How To Prevent Freezing Fire Sprinkler Pipes

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During winter months, winter conditions can greatly effect fire sprinkler systems. If you have not already done so and your home or business is utilizing a sprinkler system, now is the time to prepare in hopes of preventing a pipe freeze this winter!

Wet Sprinkler System

It’s important to note that wet sprinkler systems contain water at all times. Water-filled sprinkler pipes tend to freeze before other water pipes because the water is not moving. Below freezing temperatures can increase water pressure in the pipe. Contrary to popular belief, the burst often happens in a portion of the pipe that did not freeze. Even if the pipe does not burst, frozen water can cause an obstruction that will make the system useless in the event of a fire.

Dry Sprinkler System

Dry Sprinkler Systems that are designed for unheated areas still require special attention this time of year. The valve room for a Dry Sprinkler Valve also requires to be adequately heated because there is water located at the valve. When the system is designed, low point drains (drum drips or blow down valves) are installed to facilitate draining condensate or excess water from the entire system. 

There may be numerous low point drains depending on the system. As a reminder, Drum Drips require frequent drainage to assure there is no residual water in the system. You can find simple instructions on our website to perform this maintenance procedure

Water-filled piping must be kept at a minimum of 40-degrees Fahrenheit (4.4-degrees Celsius), according to the NFPA Standard #25 as of 2011. Keeping your thermostat at a steady 55-degrees Fahrenheit, however, is suggested.

Beyond maintaining a temperature in your space, providing sufficient insulation can protect your pipes, given that insulation blocks the flow of cold air. In attics, you can often find piping close to the ceiling with insulation placed over pipes. Verify that this insulation is still in tact and doing its job. Insulating tape (not electrical tape) can be used to wrap pipes that are lacking insulation in these unheated areas.

Plumbing pipes that are housed in cabinets, such as those under sinks, are often warmed by the home's temperature. Opening these cabinets from time to time to expose the pipes to room temperature can warm them a bit if you fear they may be getting cold. Occasionally turning on the faucet (both hot and cold water valves) will create a flow of water, which is less likely to freeze than standing water. Removing and draining outdoor hoses can also help protect plumbing pipes.

The following are some steps to take if you believe a pipe in your home has frozen:

  1. Shut off the water flow immediately. Do not attempt to thaw pipes until you've done this.
  2. Apply heat directly to the frozen pipe using a non-flammable, non-electrical item. For example, a towel soaked in hot water can be used.
  3. Once the pipe has thawed, turn the water back on very slowly and check for cracks or leaks as you do this.

How to Prevent Frozen Sprinkler Pipes

In the event that your sprinkler system has experienced a pipe freeze or burst, be sure to give City Fire a call and we can handle the repair process for you. Call our East Hanover office at (973) 560-1600 or call our Wall Township office at (732) 282-0003 for more information.