What is the most common fire protection system | Updated Guide 2023

With raging wildfires and business-crippling blazes on the rise, fire protection is more crucial than ever. But between high-pressure water systems, chemical suppressants, and gas extinguishers, how do you choose? This comprehensive guide examines today’s most popular fire suppression systems to match the ideal solution to your needs and assets. Learn the costs, capabilities, and limitations of water, chemical, and gas-based setups. Discover which provides the fastest flame knockdown, highest reliability, and greatest value for your property. Whether faced with electronics, irreplaceable archives, or light industrial hazards, find your perfect fire protection fit. Equipped with insider expertise and updated 2023 guidance, you can make an informed fire safety decision that provides ironclad security for people and property. Keep reading to decode technical jargon, see informative cost breakdowns, and unlock the life-saving fire protection strategies that leading industry veterans recommend most.

The goal is to highlight the key topics covered, emphasize the expert advice provided, and showcase the real-world benefits readers will gain by continuing to read the full article. Please let me know if you would like me to modify or expand this introduction further.

There are many different types of fire protection systems, in this guide we will look at what the most common fire protection systems are, and the pros and cons of each system.

water suppression system

Water Based Suppression Systems

Unsurprisingly the most popular type of fire protection equipment is a water suppression system. 

A water suppression system is a type of fire protection system that utilises water to control and extinguish fires. 

Benefits of a suppression system

Water-based suppression systems are extremely effective and fast-acting which allows them to be one of the most rapid-fire control tools on the market. Their ability to detect fire in the early stages substantially reduces the chance of the fire being able to reach “flashover”. 

Another notable benefit of water-based suppression systems is financial, sprinklers are only activated in the areas where fire is present, which substantially reduces water-based equipment damage. Insurance companies will more often than not provide discounts for properties that have water-based suppression systems installed.

The final benefit we feel mentioning is the most important, water-based suppression systems save lives and provide peace of mind.

Cons of a water suppression system

Before purchasing a water-based suppression system, it’s important to understand where the system is not as effective as it could be. 

The biggest “turn-offs” for business owners is that water-based fire suppression systems require a huge amount of building modification. You will need to allocate space for a very large water storage system, coupled with pipes being run all the way around and through your premises. 

Another reason some people decide against water-based systems is maintenance, a water-based system needs to be checked, maintained and tested regularly. Furthermore, water pipes unfortunately have a tendency to freeze in low temperatures which can effectively render the system moot if not properly maintained.

Finally, as with all equipment, it has the propensity to break. A damaged sprinkler head or false trigger can cause a large amount of damage to both property and equipment, the long-term damage can also consist of mould or structural impairment.

Equipment and Installation costs

As with anything, the cost will come down to many variable factors. But to give an idea of average costs we have given broad-stroke pricing below;

Wet pipe sprinkler system 

For a typical light hazard commercial building under 10,000 sq ft, the average cost ranges from €2 to €4 per square foot installed. This equates to €20,000 to €40,000 total.

Dry pipe sprinkler system 

More complex systems using dry pipes instead of water-filled pipes average €4 to €8 per square foot installed. A 10,000 sq ft system may cost €40,000 to €80,000.

Pre-action sprinkler system

These more advanced systems with additional valves and controls average €6 to €10 per square foot installed.

Fire pump system 

For buildings requiring a dedicated fire pump, this may add €20,000 to €60,000 to the total cost.

Expert Advice 

While they do have higher upfront costs compared to some other solutions, a properly engineered water-based fire sprinkler system is absolutely worth the investment for most buildings. Water remains the most widely used and time-tested suppression agent. When fast fire control is critical, sprinklers continue to be the gold standard – Garrett Nolan, Firestoppers

chemical suppression system

Chemical Suppression System

While not as ubiquitous as water, chemical suppression systems are a viable fire protection option in many applications. They utilise suppressant agents released from pressurised containers to extinguish flames.

Benefits of a Chemical Suppression System

Chemical systems offer ultra-fast suppression, often extinguishing fire in seconds. The agents also leave no residue, minimising damage. As the suppressant is stored on-site, there is ample supply for prolonged events. Chemical systems are self-contained, requiring less building modification. They can be ideal for protecting invaluable assets that water could ruin.

