How do automatic sprinklers work?

Automatic fire sprinklers are individually heat-activated and attached to a network of piping with water under pressure. When the heat of a fire raises the sprinkler temperature to its operating temperature (usually 186o F), a solder link will melt or a liquid-filled glass bulb will shatter to open that sprinkler, releasing water and sounding an alarm. By acting automatically at the origin of a fire, sprinklers prevent a fire from growing to a dangerous size.

Do sprinklers go off accidentally?

It is possible for a sprinkler to discharge accidentally, but this is an extremely rare occurrence in systems which are properly maintained. Records indicate that only 1 in 16,000,000 sprinklers per year will open accidentally.

Do fire sprinklers cause widespread water damage?

Fire department hoses typically discharge ten to a hundred times more water than that discharged by sprinklers. Since only the sprinkler closest to the fire is activated, the total amount of water is limited. Fire damage is also limited; most fires are put out quickly, by only a few sprinklers, in areas with a fully functional sprinkler system.

How do I find out if I'm required to have fire sprinklers?

Building codes detail where and when sprinklers are required for life safety, and NFPA codes cover the design and layout of the systems themselves. A licensed fire protection engineer or contractor can help you find out about any requirements that apply to you.

How much will a new sprinkler system cost?

Systems usually cost about $x.xx-y.yy per square foot--comparable to the cost of carpeting. Specific prices depend upon the building type and construction, its water supply, and the degree of hazard of occupation. An inadequate water supply will increase the costs. Retrofit installations into existing buildings can be a bit more expensive. More importantly, a sprinkler system quickly pays for itself in reduced insurance and liability. Piedmont Fire Protection gives free estimates.

Who designs sprinkler systems?

Piedmont Fire Protection employs NICET-certified Fire Protection Engineering Technicians. NICET, the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies, has a stringent testing and certification program for fire protection designers. Only professionals should design sprinkler systems.

How can I maintain my sprinkler system?

Most importantly, have your system periodically inspected by a professional. This will catch any problems before they become major. In addition, maintenance will usually lower insurance premiums.


    • Test the system monthly by opening the test valve and listening for an alarm bell.
    • Know the location of the system shutoff valve.
    • Make sure the system control valve is always open.
    • Have your system reevaluated for needed upgrades when:
    • Water supply changes--addition or change of backflow preventer or water meter, or reduction of public water supply.
    • Building occupancy or use changes.
    • Building changes (walls, partitions, additions).
    • Leave the building and contact the fire department when any activation of the system occurs, even if the fire has apparently been extinguished.


    • Paint the sprinklers.
    • Damage sprinklers (report any damage immediately).
    • Hang objects from any part of the system.
    • Obstruct or cover the sprinklers.