When to Install a Dry Chemical Fire Suppression System

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When to Install a Dry Chemical Fire Suppression System

Selecting the right fire suppression system is crucial for commercial building owners. These systems can protect lives and assets in an emergency. But selecting the right system can be tricky. You have to account for many variables, including cost and the contents of the building. You also have to promote the safest options for workers and customers that may be in the vicinity. Dry chemical fire suppression systems are one option that can work great under the right conditions. 

What is a Dry Chemical Fire Suppression System?

Dry chemical fire suppression systems are a fire extinguishing method that relies on chemical powders to put out a fire. These systems promote fire safety by delivering an immediate response to fire hazards. They usually consist of a large tank filled with pressurized dry chemical powder. When the fire alarm is activated, a valve on the tank opens, and the dry chemical powder is released throughout the system to smother a fire.  The process is similar to water-based sprinkler systems, except that a dry chemical is used instead. 

Typically, one of two chemicals is used as the dry chemical agent in these extinguishing systems. Sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate, and monoammonium phosphate are the most common dry chemicals. Most systems contain sodium bicarbonate, which puts out all Class B and some Class C fires. Monoammonium phosphate can be used for Classes A, B, and C. Class A fires include ordinary combustibles. Class B fires involve flammable and combustible liquids, and Class C fires are energized electrical fires. 

How are Wet Chemical Fire Suppression Systems Different from Dry Chemical Fire Suppression Systems?

Dry chemical fire suppression systems work by distributing a powdery substance, like sodium bicarbonate, across the fire. This process creates a physical barrier between the fuel and oxygen, which is required to maintain combustion. 

Wet chemical fire suppression systems work a bit differently. These systems rely on a liquid substance to extinguish the fire. When deployed, the wet chemicals remove the heat and prevent the fire from reigniting. Wet chemical agents often include a blend of potassium acetate and potassium citrate. These materials can be used on Class K fires, such as those that involve flammable cooking oils and greases. When the wet chemical contacts this flammable material, it reacts to produce a foam, which cools the material and prevents reignition. 

AS you can see, the difference between wet chemical fire suppression systems and dry chemical fire suppression systems is tremendous. Dry chemical fire suppression systems are more common as they can effectively extinguish multiple types of fires.

When to Install a Dry Chemical Fire Suppression System?

Since dry chemical fire suppression systems work for Class A, B, and C fires, they work better in more settings than some alternative options. The dry chemicals included in these systems are often best-suited for industrial applications that may need automatic fire suppression. 

Additionally, dry chem systems are often seen in areas where a water-based fire sprinkler system wouldn’t work well. Common locations include automobile spray paint booths, mixing rooms, gasoline stations, and dip tanks. They are also located where large off-road equipment may be stored. 

Dry chemical fire suppression systems are regulated by National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 17 and NFPA Standard 33. These systems provide a great alternative in storage areas where water may damage sensitive or delicate equipment. For instance, dry chemical extinguishing can prevent damage that water could cause to electronic equipment.  

Dry chemical fire suppression systems offer many advantages when used in appropriate locations, such as: 

  • They can extinguish a wide range of fires, including those with a fuel type in Class A, B, or C.
  • They can be used in locations where wet chemicals or water would damage delicate or sensitive equipment.
  • Dry chemical fire suppression systems usually require less storage space than a wet chemical suppression system.
  • These systems are incredibly reliable and deploy quickly once a fire alarm has been triggered. The speed with which dry chemical fire suppression systems respond can protect the lives of surrounding employees and customers. They can also protect your building, products, tools, and other physical assets.
  • Once fire detection occurs, dry chemical systems discharge an excess of chemical agents, extinguishing the fire quickly. 
  • Dry chemical fire suppression systems are rechargeable. This trait means they can be used to extinguish a fire over and over. The only additional cost will be recharging the system (which must be done every time the system activates).
  • Dry chemical fire suppression systems often require fewer maintenance costs than those associated with other fire suppression systems. 

Despite the many benefits associated with dry chem systems, they do have a few drawbacks. Most notably, these systems require a ton of clean-up once they have been activated. Depending upon the type of products or assets in your facility, the chemical agent may also cause damage. After these systems have been activated, it may take some time, effort, and resources to get your facility back in functional order. And since they are chemical-based, you will have to follow proper protocol for cleaning and disposing of the dry chemicals.

Additionally, once these systems have been activated, they do need to be recharged. A failure to recharge them after every single use could result in non-functional fire suppression systems. This scenario would pose a considerable fire safety risk. 

The bottom line is that dry chemical fire suppression systems can provide a lot of fire protection. And they work especially well under certain circumstances, such as fires involving flammable liquids and electronics. However, it’s best to be wary of the drawbacks of these systems before committing to an installation. Dry chemical fire systems may cause more damage than they prevent without proper maintenance, recharging, and other safeguards. 

Dry chemical fire suppression systems may be the best option for your facility. Or you may want to consider an alternative. To learn more about all types of commercial fire suppression systems – including their benefits and drawbacks – contact Legacy Fire today!

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