Everyone knows or has a good idea about what a fire sprinkler is and does. But it turns out that a lot of what we believe about them is wrong. Yes, it’s a fact that sprinklers in the home save lives. Very often too, they save homes from destruction.
But, thanks mainly to Hollywood and disaster movies, there’s a handful of myths that cause confusion and misunderstanding about these potential lifesavers.
For instance, many people believe that when one sprinkler goes off, they all do — they don’t. Or that water damage from sprinklers is worse than fire damage — not true. They freeze in winter? Nope; special piping can be used in homes where freezing occurs. You have a smoke alarm so you don’t need them? Not true.
You get the picture.
In fact, more and more cities (including, most recently, our friends down in Gorham township near Portland) require new homes to include sprinkler systems. Not only that, but it’s also becoming easier and cheaper to retrofit systems in existing homes.
Want to see the difference sprinklers can make? Watch this one-minute video from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC): https://homefiresprinkler.org/home-fire-sprinkler-timeline-video/
How Home Sprinklers Work
In very simple terms, a home sprinkler system features a network of piping and sprinkler heads. The pipes are always “on call” — that is, they’re full of water and they activate automatically.
When a fire breaks out, the temperature rises and activates the sprinkler overhead. In most cases, this is enough to extinguish flames before they spread — and certainly to provide enough time for escape.
It’s not true by the way — another myth — that sprinklers can be activated by smoke, burnt toast or steam. Only fire-high temperatures switch them on.
And then, only the sprinkler(s) nearest the fire activates. In fact, in 90% of actual cases, a single sprinkler is enough to contain the fire.
Do I Need Fire Sprinklers in My Home?
Here’s another myth: Most fire deaths happen in public buildings and hotels. Not true. Ninety-two percent of them happen in our homes, claiming around 3,000 lives in the US every year.
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), home fires become deadly in as few as three minutes. One reason is that fires burn faster and kill quicker today because of the materials used in modern homes, such as furnishings.
The US National Fire Protection Association says: “Sprinklers are so effective because they react so quickly. They reduce the risk of death or injury from a fire because they dramatically reduce heat, flames, and smoke, allowing people the time to evacuate a home.”
How Much Do Home Sprinklers Cost?
Yes, it’s a myth that sprinkler installations are expensive. They cost about the same as a carpet upgrade if it’s being installed along with a new build. The average cost is about $1.35 per square foot of covered space.
Retrofitting existing homes is naturally more expensive but can still cost as little as $2 per square foot, ranging up to $7, depending on the complexity of the system and the materials used.
Systems are generally low-maintenance, requiring just a simple, half-yearly water flow test that a homeowner or professional can do.
How Can I get Fire Sprinklers for My Home?
Almost every type of home can be fitted with a sprinkler system — new build, existing houses, condos and apartments (including high-rise buildings).
There are different style options available to blend in with existing home décor and colors, and that can be mounted flush with walls or ceilings.
If you’d like to learn more about fire sprinkler systems, it’s definitely worth reviewing the HFSC site at homefiresprinkler.org. There’s also a Maine branch of the coalition at https://tinyurl.com/Maine-sprinklers.
If you’re building, discuss the importance of sprinkler systems in newer homes as early as possible with your contractor. And if you want to talk to installation experts, including retrofitting, simply conduct an online search on ” where can I get fire sprinklers in Maine”.
One More Thing…
Smoke alarms and, experts say, sprinkler systems are an essential element of fire safety at home.
But while they might alert you and limit the damage, and while you can take all sorts of precautions, home fires still happen.
That’s why we have home insurance — to cover you against losses from fire as well as other perils.
All these types of protection work hand-in-hand to look after you. So do we. If you’d like to discuss your fire protection or any other insurance needs, please talk to your friendly experts at Cheney Insurance.