SAN FRANCISCO AND PLACENTIA, CALIFORNIA - Water mist fire suppression systems have piqued the interest of many fire protection professionals in recent years.
The technology isn’t new, but the National Fire Protection Association recently formed the Committee on Water Mist Systems to further research the topic, so we thought we would take this opportunity to explain a bit about these systems, including their potential benefits.
Water misting systems have become a significant growth area in the realm of fire suppression systems, says Massoud Farazandeh, general manager of the San Francisco fire protection company Nationwide Fire Protection Corp., which is an affiliate of American Professional Services.
These systems typically are used in a wide range of commercial, industrial and institutional special hazard applications. They were introduced in the 1940s. We attribute the recent increased popularity of these systems in a broader range of uses mainly to the fact that Halon 1301 is being phased out.
Halon suppression systems function with halon gas. However, halon was identified as an ozone-depleting compound in the 1980s, so installation of new halon systems is allowed only when it can be demonstrated that there is no other viable option, says Farazandeh, a Los Angeles and San Francisco fire sprinkler system expert.
How Do Water Mist Systems Work?
Water misting systems suppress fire in three ways: through heat absorption, oxygen depletion and by blocking radiant heat.
Water mist systems typically are unaffected by the integrity of the enclosure, according to information posted on the Fire Safety, Inc. Website. These systems’ tiny water droplet size promotes rapid cooling of the fuel and fire plume. The fire ultimately is extinguished as a result of oxygen depletion.
Benefits of Water Mist Systems
The benefits of these systems abound, says Farazandeh, whose company sells and installs San Francisco fire systems. Because these types of fire systems are safe for human exposure, they allow for automatic and immediate manual release.
Today’s water mist systems go beyond traditional sprinkler systems by offering increased water use efficiency. The ability of small droplets to create steam at the fire source makes fine misting systems more efficient than traditional sprinkler methods of fire suppression.
Water is an environmentally friendly method of fire suppression, and it naturally absorbs heat, Farazandeh says. Manipulating water pressure and varying the nozzle design can increase the surface area of water droplets and create a larger spray area in the event that a fire suppression system must be activated.
Water misting fire suppression systems are suited to many industrial situations, as well as off-shore and shipping environments. The misting nozzles offer protection from electric shock, and the misting systems have advantages in cooling machinery, which make them well-suited to these situations, Farazandeh says.
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