Residential Fire Sprinkler System Maintenance and Testing
Residential fire sprinkler system maintenance is a crucial responsiblilty for all home owners in the UK. Regular testing and maintenance of your homes fire sprinkler system is vital to ensure the system will remain in perfect working order. When a sprinkler system is installed on your property, it will be ready to protect you and your family if the worst were to happen and a fire breaks out. Nevertheless, as with any other mechanical system, this system designed to save lives, could become a liability if it is not properly maintained. Here we will discuss the various types of testing and maintenance that should be performed on a residential fire sprinkler system. We will also talk about who is responsible for making sure these tasks are completed and how often they should be done. Finally, we will go through all the advantages that testing and maintaining your fire sprinkler system will bring.
What Are The Legal Obligations For Fire Sprinkler System Maintenance in the UK?
As a property owner in the UK, you are legally responsible for maintaining your fire sprinkler system. You should be able to provide documentation that proves your installed sprinkler system meets the compliance recommendations laid out in the BS 9251. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 may also apply to some residential properties.
Article 17 of the order is a provision that outlines the maintenance requirements for premises and the significant penalties that can be imposed if the responsible person fails to maintain fire safety equipment, which includes fire sprinkler systems. Maintenance of the sprinkler system might also be a legal requirement in some circumstances and may also be a requirement of the buildings fire strategy.
How Often Should Fire Sprinkler System Maintenance Be Carried Out?
How often testing and maintenance is required for fire sprinkler systems varies depending on national and local regulations, as well as the specific characteristics of the system and the property in which it is installed. The BS 9251 recommends that residential fire sprinkler systems in the UK, must be inspected and tested by a suitably qualified sprinkler specialist at least once a year. This will include visual inspections of all the systems installed components and specific tests to ensure the system will function correctly if a fire were to break out.
More frequent fire sprinkler system maintenance may be required by local regulations. The London Fire Brigade, for example, has specific requirements for testing and maintaining fire sprinkler systems in certain types of properties, such as high-rise buildings and nursing homes. Aside from regulatory requirements, the age of the system and the type of property may influence the frequency of testing and maintenance. Older systems may require more frequent attention because older components, such as pumps, may fail if not regularly checked.
Fire Sprinkler Sytem Maintenance Checks For Your Property
BS 9251: 2021 Compliance
The BS 9251: 2021 is the latest code of practice for domestic and residential fire sprinkler system installations in the UK. The standard covers the design, installation, components, water supplies, testing and maintenance recommendations for residential sprinkler systems. Testing and maintaining a fire sprinkler system involves a number of important tasks to ensure the system is functioning properly and is ready to effectively suppress a fire.
Reviewing the design and installation documentation
The first step in maintaining your sprinkler system is to review the design and installation documentation, to ensure that your sprinkler system meets the requirements of BS 9251. Your documentation should include details such as the type and position of sprinkler heads, the layout of the sprinkler system pipework, the materials used, and the calculations used to determine the water demands of your system.
Visual Inspections for Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems
Once your documentation has been reviewed, your sprinkler system can now be visually inspected to establish whether any modifications to rooms or compartments have been made. For example, new or removed wall partitions or changes in ceiling heights. If changes to the property have been made the inspection will ensure that sprinkler head positions and other components are in accordance with the requirements of BS 9251. Also, if there has been a change in the occupancy or purpose of the building, an assessment should be carried out to confirm the category of system remains the same.
Visual inspections of sprinkler system components
This involves a thorough examination of all components in your fire sprinkler system, including your sprinkler heads, pipe work, sprinkler hangers and control valves, to make sure they are all in good condition and free of visible damage or obstructions and to ensure they meet the required standards of BS 9251.
