Wisconsin Chapter Antifreeze Panel

On November 18, the Wisconsin Chapter of NFSA organized and hosted a presentation and panel discussion on NFPA requirements for antifreeze solutions for use in cold weather sprinkler systems applications. NFSA Wisconsin State Coordinator Marty King assembled a panel of outstanding industry experts for the antifreeze discussion. NFSA Vice President Mark Hopkins, Kerry Bell (Principal Engineer for UL), Sean Pearce from Lubrizol, and Director Mark Fessenden from JCI were the panel members. I can’t imagine a better panel for this discussion, which was attended by 16 or so contractors and service managers.

  1. Mark Hopkins provided a great overview of the history of antifreeze implementation in the code, and the fire incident that led to the revocation of the legacy antifreeze solutions. He covered the current situation of having only one UL listed solution available as we approach the sundown for glycerin and propylene glycol.
  2. Kerry did a great job explaining the rigorous testing process necessary to achieve UL listing.
  3. Mark Fessenden discussed the JCI Tyco product currently UL listed and also provided a great recap of the other means of protecting fire sprinkler systems against cold weather.
  4. Sean provided an overview of a new Lubrizol antifreeze solution currently undergoing UL testing with the hopes of a first quarter 2020 completion of that process.
  5. The 4-hour session finished up with a panel discussion and Q & A from the attendees.

In short, this was a great discussion and presentation by a great panel of the right mix of experts. Marty should be commended for putting it together, and NFSA should make this a standardized training course option.

Comments and concerns voiced by the contractors present included:

  1. AHJ members need to get up to speed on the sundown and the listed alternatives and cold weather protections. The concern is that some building owners will go through the process of timely replacement of legacy antifreeze while other owners do not because AHJs may not be enforcing the sundown consistently.
  2. There was also concern about the cost of replacement of legacy antifreeze.
  3. Some were concerned that the deadline will be extended after contractors have already persuaded building owners to switch out to a listed antifreeze, which would make the building owners think the contractors were crying wolf to increase their profits. A number of people supported keeping the sundown in place as a way of helping drive new product development.
  4. Of course, the liability of having a potential fire accelerant in their systems is a life safety concern and another reason some expressed a desire to keep the sundown in place.