Canadian Consulting Engineer
ProductsBuildings Building Mechanical & Electrical (HVAC) Systems Infrastructure -- Fire Protection Infrastructure -- Security
Antifreeze in sprinklers
can cause combustion
In July the U.S.-based National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) gave a webinar on its new requirements for its sprinkler standards under NFPA 13.
Presenter Matthew J. Klaus of NFPA explained that they began by noticing a common thread to “a handful” of unexplained fires: they all had a high percentage volume of antifreeze in the sprinkler system.
In one case from 2009 in California, a person had been cooking onions on the kitchen stove. When the sprinklers came on there was a fireball and the kitchen windows were thrown 50 feet. The investigators found that though the sprinkler system designer had called for a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water, in fact the system had contained 72% antifreeze and 28% water.
Subsequent research confirmed that if the common antifreeze solutions propylene glycol and glycerin are not mixed with water in appropriate percentages, they can ignite and contribute to a fire.
Consequently, in April this year NFPA published an updated Alert with requirements that will be incorporated in the next NFPA 13, NFPA 13R, NFPA 13D, and NFPA 25 standards.
Under the new rules, sprinkler systems have to contain only antifreeze solutions that are premixed in a factory. The premixed antifreeze must be certified, and tested annually. For glycerin the premixed concentration must be only 48% by volume, and for propylene glycol the limit is 38% by volume.
An exception is made for ESFR (early suppression fast response) sprinklers for specific applications, when they may use premixed solutions containing propylene glycol in excess of 40% by volume.
Klaus said, “If someone can come up with a non-combustible solution that provides freeze protection, they will be very rich.”
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