What do Fire Sprinkler Colors Mean?
Ever wonder what fire sprinkler colors mean? The National Fire Sprinkler Association explains!
If you have ever spent time in a building equipped with fire sprinklers, you may have noticed that the fire sprinkler colors may vary. Fire sprinklers are one of the most important safety devices in buildings and structures. These systems work by releasing water or other suppression agents in response to a fire, and one of the key components of a fire sprinkler is the heating element. These elements are responsible for activating the sprinkler when they reach a certain temperature, and they come in different colors. In this article, we will examine the different colors of heating elements in fire sprinklers and their significance.
For Starters: Glass or Fusible Link
You may notice that not all fire sprinkler heating elements are glass; indeed, some are metal. This is what’s known as a fusible link. Like glass bulbs, fusible links react to heat. Fusible links can protect the same types of hazards as glass bulbs and vice versa. They have their own coloring system (picture below).
Fusible link vs. glass bulb comes down to a matter of opinion and the project. Fusible link heads transport more easily, as they do not require a plastic covering to protect the element like glass bulbs do, but many find glass bulbs to be more aesthetically pleasing. Whatever, the use case or opinion, it should be noted that either head is just as effective.
Fire Sprinkler Colors: It’s All about the Heating Element
When asking about the significance of fire sprinkler colors, most people are referring to a specific part: the heating element. The heating element is the component of the fire sprinkler that responds to heat and activates the sprinkler. The element is typically made of a metal alloy or glass bulb that contains a heat-sensitive liquid. When the temperature in the area around the sprinkler reaches a certain level, the liquid expands and breaks the glass bulb or melts the alloy, releasing the water or other suppression agent.
The color of the heating element is an important consideration when designing a fire sprinkler system. Different colors indicate different activation temperatures, and it is important to select the appropriate color based on the level of fire risk in the building or structure.
Fire Sprinkler Colors: Understanding Each Color
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides guidelines for the color coding of fire sprinkler heating elements. These guidelines are based on the activation temperature of the element and are intended to ensure that the sprinkler system is designed to respond appropriately to the level of fire risk.
The following are the most common colors of fire sprinkler heating elements, along with their corresponding activation temperatures:
Orange and Red Heating Elements
These have the lowest reaction temperature and are most commonly found in residential settings, though they are just as common in commercial systems. These bulbs react from 135 to 170°F (57-77°C). They are used in ordinary hazard settings.
Yellow Heating Elements
Yellow heating elements have a higher activation temperature than red elements and are typically used in areas with higher fire risk, such as warehouses and manufacturing facilities. These sprinklers are designed to activate when the temperature in the area around the sprinkler reaches 174°F (79°C).
Green Heating Elements
Green heating elements have an even higher activation temperature than yellow elements and are typically used in areas with high fire risk, such as chemical storage areas. These sprinklers are designed to activate when the temperature in the area around the sprinkler reaches 225°F (107°C).
Blue Heating Elements
Blue heating elements have a very high activation temperature and are typically used in areas with very high fire risk, such as boiler rooms and furnace areas. These sprinklers are designed to activate when the temperature in the area around the sprinkler reaches 250°F (121°C).
Purple Heating Elements
Purple heating elements have an even higher activation temperature than blue elements and are typically used in areas with extremely high fire risk, such as flammable liquid storage areas. These sprinklers are designed to activate when the temperature in the area around the sprinkler reaches 325°F (163°C).
Black Heating Elements
Black heating elements in fire sprinklers are designed to activate at the highest temperatures, typically over 400°F (204°C). They are commonly used in areas with the highest fire risk, such as industrial ovens and furnaces, where temperatures can reach extremely high levels.
Due to their high activation temperature, black heating elements are not commonly used in typical commercial or residential buildings. They are typically used in specialized environments with high temperatures, such as manufacturing facilities, chemical processing plants, or any other high-temperature environment that presents a significant fire risk.
Further reading on fire sprinkler colors: NFPA Understanding Fire Sprinkler Thermal Characteristics
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