A facility’s fire sprinkler system can be severely influenced by corrosion such as rust and oxidation, and it may lead to costly repairs. For that reason, finding and reducing corrosion is a key component for the safe and financially wise maintenance and management of your fire protection system.

What is Corrosion?

The chemical reaction that occurs between a metal alloy and its environment is a natural process known as corrosion. Essentially, it results in the deterioration of metal over time. The vulnerability of a fire protection system to corrosion varies; some fire protection systems are more or less susceptible to many different and varying types of corrosion. Wet sprinkler systems are perhaps the common system in the US, therefore wet system corrosion is the principal issue facing most facility owners.

What Causes Fire Sprinkler Corrosion?

A bit of corrosion-causing oxygen can come from air that’s trapped in a wet sprinkler system, so minimizing or eliminating pockets of air is critical to decrease the likelihood of pipe damage. Oxygen corrosion can be reduced by an assortment of strategies, including the use of nitrogen as a supervisory gas, frequent use of air vents or an air-release valve, and decreasing the amounts of oxygenated water in the system. On a side note, the utilization of air-release valves can also bring additional benefits, such as shorter water delivery times and decreased delays for alarm rings.

Microbiological growth is a danger to fire sprinkler systems as well, and the cause for concern about it is growing according to the National Fire Protection Association. You see, whereas standard forms of corrosion typically develop uniformly, microbiological growth can occur in only one area of piping, thus causing a blockage. Added cause for concern is the rapid pace at which microbiological growth can occur when compared to corrosion, which generally takes long time periods to develop. The NFPA reports that microbiological debris can amount to thousands of pounds, even in systems with medium-sized piping, and that there are a great number of fire sprinkler systems across the U.S. with biological growth obstructing 60% or more of their feed mains.

How Does Corrosion Affect Fire Sprinkler Systems?

Among the most expensive consequences of corrosion is it’s impact on the functionality of sprinkler pipes. Corrosion that has built up inside of the pipes can lead to leaks, which limit the effectiveness of the fire sprinkler system by reducing water flow, and at times, entirely blocking the flow of water to a sprinkler in the most dire of situations.

Perhaps the worst part of the corrosion that occurs in fire sprinkler systems is that it’s not uncommon for the corrosion to be undetected or unnoticed until a leak develops. When the system has a major issue like a leak, the occupants and owners of the facility or building actually got extremely lucky. Had this occurred during a fire, the resulting damage or injuries could potentially be devastating.

How Can Fire Sprinkler Corrosion be Prevented?

Unless fire sprinkler systems are regularly inspected, issues like these could lie dormant until an emergency occurs, at which point it could be too late. To prevent problems with your fire sprinkler system being discovered too late, make sure to put your system under a proper and thorough maintenance schedule, including the replacement of worn or malfunctioning components. Seek out top-notch inspection companies, and ensure they are performing quality inspections, including internal obstruction inspections, regularly.



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