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What Gases Are Used in Fire Suppression Systems?

Posted on: March 1, 2019

While fire sprinklers are appropriate for typical office and residential settings, you may have a business full of sensitive electronics or archives that could be damaged just as badly by water as fire and smoke. Additionally, dousing with water can cause some types of fires spread rather than going out. That’s why server rooms, data centers, museums, power plants, hazardous materials storage, and other commercial settings need fire suppression systems to safeguard their sensitive assets.

Such systems use gaseous suppression agents to minimize damage and the cleanup required, so you can get your business back up and running quickly after a fire. This may have you wondering what types of gases are used in fire suppression systems and which ones are best for your situation. Learn more about your options here to help you make the right choice for your business.

Carbon Dioxide

CO2 fire suppression is a popular type of system. Carbon dioxide has an extremely high density, falling to the floor where it smothers the fire and separates it from the oxygen it needs to continue burning. While this is an extremely effective fire suppression method, you should only consider it if your building has little or no occupancy. After all, the removal of oxygen from the air can make CO2 fire suppression harmful to people. That’s why it’s only suitable for unstaffed data rooms, file rooms, hazardous materials storage areas, and similar buildings.

FM-200

This type of clean agent fire suppression uses hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to douse fires. Unlike chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and Halons, the HFCs found in FM-200 have a low ozone depletion potential, making it safe for the environment. HFCs are also safe to use in occupied spaces. FM-200 extinguishes combustible, electrical, and flammable liquid fires in 10 seconds or less primarily through heat absorption.

Novec 1230

Another type of clean agent, Novec 1230 was developed as a replacement for Halons and HFCs. This type of fire suppression system belongs to a family of chemicals called halocarbons. Novec 1230 is stored as a fluid, which is vaporized when discharged to fight a fire. Similar to FM-200, Novec 1230 also effectively extinguishes by cooling the fire quickly.  It also has an extremely low ozone depletion potential, giving it the highest margin of environmental safety and making it appropriate for use in human-occupied spaces.

Inergen

The final gaseous clean agent is called Inergen. This system uses inert gases—such as nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide—to reduce the oxygen level around the fire and suppress it in the process. The concentration of gases used in Inergen systems is safe to use around people.

Which Fire Suppression System Is Best?

Deciding which gas to use in your fire suppression system comes down to a comparison of pros and cons. Can your existing system accommodate one type of gas without an upgrade? Do you need a suppression system with a small storage footprint? Are people present in the area you need to protect? Do you have cost restraints? Answering these questions will help you get one step closer to deciding which type of fire suppression system to install.

State Systems Inc. can help you make the right choice. We install fire suppression equipment from ANSUL, Kidde, 3M, and others. We can assess your commercial building and recommend the right system for you.

For more information about fire suppression, or to schedule services in the Mid-South, please contact us at 866-308-5701. We are a fire protection company serving businesses in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

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