Electronic sprinklers? What are they and what are they for? Johnson Controls/Tyco have recently introduced electronic sprinklers into the market which are being touted as the next big thing for storage protection… and in some cases, maybe they are.
Let’s start with what they are: The sprinkler itself is a K-17 ESFR (TY7626) which is attached to a heat detector with approximately 16” of wire. On the sprinkler end, there is a powder charged squib attached to the operating mechanism of the sprinkler with a push rod, which opens the sprinkler when a signal is received from the detector and its control panel. If for some reason the panel fails to signal the sprinkler, the squib will explode at 500 ̊F as a fail-safe.
This arrangement allows for two things, the first of which is to allow the position the sprinkler without regard to the installed distance down from the roof or ceiling when the same sprinkler is installed without the heat detector. In other words, the heat detector is installed within the required distance down and with respect to obstruction rules, but the sprinkler itself can be placed lower or further away from obstructions because it is only responsible for water distribution and not for heat
Second, as you know, when we design and install ESFR systems, we only include 12 sprinklers in the design area (four on each of three branch lines) and each sprinkler is individually activated by heat. With this electronic technology, the heat detectors are sending signals to an intelligent control panel, which decides which sprinklers to open and when. This allows the system to automatically create a surround and drown attack of the fire area, which allows for a more specific and intentional approach to fire suppression.
This technology will open the door to the use of ESFR sprinklers in buildings where the structural members may not have been appropriate for ESFR applications in the past, including retrofitting existing buildings where products, packaging or storage arrangements have changed and existing system designs are inadequate.
This technology might apply to freezers and coolers to eliminate problems associated with unwanted tripping of dry pipe and double interlock pre-action sprinkler systems.
It’s not cheap… as you might guess, this technology isn’t without higher costs. Running two piping systems (one for water and one for wire, plus the control panel and detectors will double (at minimum) the cost of protecting a facility. Additionally, when there is only one manufacturer of an available product, the price is always higher. That said, like Tyco’s Quell system, electronic sprinklers can be one more weapon in our arsenal to consider when we’re looking for “out of the box” solutions for a client.
For additional information about this or any technical questions, please feel free to contact the manufacturer’s representative or me (via email) firstname.lastname@example.org or my cell phone: (602) 568-7392
Bob Caputo, Technical Support & Training