Another benefit is less maintenance without extensive piping and water. Also, no risk of freezing pipes in cold environments. Their compact design has minimal aesthetic impact. Chemical suppression gives targeted protection to high-risk areas.

Most importantly, chemical agents prevent fire spread and minimise property losses like equipment damage or business interruption. This provides safety and security.

Cons of a Chemical Suppression System

The main downside is higher upfront equipment costs compared to water. Also, discharge can make a loud noise and the agents may be harmful if inhaled in high concentrations. Refilling and recycling discharged suppressants add hidden long-term costs.

Chemical systems offer only localized protection versus building-wide coverage. Areas shielded from discharge by obstructions may continue burning. The suppressant supply is finite and cannot be manually augmented like water systems.

Finally, regular inspection and maintenance are still required, albeit less than water-based systems. Equipment or nozzle faults can decrease effectiveness.

Equipment and Installation Costs

There are several different types of chemical suppression systems, we have noted some indicative average figures below:

Wet chemical systems 

€ 1,200 – €2,500 per protected hazard or appliance.

Clean agent system 

€ 1 to €3 per cubic foot of protected space.

Hybrid water/chemical systems 

Vary based on water supply and chemical capacity needed.

Retrofitting existing space 

Up to 4 times more than new installation.

Expert Advice

For vital assets or hazards like IT rooms, chemical suppression offers lightning-fast control. The self-contained modular design is easy to tailor to specific risks. While not a whole-building solution, selective chemical protection is unmatched when water is not an option. Protect what matters most with the right chemical system. – Garrett Nolan, Firestoppers

pressurised gas suppresion system

Pressurised Gas Suppression Systems

Pressurised gas systems are another alternative to traditional water-based options for fire protection. Gas suppression systems extinguish flames by displacing oxygen or interrupting the chemical fire reaction.

Benefits of a Gas Suppression System

Gas systems provide rapid fire suppression, often in less than 10 seconds. The gases used leave no residue or damage after discharge. Systems are automated, self-contained and require minimal building modifications.

As gases are stored on-site, there is ample supply for prolonged events. Gas is safe for electronics and valuable assets vulnerable to water. Targeted enclosures allow protection of specific high-risk areas.

Gas also eliminates water usage and needs no piping system. Maintenance is straightforward with minimal components. Insurance discounts are often available with gas systems.

Most importantly, gas agents prevent fire spread and property losses. This enhances safety for occupants and assets.

Cons of a Gas Suppression System

Upfront equipment costs are higher than water-based systems. Space is needed to store the pressurised cylinders. The discharge may be loud. 

Another negative is health and safety. Certain gases can be hazardous if concentrations exceed safe levels.

The most prominent worry with gas-based systems is that gas is only effective in the areas it fills, blocked areas could continue to burn. In addition, the supply and storage of gas is finite and in the event it runs out it can not be easily supplemented, unlike water which can be used up and then run off the local water supply.

Equipment and Installation Costs

Equipment costs depend on the type of gas you wish to use, but a good rule of thumb is that installation will cost on average €2 – €8 per square ft. The gas itself will vary depending on supply and demand.

Expert Advice

For speed, flexibility, and asset protection, gas suppression is what a business needs. From my professional perspective, the biggest benefit of gas over water is a business can avoid water damage and efficiently neutralise threats with the right gas system designGarret Nolan, Firestoppers

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the types of fire suppression systems?

There are 5 types of fire suppression systems, in order of popularity:

  1. Water Suppression
  2. Chemical Suppression
  3. Gas Suppression
  4. Deluge Suppression
  5. Pneumatic Heat Detection Tube

What is the basic fire suppression system?

A fire suppression system is a group of mechanisms that are in place to detect and suppress the fire.

What are the two main types of fire protection systems?

The two main types of fire protection systems are active and passive.

What is the best fire suppression system for humans?

Water remains the single most effective way of extinguishing the fire while simultaneously, significantly reducing the ability of the fire to spread.

Passive Fire Protection 

Our highly experienced team of industry experts are always on hand to assess the fire protection needs of your property, providing the appropriate recommendations based on industry-leading standards.

If you looking to install, replace or maintain your fire protection system then our experienced team can help  – Contact us today for a free consultation.

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