How do fire sprinkler heads work? Fire sprinkler heads feature heat-sensitive parts – either a glass bulb or a fusible link – that cause them to activate at a specific temperature. Nearly all fire sprinklers are composed of the same components. These include a sealing assembly or ‘plug’ that prevents water from escaping, a heat-sensitive element that allows water to flow at a given temperature, a deflector that distributes water effectively, and a frame. The glass bulb or link applies pressure to a pipe cap which acts as a plug that prevents water from flowing until the ambient temperature around the sprinkler reaches the design activation temperature of the individual sprinkler. Because each sprinkler activates independently when the predetermined heat level is reached, the number of sprinklers that operate is limited to only those near the fire. This thereby maximizes the available water pressure over the point of fire origin.
When a sprinkler head has a glass bulb, that bulb typically contains a glycerine-based liquid. Once the air around the sprinkler reaches a certain temperature – often 155F or 200F (68C or 93C) – the liquid expands causing the glass to break. The water held back by the bulb then escapes and flows toward the deflector, which disperses it throughout the room.
Fusible link fire sprinklers replace that bulb with metal components secured to the sprinkler by a heat-sensitive alloy. Rising temperatures cause the alloy to melt, allowing the metal elements to fall from the sprinkler head and activate the sprinkler.
Most fire sprinklers are available in two primary options: upward-facing and downward-facing.
What is an upright sprinkler head?
So how do upright fire sprinkler heads work? Upright fire sprinklers spray water upward to a concave deflector, producing a dome-shaped spray pattern. They install deflector-up to cover specific areas and to prevent ice and debris from collecting in the head. Upright sprinklers are ideal where obstructions interfere with coverage and in dry-pipe systems facing freezing temperatures.
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