Visual inspections of Sprinkler Heads
One of the main items for inspection is your sprinkler heads and cover plates. The increased number of concealed sprinklers being used in residential fire sprinkler systems, means the risk of failure due to cover plate issues has increased. Your sprinkler heads and cover plates should be inspected to make sure they have not been damaged or tampered with, or nothing is blocking the sprinkler heads spray pattern. For example, newly installed lighting, smoke detectors or other obstructions that are too close to your sprinkler heads. Some issues are easy to spot, such as painting over a sprinkler head or cover plate, which will seriously delay the action of the cover plate dropping and could cause the sprinkler to fail. Another common problem is where people use exposed sprinklers or pipework to hang clothes or other items from, this can cause damage to the pipework or sprinkler heads.
Sprinkler head in boxing with cover plate on
Sprinkler head in good condition no issue
Sprinkler head in boxing with cover plate on
Sprinkler head with paint blocking operation
Visual inspection for leaks
It’s important to regularly inspect and test your sprinkler system to identify and repair any leaks and ensure the system is ready to suppress a fire effectively. The visual inspection of the sprinkler system can reveal signs of a leak, such as wet spots or stains on pipes, fittings, ceilings or walls. Leaks in a fire sprinkler system are most likely to occur where there are fittings or connections, such as at the joints between pipes. Leaks could also occur at the points where the sprinkler pipes pass through walls, floors, or at the sprinkler heads themselves.
Visual inspection for other potential problems
Testing engineers can also be trained to spot other potential fire hazards outside of your sprinkler system. For example, areas in the house that are not fire-stopped properly, smoke detectors that are blocked or covered, and damaged or out of date fire extinguishers. The person carrying out your inspections should complete and sign your log book to show what problems were found and so you have evidence of the inspection.
Repair and replacement of damaged components:
If any problems with your sprinkler system are found during the visual inspections or tests, the system should be repaired and the affected components replaced. This could include repairing pipe leaks, replacing a faulty control valve, or replacing any damaged sprinkler heads.
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Functional testing of the sprinkler system’s operation
The functional testing of your sprinkler system involves activating the system and testing its response to a simulated fire. This can include tests like opening a control valve to check if the water flows through your sprinkler system as designed, activating a sprinkler head to ensure it sprays water properly or conducting flow and pressure tests.
Preparing for functional testing of your fire sprinkler system
Safety Precautions: Safety should be a top priority when conducting any tests on your fire sprinkler system. It is important to inform the building occupants of the test and ensure that the area is clear. The water supply to your system should be shut off and the system drained before starting any test.
Equipment Needed: Before conducting any tests, it’s essential to have the proper equipment, such as a pressure gauge, flow meter, and any other tools required for each specific test.
Fire Sprinkler Pump Testing and Maintenance
A qualified and certified tester should test and maintain your fire sprinkler pump on a regular basis, typically monthly or quarterly. Similar to the other major components of your fire sprinkler system, this includes both a visual inspection of your pump as well as a functional test to make certain that it’s operating correctly.
The tester will look for physical damage or signs of wear and tear, such as leaks or rust, during the visual inspection. They will also ensure that all parts, such as the electrical wiring, control valves, and suction and discharge pipes, are correctly connected and functioning.
The functional test is done by starting your pump and measuring the pressure and flow rate to ensure they are within the proper range. This will identify any potential issues with your pump, such as low pressure or flow, which could indicate a problem with either your pump or your sprinkler system.
All fire sprinkler pumps in the UK have to be tested and maintained by a certified individual, who will be able to issue a report on the pump’s status. The report must be kept for at least one year, and it is recommended to be retained for the lifetime of the sprinkler pump.
Control Valve Maintenance
Your control valves should be exercised to ensure free movement and any locking mechanism should be checked and reinstated. Your test valve should be operated to determine whether the system’s design flow rate and pressure, as hydraulically calculated, is being achieved. Lubricating the valve stem and other moving parts can help prevent seizing. Stuck valves can be caused by corrosion or debris in the valve and can prevent the system from functioning properly. Only a lubricant that has been recommended by the manufacturer should be used.
