Potentially millions of people owe their lives to the technology found within a fire sprinkler. While this is the case, few of us understand the elegant mechanics of a fire sprinkler system. Most of us assume that the activation of a fire sprinkler in a building depends upon very complex technology—perhaps some kind of a carefully calibrated electronic detection system. Oddly enough, not much has changed about fire sprinkler technology mechanics in the past 120 years. 

How a Fire Sprinkler Head Works

The fire sprinkler head not only works as the distribution point of water to a particular area, but it also contains the mechanics that determine its activation. How? With relatively simple physics. 

To onlookers, an active fire sprinkler may look like someone cranked on the water, which then came spewing from the sprinkler head. Actually, the water is continually flowing through the fire system plumbing, much like water in the pipes of your home. 

The sprinkler head contains a valved seal that keeps the water from coming out. Holding back this valved seal is a hermetically sealed glass bulb that resembles the glass bulb in a builder’s level. Inside of this glass bulb is a liquid with a low coefficient of expansion. When fire heats up a space in a building above a certain temperature, the liquid expands within the glass bulb, causing it to break. When the glass bulb breaks, this causes the valved seal to open, letting the pressurized water flow out. 

To ensure the water is evenly distributed about its designated area, the water hits a cog-shaped disk on the end of the sprinkler head called a water distribution deflector. Sprinkler heads may be installed facing upwards or downwards, depending on the ceiling style and its ability to facilitate the distribution of water on a fire. 

If the fire is not contained within a single area, the heat will cause other sprinkler head bulbs to break, causing more water to flow in more locations. 

A change in water pressure within the sprinkler system can also trip a local alarm to the building. Other systems may also automatically notify local fire departments to arrive at the scene. Once on-site facility managers confirm that any fires have been extinguished, the sprinkler system can be turned off. 

Fire sprinkler heads come in various styles and sizes depending on the temperature tolerances and water distribution needs of a particular building. Commercial construction professionals can help you determine which fire sprinkler styles are right for your location. 

Commercial Construction in Oklahoma

Cowen Construction out of Tulsa, OK is proud to provide specialized commercial construction services for Oklahoma businesses just like you.