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Inspections of Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems

Fire sprinkler systems are to be inspected, tested and maintained according to National Fire Protection Association's Standard # 25, but NFPA 25 specifically states in section 1.1.5., (2011 edition), that the scope of NFPA 25 does not apply to NFPA 13D systems, which is the standard for one & two family dwellings. There are however inspection requirements in the 2010 edition of NFPA 13D, Chapter 4, Section 4.1.1, (listed in the Annex), under "Maintenance". It starts off saying that it is the installers responsibility to provide the owner/occupant with the instructions for the inspection, testing and maintenance of the system, and then it is the owners responsibility to see that it gets done. The list of things to do is also not listed as mandatory, but as a monthly list of things that should be done. This list includes:

  • Visual check for obstructions.
  • Ensure that all valves are open.
  • Testing of all waterflow devices. (There might be a bypass pressure-regulated valve where a water meter or water softener restricts water flow.)
  • Testing of alarm system where there is one. (Alarms are not required for NFPA 13D systems where smoke detectors are installed, and smoke detectors are required to be installed according to NFPA 101.)
  • Operation of pumps, where there are pumps. (Not necessary for Uponor/Wirsbo, Kwench & Rehau systems, which are tied into the domestic pump which operates daily.)
  • Checking air pressure with dry systems. (Dry systems are rare in NFPA 13D systems, because the hydraulic criteria of those listed residential heads is very demanding. Sometimes there is a dry system for an attic or garage, which could then use either standard quick response heads, or residential heads, but these areas are not typically required to have coverage under the NFPA 13D standard.
  • Checking the water level in tanks when they are present. (Low water alarms and /or automatic fills are not required in NFPA 13D systems.)
  • Checking for fire sprinkler heads that got painted.

In addition, if there is antifreeze in any part or all of the system, it is required to be tested each year before freezing weather. Section 4.1.4 explains how this should be done.

Fire department connections are not required by NFPA 13D, but if they are installed, then the system must have a hydrostatic test. Otherwise only a water leakage test is required for a wet system and an air leakage test for dry systems. Section 4.2 of NFPA 13D gives more detail for the testing criteria. Hydrostatic tests, air leakage tests and/or water leakage tests are done at the completion of installation, but are not typically done after that. The reason is given in the hardcover edition of NFPA 13D where it makes the statement in blue explanatory text, "Plumbing systems have been successfully installed in homes without special hydrostatic testing for years. Because the residential sprinkler system is intended to be similar to, or integrated with, the plumbing system, the technical ocmmittee concluded that a special hydrostatic test was not generally required."

The state does not require anything in addition to NFPA 13D for home fire sprinkler systems, except for those homes within retirement living communities licensed by the Dept of Health & Human Services. In those we require a thorough annual inspection by a licensed fire sprinkler inspector. Always check with the local authorities to see if they require anything beyond what the state requires.

[Last updated 7-26-12 to reflect currently adopted standards references.]