Depending on the design of your home and how clever your decorator has been, you might be surprised to know that your home has an automatic ceiling fire sprinkler system. The newest systems are flush mount and can be difficult to spot if your decorator has placed other eye catching decor nearby such as ceiling fan lights, can lighting, painted murals or track lighting.
Automatic ceiling fire sprinkler systems also can be industrial looking in loft apartments or condominiums where the grid layout of pipes and heads are fully exposed on purpose and easy to see. Sometimes, decorators will try to soften the look by painting the pipes to match the ceiling color. No matter what type of home, these safety systems have one thing in common: They need to be flushed about once year to keep them in working order.
Our advice at Helfrich Associates is never to wait too long when it comes to your annual ceiling fire sprinkler and hot water heater flushes. Our hard water, even though well treated locally, can be full of corroding minerals due to the aging municipal water pipe delivery system. This situation can lead to a troublesome buildup of calcium and minerals that could result in ceiling sprinkler or hot water heater particulate blockages or rust.
Flush mount as shown here or fully exposed, no matter how they look close-up, the good news is that ceiling sprinkler systems save lives and prevent catastrophic fire property damage. They are today required by municipal code in new residential construction in Southern California and highly recommended by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) or absolutely required when updating or expanding historic structures. Your homeowner’s fire insurance policy can even include a discount for automated ceiling sprinklers depending on the insurer.
While you could attempt a do-it-yourself (DIY) fire sprinkler flush, this DIY task can be intimidating for those who are not handy or attempting it the first time. If done improperly, the consequences can range from not completing the necessary maintenance or creating a puddle in every room in your home. For this reason, we recommend the services of a specialized services or highly competent “handy” service professionals. They know the drill, have done it hundreds of times and all you have to do is write the check.
Failing to flush home fire sprinkler systems can actually result in dangerous blockages with calcium carbonate build-up obstructions in some cases. According to the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA), in areas with hard water, a sampling of sprinkler heads should be removed and inspected annually in areas where hard surface water is a problem. Sprinklers with deposits should be replaced with new ones, along with inspecting adjacent sprinklers.
The same advice goes for hot water heater flushes: This is also an annual maintenance task that Helfrich Associates recommends you put on your calendar. The same hard water issues apply to water heaters whether you have a conventional large tank or a “tank-less” water heater. Avoiding the built-up of calcium and other mineral deposits over time can lead to premature water heater failure (shorter life) or serious accidents including explosions and fires.
Other conventional water tank safety issues that frequently need to be addressed are seismic strapping, fire safety, and service pipe leaks. Seismic strapping is a newer Building Code requirement to ensure that the water heater will not tip over during an earthquake, which can break the gas line and cause explosions, fires and flooding (especially if your water heater is located indoors in a service closet).
During maintenance if your pilot light fails, you should contact a plumber or the utility to re-start the pilot light or replace the thermocouple. Water pipes that service water heaters also can fail, causing water damage to surrounding structural elements and can cause foundation and soil movement. Look for leaks and signs of dampness near the unit and especially where the water line is connected to the tank.
Should your home experience a major fire or water heater damage, call Helfrich & Associates to help. We frequently work with homeowners, insurance company adjustors and contractors to help determine the extent of the damages, the repairs required and the costs, as well as the building permits and inspections necessary. Many times we can help homeowners with impartial advice that will help them make better decisions to complete the repairs at the lowest reasonable cost and as quickly as possible.