You should also follow the manufacturers guidelines on frequency for lubrication, which can be found in the valves manual or by consulting the manufacturer. Regularly inspecting the valve and the surrounding piping for leaks or damage is important to ensure proper operation. Any leaks or damage should be repaired immediately to prevent further issues.
Flushing the Sprinkler system.
Flushing a fire sprinkler system is a necessary step in maintaining the proper functioning of the system. The process of flushing the system will help to remove any sediment or debris that may have accumulated in the pipes and sprinkler heads, which can impede the flow of water and potentially cause damage to the system.
Flushing a fire sprinkler system should only be carried out by a qualified and certified professional, who will be able to ensure that the process is done properly and safely.
The process of flushing a fire sprinkler system is as follows:
The sprinkler systems water supply is cut off by closing the building’s main water valve. Once the sprinkler system has been isolated, opening up the drain valves at the lowest point, will cause the water in the system to drain out and flush away any debris or sediment in the pipes.
- Turn on the water supply to the system, and begin flushing the system by opening up the valves on the sprinkler pump or by using a flushing riser.
- Flush the system for around 15 to 20 minutes, this will ensure all debris and sediment is removed from the pipework and sprinkler heads.
- Close the drain valves and turn off the water supply to the system.
- Inspect the sprinkler system for any leaks or damage that may have been caused by the flushing process.
Once the flushing process is finished, the system must be refilled with clean water and pressure tested, to ensure that everything is in order.
Before pressure testing your system, the as installed design, pressure and flow rate of the sprinkler system should be established at the systems test point. With older sprinkler systems It’s not uncommon that the original documentation containing this information, has either been lost or was never given to the end user.
Pressure testing involves measuring the pressure of the water in your sprinkler system to ensure it’s at the correct level. This is important because the water pressure should be high enough to effectively extinguish a fire and reach all parts of the room or coverage area. If your water pressure is too high, it could cause damage to the sprinkler system or the building. If the pressure is too low, it could cause the sprinkler heads to not activate correctly and result in the water being released without enough force to cover the area it should, in the event of a fire. This issue can be caused by a variety of factors, including leaks or incorrect pressure settings. A certified professional should be consulted to diagnose and correct any issues.
Another way to ensure your sprinkler system is operating at the correct pressure, is by conducting a flow test, and adjusting the pressure as necessary. A flow test is used to verify that both the flow rate and pressure of water reaching the sprinkler heads is adequate to extinguish a fire if one was to break out. Flow tests involve activating the sprinkler system and measuring the flow of water through the system to ensure the flow rate is correct. Flow tests should be conducted regularly by a certified professional to ensure that your sprinkler system is capable of properly extinguishing a fire.
A hydrostatic test is used to ensure that your sprinkler system’s valves and pipework can withstand the maximum working pressure. A hydrostatic test is carried out by closing the valve and filling the sprinkler system with water while measuring the pressure to make certain it is within the manufacturer’s range. A certified professional should perform hydrostatic tests on residential fire sprinkler systems every 5 years.
Back Flow Prevention Devices
Backflow prevention devices keep contaminated water from returning from your sprinkler system and contaminating your domestic water supply. Regular maintenance of these devices is essential to ensure that the entire fire sprinkler system works properly. This includes a visual inspection as well as a hydrostatic test to ensure the device is working effectively, and can withstand the pressure it will be subjected to in the event of a fire. Maintaining the device properly entails keeping it clean and free of debris, together with lubricating any moving parts as needed. It is also crucial to safeguard the device from freezing temperatures and other external factors that could cause damage. Backflow prevention devices must be tested and maintained accordance with manufacturers recommendations or BS EN 806-5, by a certified person, who is qualified to issue a report on the device’s status. The report must be retained for at least one year, and it is highly recommended to be kept for a longer period.
Sprinkler tanks are responsible for storing the required amount of water to extinguish a fire if your sprinkler system is activated. A qualified and certified professional should test your sprinkler tank on a regular basis, typically monthly or quarterly. This includes visual inspections of your tank as well as a hydrostatic test to confirm that the tank can withstand the pressure it will be exposed to in the event of a fire. During the visual inspection, the engineer will look for any physical damage or signs of wear and tear, such as leaks or rust. They will also ensure that all parts, including the inlet and outlet valves, together with the overflow and drain valves, are correctly connected and functioning as they should be.
