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Sprinkler Myths and Facts

 

Many myths abound about about home fire sprinklers. Here's the facts

This list originally appeared in a December 2014 supplement to Builder Magazine.

Download a PDF of this list.

MYTH: "A smoke alarm provides enough protection."

FACT: Smoke alarms alert occupants to the presence of danger, but do nothing to extinguish the fire. In a fire, sprinklers can control and may even extinguish a fire in less time than it would take the fire department to arrive.

 

MYTH: "Newer homes are safer homes."

FACT: In a fire, lightweight construction materials, used in many modern homes, burn quicker and fail faster. New homes often contain modern furnishings made of synthetic materials which, in a fire, can create a highly toxic environment, greater fuel load, and faster fire propagation.

 

MYTH: "Home fire sprinklers often leak or activate accidentally."

FACT: Leaks are very rare, and are no more likely than leaks from a home’s plumbing system. A sprinkler is calibrated to activate when it senses a significant heat change. They don’t operate in response to smoke, cooking vapors, steam, or the sound of a smoke alarm.

 

MYTH: "When a fire occurs, every sprinkler will activate and everything in the house will be ruined."

FACT: In the event of a fire, typically only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate, spraying water directly on the fire, leaving the rest of the house dry and secure. Roughly 85% of the time, just one sprinkler operates.

 

MYTH: "Sprinklers are unattractive and will ruin the aesthetics of the home."

FACT: New home fire sprinkler models are very unobtrusive, can be mounted flush with walls or ceilings, and can be concealed behind decorative covers.

 

MYTH: "Sprinklers are not practical in colder climates, as the pipes will freeze and cause water damage."

FACT: With proper installation, sprinklers will not freeze. NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, includes guidelines on proper insulation to prevent pipes from freezing.

 

MYTH: "The water damage caused by sprinklers will be more extensive than fire damage." 

FACT: In a fire, sprinklers quickly control heat and smoke. Any water damage from the sprinkler will be much less severe than the damage caused by water from firefighting hose lines. Fire departments use up to 10 times as much water to extinguish a home fire as fire sprinklers would use to extinguish the same fire.

Visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative's Fact Sheets page for additional sprinkler myths and fact.