Automatic fire sprinklers are made of a few simple components: a pipe containing water or connected to a water source, an orifice that releases the water, and a seal separating the two. In some systems the seal is formed by a glass bulb containing heat-sensitive gas or liquid that expands in the presence of fire; when it shatters, it releases a metal seal. In other systems, the seal is made from a fusible element that melts in the presence of heat.
When the water is released by the seal, it flows out of the orifice and hits a deflector—the circular piece that is visible on most sprinkler heads. The deflector separates the water into a certain pre-designed spray pattern depending on the type of sprinkler system, ensuring that the droplets are the right size and that they cover the right amount of area with a predetermined spray of water per second.
Most automatic fire sprinkler heads operate individually when a fire starts; in the vast majority of cases, particularly in residential situations, a fire can be controlled with only one sprinkler head. Automatic fire sprinklers are typically designed to activate only in the presence of heat caused by a fire; contrary to depictions in movies and on television, it’s very difficult to set the system off deliberately by holding a lit match or lighter under a sprinkler head.
Most automatic fire sprinkler systems use a standard colour-coding system to determine the temperature at which they’re designed to operate. This depends on the type of sprinkler system, the type of fire hazard they’re guarding against, and the goal of the system. In residential systems, the goal is typically preservation of life. As a result, residential fire sprinkler systems are designed to spray a large amount of water in a short amount of time to effectively control a fire before it can cause loss of life.
Automatic fire sprinkler systems are designed to protect property and lives in case of fire. An automatic fire sprinkler system responds to fire long before the fire brigade arrives, often controlling the fire before it can grow out of control. Unlike fire extinguishers, they don’t require manual operation—all you need to do in case of fire is leave the building. And unlike fire alarms, they do more than alert residents to the existence of fire—they actively work to protect you from the blaze. It’s no wonder fire sprinkler systems are the most effective protection available against fire—for residences, commercial buildings, and public properties of all kinds.