You never know when or where a fire will start in your home. What if you could have a fire fighter stationed in every room 24 hours a day, ready to stop a fire the minute it broke out!
That is what fire sprinklers are, instant fire fighters. They are installed on the ceiling or high on a wall and are attached to a water supply. Residential fire sprinklers are small and fit in so well that you have to point them out for people to notice them.
Average-sized rooms only need one sprinkler. A sprinkler is similar to a hose nozzle because it breaks up the stream of water into a fine spray. A cap seals the waterway until a fire is detected.
A fire creates a narrow plume of hot air and gases that rise to the ceiling and spread out. When the hot gases reach the nearest sprinkler, they will heat the fusible element that holds the cap in place. The cap will fall away and the sprinkler will spray water on the fire. Because the water immediately cools the hot gases, the other sprinklers won't open because there is not enough heat to melt their fusible element.
If the fire is hot enough that one sprinkler cannot handle it alone, hot gases will reach the next nearest sprinkler. Then that sprinkler would open to stop the fire. This design of opening only when there is enough heat limits the number of sprinklers to what is needed to stop the fire. Fire records show that only one sprinkler was needed to handle 93 percent of fires.
Keep in mind that these figures include large warehouses with high piles of combustible goods. In these cases, more than one sprinkler may be necessary to spray enough water to absorb the tremendous heat. In residential settings, the likelihood of more than one sprinkler opening is much more rare, and the number of fires controlled by one sprinkler is much closer to 100% in residential settings.
The water sprayed from the sprinkler cools the fire gases over the fire. When the temperature of the burning material drops to above its combustion temperature, it can no longer burn and the fire goes out.
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