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Question: Sprinklers extinguish fires, but isn't there still damage due to water discharge?


Answer: The argument that sprinklers may extinguish a fire but still cause an excess of water damage is incorrect for many reasons:

  1. Contrary to popular belief only one head activates at a time, the head closest to the area with the greatest temperature. Usually one head is enough to extinguish the fire.
  2. Sprinklers only release 8-24 gallons of water per minute, and on average run for only 3 minutes. In addition, sprinklers generally only cover 250-300 square feet. When compared to that of a fire hose, which spray 50-125 gallons of water per minute and can soak an entire house before extinguishing a fire, sprinkler damage is minimal.



Question: Insurance companies offer discounts for homes equipped with sprinklers, but doesn't the threat and preventative maintance of leaks, water damage and mildew offset the discount?

Answer: Insurance companies offer generally 10-15% discounts for sprinkler systems. Some offer as much as 20-25%. Sprinkler leaks occurring from faulty installation or frozen piping can cause damages, however, if caught within a reasonable time period, damages are minimal. Accidental activation of a sprinkler system is extremely rare and usually only occurs by improper usage.



Question: Is it true smoke alarms save lives and fire sprinklers save property?

Answer: Smoke detectors increase the chances of sleeping residents being notified of potential fire, but does nothing to notify authorities, extinguish fire, or protect those physically unable to escape on their own (i.e. the elderly, or small children). Sprinkler systems in most cases extinguish a fire or at least contain it until authorities can arrive. With the addition of a flowswitch, sprinkler systems will contact authorities upon activation.




Question: Aren't fire sprinklers expensive?

Answer: Costs associated with sprinkler systems are generally elevated by permit costs in the jurisdictions. Sprinkler systems make up about 1% (on average) of the total building cost (similar to the cost of new carpet). A recent report by Newport Partners states that the national average cost per square foot for a sprinkler system in a new single family home is $1.61.




Question: While residential fire deaths have sharply declined in the U.S. from 1979-1999 isn't it due to better building materials such as plexiglass, fire rated drywall, etc not fire sprinklers?

Answer: While it is true that residential fire deaths have declined, a sampling from a study done in PG County from 1990-93 shows that 22 deaths and 46 injuries still occurred. While this is a marked decrease, it is reasonable to make efforts to further decrease death and injury where possible to do so.




Question: How is installing fire sprinklers in a new residential construction going to reduce fire death?

Answer: Installing fire sprinklers in new residential construction will certainly reduce fire deaths, as shown in several studies done throughout test areas in the United States. Using Prince Georges County as a pertinent reference: in the 1980’s, P.G. County reported an average of 14 fire deaths a year and 104 fire injuries occurring annually. 89% of these losses were in residential properties. After the application of sprinkler law passed, an estimated 154 lives were saved from potential fire related deaths, and only 7 injuries reported from 1989 to 1999.




Question: Have jurisdictions with residential sprinkler requirements (Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties) really seen a reduction in fire deaths?

Answer: As shown by our research, Prince Georges County HAS, in fact, shown a significant decrease in fire deaths. As Montgomery County has only recently passed sprinkler law, significant figures for or against sprinkler systems cannot be applied.



Question: Why is it that smoke alarm manufacturers recommend batteries be replaced twice a year, and sprinkler head manufacturers recommend that they be replaced every 10 years? 

Answer It is recommended that smoke detectors be replaced every 10 years in residences. In residential homes, sprinklers do not need to be changed every 10 years. Commercial structures must be inspected and sprinkler heads replaced accordingly as per NFPA 25. (Residential structures are not required to conform to NFPA 25. However, it is extremely good practice to get the sprinkler system tested once per year and the backflow preventor replaced every 5 years.)



Facts obtained from:






and case study - “Residential Sprinklers: One community’s experience twelve years after mandatory implementation.” By Ronald Jon Siarnicki