The hydrostatic test is done by pressurizing the sprinkler tank with water and then measuring the pressure to ensure it is within the proper range. This test simulates the conditions your tank would be under during a fire and helps to identify any potential issues. Regular maintenance of fire sprinkler tanks is also important to ensure their proper functioning. It’s important to ensure that the tank is protected from freezing temperatures and other environmental factors that could cause damage.
Testing the electrical components of a fire sprinkler system
Testing the electrical components of your fire sprinkler system is an important step in ensuring the system’s proper operation. Alarms, control panels, and power supplies all play important roles in activating sprinkler heads and alerting the building occupants in the event of a fire. A qualified and certified engineer should test the electrical components of your fire sprinkler system on a regular basis, typically monthly or quarterly.
This includes performing a visual inspection of the components as well as functional tests to ensure that they are operationally sound. During the visual inspection, the engineer will look for any physical damage or signs of wear and tear, such as frayed wires or corroded connections. They will also check that all parts are properly connected and functioning, such as the control panels, power supplies, and alarms.
Your sprinkler alarms functional test is performed by activating the system and inspecting the alarms, control panels, and power supplies to ensure that they are all operational and capable of activating the sprinkler heads in the event of a fire. This test aids in identifying any potential electrical component issues, such as low battery levels, open or short circuits, or faulty alarms. Regular maintenance of your fire sprinkler system’s electrical components is also necessary to ensure proper operation.
Checking battery levels, tightening loose connections, and cleaning any corrosion or debris that may have gathered on the electrical components, are all part of the process. It is important to note that in the UK, all electrical components of your sprinkler system must be tested and maintained by a certified engineer who will issue you with a report on the status of the components. This report must be kept for at least one year and it is recommended that be kept for the life of the alarm system.
Remote Monitoring Arrangements
Any remote monitoring arrangements should be tested to determine whether they are being transmitted and received correctly. Monitored flow switches can also be tested to ensure a signal is being sent back to your alarm panel correctly in the event of a sprinkler activation.
Testing and maintaining the trace heating on your sprinkler system is essential for ensuring it works as intended, especially in cold climates where pipes and valves may freeze. Electrical heating elements are used in trace heating systems to keep the pipes and valves above freezing temperature, preventing the water inside from freezing and causing damage to your system.
A certified electrician should test your trace heating system on a regular basis, typically monthly or quarterly. This includes inspecting the trace heating visually and running functional tests to confirm that the heating elements are functioning properly. The electrician will look for any physical damage or signs of wear and tear, such as frayed wires or corroded connections, during the visual inspection. They will also confirm that all your components, such as heating elements, thermostats, and control panels, are adequately connected and operational.
The functional test involves turning on your trace heating system and ensuring that all of the heating elements are operational and capable of keeping the pipes and valves in your sprinkler system above freezing temperature. This test helps detect any potential trace heating issues, such as faulty heating elements, thermostat malfunction, or short circuits.
Regular maintenance of your trace heating system is also necessary to ensure that it operates effectively. This includes inspecting the wiring, tightening any loose connections, and cleaning any corrosion or debris from the heating elements.It is also important to make sure that the thermostats are operational and set to the correct temperature. A certified electrician must test and maintain your trace heating and provide you with a report on the system’s status.
The importance of using experienced and certified professionals
It is important to use experienced and certified professionals for testing and maintenance on your fire sprinkler system. London Sprinkler Systems has the necessary knowledge and expertise to properly inspect, test, and maintain your system and ensure it is ready to effectively suppress a fire in your home. Regular testing and maintenance can help identify and repair any problems with your fire sprinkler system, ensuring it is ready to extinguish a fire effectively in the event of an emergency.
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