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March 25, 2019

Corrosion: What it is, and how to treat it.

You have ensured your property’s protection by installing a fire sprinkler system. Great! But now what?

While fire sprinkler systems are designed to be as reliable and low maintenance as possible, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires an internal inspection on a system every five years to check for corrosion. And while not all fire sprinkler systems corrode, having a qualified contractor conduct inspections is a best practice to ensure that your system keeps operating as efficiently as possible.

Corrosion in fire sprinkler systems is treatable but must be addressed quickly, so that functionality is not compromised. Corrosion can severely impede the flow of water in a sprinkler system, or in the most severe cases, block up sprinkler heads entirely.

A compromised system can lead to any of the following:

  • Loss in revenue due to temporary business shut-down;
  • Loss of property;
  • Property insurance issues since the system was not properly maintained;
  • Total replacement of sprinkler system; and/or,
  • Premises liability lawsuits.

What Causes Corrosion?

Corrosion occurs in both wet and dry systems.  While there are many factors that can lead to corrosion, oxygen is always the main culprit.

For wet systems — which always have water stored into the pipes — oxygen naturally dissolves into water, creating solids.  These solids will then sink to any low spots in the system and begin to corrode.  If fresh oxygen is ever introduced into the system again, the process will repeat causing the corrosion to build.

While the introduction of oxygen causes corrosion in wet systems, it is the reverse order for dry systems — which do not have water stored in the pipes.  Leftover moisture from testing or condensation will react to the piping resulting in corrosion.  People may think that because these systems do not store water in the pipes that they are free from corrosion, but that is not the case. As a matter of fact, corrosion is more prevalent in these systems.  A common solution to prevent corrosion in dry systems is to introduce nitrogen into the pipes.  Nitrogen is an inert gas that does not react to metals.  A study from Potter Electric Signal, LLC, found that utilizing nitrogen in a dry system increased the life expectancy of the system up to five times!

 

Treating Corrosion

Since corrosion occurs internally, looking for evidence in your fire sprinkler system on your own is not a recommended practice.  The New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NJFSAB) recommends that you consult a qualified contractor to conduct inspections per NFPA 25.  Regularly scheduled maintenance will ensure that your sprinkler system is in operating condition.  Should any tests find that there is corrosion, many fire sprinkler contractors offer maintenance services and would be more than willing to repair the system to ensure that is operating properly. 

If you or someone you know needs inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) services for their fire sprinkler system, please reach out to one of NJFSAB’s qualified contractors today, or call NJFSAB at 1-866-226-6006.

 

Resources:

Potter Study: Corrosion in Fire Sprinkler Systems

NFPA 25: Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems

 

March 25, 2019

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