House fires can cause a significant amount of damage, especially if the fires are able to spread before the nearest fire department arrives. In many rural areas where private wells supply water to homes, this can result in a significant loss of property and, sometimes, loss of life because the nearest fire department may be quite a distance away.
Fortunately, homeowners can install fire sprinklers in their homes to reduce property loss. In fact, homes equipped with fire sprinklers average $2,166 in property loss from house fires as compared to $45,000 in damages for homes without sprinklers. However, it's crucial for existing homes with wells to have pressure tanks to provide water to fire sprinklers. Here's what you need to know to install fire sprinklers.
A Sprinkler Needs More Water Per Minute than Well Pumps Provide
According to Bob Vila, guru of home improvement projects, one fire sprinkler needs 15-20 gallons of water per minute, which is enough to put out 80-90% of fires. The problem with this for homes with well water, however, is that well pumps typically only have a pumping capacity rate of 5 gallons of water per minute.
This means that even if a fire sprinkler in the home is activated, there will not be enough water provided by the well to put out a fire, especially since the well was originally drilled based on the assumption that the home only required a rate of 5 gallons per minute.
Increase Water Pressure by Installing a Pressure Tank
Due to this significant difference in the flow-rate, homes that have well water should use a stand-alone system when retrofitting their home with fire sprinklers. Since a higher flow rate than your well pump can provide is necessary for the fire sprinklers to operate, you'll need to install a pressure tank.
The existing well pump will be used to pump water from the well and into the water line that enters your home. The water line will be redirected into a pressure tank. Inside the pressure tank, the air gets compressed as water gets pumped into the tank.
This air pressure inside the tank is what forces the water out at a high rate when a faucet is opened and/or a fire sprinkler is activated. When the water level inside the tank drops to (or below) a preset level as water leaves the tank, a water pump inside the tank is activated to ensure the rate of the water pressure that is leaving the tank is continuous.
That way, the sprinkler system will continue to operate without any change in the water pressure. At the same time, the tank will refill with water from the well as necessary until the sprinkler system is deactivated by you or the fire department or the storage tank is refilled.
Prepare for Electricity Outages by Installing a Backup Power Supply
Since pumps need electricity to work, you'll want to install a backup power supply in case you lose power. Of course, a house fire can damage the electrical wiring in your home and cause your home to lose power, which means your fire sprinklers will not work unless you have a backup power source for the pumps in the well and pressure tank.
If you live in an area that experiences frequent power outages, you should consider installing a generator as a backup power source. Otherwise, a basic battery backup will work. Speak with your well drilling service for more information about the types of power backup supplies that are available for your particular make and model of pumps in your well and pressure tank.
For more information about fire sprinklers, contact a company like Nor Cal Fire Protection.