective. Like deluge systems, they are also installed in places with highly flammable contents. The objective of ESFR is complete fire extinguishment, as opposed to fire containment.
ESFR is usually a wet based system. However, the water pressure is as much as 3-4 times stronger than in a conventional wet system. As with the deluge fire sprinkler system, activation is system-wide and not contained to only directly affected sprinkler heads.
Choosing the appropriate fire sprinkler system for your operation requires a number of considerations. We will ensure you choose a reliable system that will meet your needs.
Fire Suppression systems are fire containment systems that use either chemicals or inert gases to control and extinguish fires in operations where water is not the appropriate extinguishing agent.
Suppression systems are not replacements for sprinkler systems as they are confined to limited areas within a building. For example: a paint booth or the cooking areas of a commercial kitchen.
These systems are either local, where extinguishers are sprayed directly at the fire source, or total flood. Total flood systems are similar to conventional fire sprinkler systems in that the extinguishing agent is released via an overhead piping system.
View more information about fire suppression systems.
Active Fire installs all types of sprinkler containment and suppression systems. A professional installation will ensure lives and property are protected. However, all systems must be inspected and maintained regularly to ensure they function as intended when needed.
How dry and wet sprinkler systems are winterized and why this service is important
Winterization is a specialized maintenance service that prevents fire sprinkler pipes in a dry system from freezing or bursting when temperatures hover near the freezing point.
In dry sprinkler systems, water vapor naturally collects on the pipes and then pools at low altitude points in the pipe grid. If the water remains in the pipe when temperatures drop, the pipes may freeze or burst, compromising the system and damaging property.
A yearly winterization of dry sprinkler systems by purging the system of residual water and then refilling it with compressed air will ensure the pipes remain problem-free throughout the winter.
For wet sprinkler systems in areas where a consistent temperature above 5°C is not always maintainable, antifreeze is used to ensure that the water remains liquid and does not freeze up.
A solution of antifreeze is necessary for wet sprinkler systems when the ambient temperature could fall to suboptimal levels, or in wet systems that have one or more areas, such as attics, patios or basements, which may experience near-freezing temperatures.
The most common antifreeze agents are glycol and glycerin. Glycerin is primarily used in PVC piping while propylene glycol is used in non-PVC systems. It’s imperative that a professional check the level of antifreeze as too little still make the pipes susceptible to freezing and too much may either corrode the pipes or, worse, may make a fire more combustible.
Active Fire routinely checks antifreeze levels during maintenance checks and annual testing.
Sprinkler Head Inspection as per BC Fire Code Regulation 2006 Section 2.5
The BC Fire Code mandates that most sprinkler systems be tested on an annual basis. More complex systems, or operations or buildings with a higher fire risk profile, may require more frequent or in-depth testing and monitoring. As per NFPA regulations, a typical fire sprinkler inspection will:
During annual maintenance tests, sprinkler heads are inspected from the floor level. With older or more complex systems, dedicated sprinkler head testing is also necessary.
Monthly, Bi Monthly, Annual and Semi Annual Maintenance and Replacement
Any sprinkler system that has been in service for 50 or more years will need to have their sprinkler heads tested by an authorized testing agency. All sprinkler heads that have been in service prior to 1920 must be replaced.
Sprinkler heads are inspected to ensure that they are free of corrosion, foreign materials, paint or physical damage. If any sprinkler head is suboptimal in any of these areas, it must be replaced.
There are two basic types of closed sprinkler heads: metal link or glass bulb. Glass bulb sprinklers are thermo-activated when a small glass bulb in the sprinkler head breaks due to heat.
Metal link sprinkler heads are activated when an alloy between two metal components within the head melts due to high temperatures. In both instances, the activation causes the head to open up, discharging water.
Sprinkler heads come in three basic shapes: pendant, upright, and sidewall. Most sprinkler heads are pendant, hanging below the sprinkler piping. In mechanical rooms or hard to reach enclosures, uprights which point up from the piping, may be preferred. Sidewall heads are installed in walls in places that do not have ceiling piping.
Window curtain sprinkler heads are placed over windows and form a 180° water arc ensuring that the window stays cool so it can be used as an exit point if necessary.
System requirements, building limitations and operational uses all determine which sprinkler head fittings are best.
When replacing a sprinkler head the following characteristics of the sprinkler head must be taken into consideration as required by NFPA:
At Active Fire, we provide fire sprinkler systems from leading manufacturers including Victaulic, Tyco, Reliable, Gem, Star, and Astra. The cost to install a fire sprinkler system varies widely, and depends on the type of system and the complexity of the building and installation. Generally, wet systems are the least expensive to both install and maintain while deluge or pre-action systems are pricier.
To ensure you choose the right system, it’s imperative to consult with a professional sprinkler fitter or technician. Please call us at Active Fire to speak with one of our sprinkler experts.
Active Fire and Safety Services is one of the Lower Mainland’s premier fire sprinkler companies. We install and maintain all types of fire sprinkler systems for commercial, industrial, institutional and multi-family residential buildings.
If you have any questions or require information about the most optimal fire sprinkler system for your building or operation, please call us at 604-590-0149 to speak with one of our fire sprinkler system experts!