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The Beginner’s Guide to Fire Sprinkler Tests

If you have a fire sprinkler system, you don’t actually need to test it, right? Wrong. Sure, testing is performed to comply with NFPA regulations, insurance requirements, and to keep you out of trouble with the fire department (ahem, violations). But it also lets you know if your system is working properly.

The types of tests that can be performed depend on the type of system you have. Different tests are performed to check your system’s functionality, as well as all the specific components of your system. In this post, we’re going to review:

  • 2” Main Drain Test
  • Water Flow Alarm Device Test
  • Fire Pump Test
  • Dry Pipe Valve Trip Test
  • Hydrostatic 5 Year Functionality Test

2” MAIN DRAIN TEST

Sprinkler Main Drain Tests

The main drain test is required by NFPA25 to be performed annually to ensure the proper water supply is available at the system riser, detect changes in the water supply that may affect the sprinkler system’s performance, and confirm the drain valves are operational.

If the measurement between the inspections varies more than 10%, that could be a sign of a problem like a large obstruction, a dropped gate, a valve that is almost fully closed, or a check valve clapper stuck to the valve seat.

How to perform the main drain test:

  1. Record the pressure shown on the gauge. This is known as static pressure.
  2. Locate the main drain valve and turn slowly to turn the water on. Allow the water to run until pressure stabilizes.
  3. Record the pressure shown on the gauge. This is known as residual pressure.
  4. Close the main drain by turning it slowly.

*Tip: During the test, water is piped outside or into a drain. It is best to avoid performing the test during the winter when the water outside can turn to ice, leading to an injury.

WATER FLOW TEST

Fire Sprinkler Alarm

The water flow test is required by NFPA25 to be performed quarterly to ensure water flow detecting devices are operational, alarms are operational, and a signal is sent to and received by the central station (if connected).

It is important to inform the fire department and/or central station before you perform the test. Depending on what type of alarm device your system has, either a water motor gong sounds the alarm or an electrical water flow switch is tripped when water is flowing through the pipe.

How to perform the water flow test:

  1. If connected to a central alarm, notify the fire department and/or central station about the test.
  2.  Locate the inspector’s test valve and slowly open so that the valve is in line with the pipe.
  3. Allow the water to flow for about 60 seconds or until the alarm sounds. If connected to central station, call to confirm the signal was received.
  4. Slowly close the inspector’s test valve. Notify the fire department and/or central station that test is complete.

FIRE PUMP TEST

Fire Pump

The fire pump flow test is required by NFPA25 to be performed annually and measures the performance of the fire pump’s flow and pressure. The test is conducted by flowing water through hose streams connected to the test header. The test results are compared to the factory specifications and the test results from previous years. If there is a significant reduction in the pump’s performance, further examination is needed to make the necessary repairs.

The 2011 Edition of NFPA 25 requires electric motor driven fire pumps to be operated monthly. This is known as a churn test.

For more information, check out our blog post on the requirements for fire pump testing.

DRY PIPE VALVE TRIP TEST

Trip Test

Partial Trip Test

The partial dry pipe valve trip test (say that 3 times fast) is required by NFPA25 to be performed annually. During the test, the control valve is only partially opened so that no water is released. The system must trip in under 60 seconds. After the test is completed, the low points are drained and the valve is reset.

Full Trip Test

A full flow trip test is required by NFPA25 to be performed every 3 years. During the test, the control valve is opened completely to allow the flow of water. The system must trip in under 60 seconds. After the test is completed, the low points are drained and the valve is reset. After the test is completed, the low points are drained and the valve is reset.

*Tip: Dry pipe valves should be trip-tested during warmer weather to avoid freezing.

HYDROSTATIC 5 YEAR TEST

Fire Department Connection (Pressurized)

The hydrostatic test is a Fire Department requirement, it is not required as part of your annual NFPA25 inspection contract. The 5 year hydrostatic test, also known as a functionality test,  confirms the fire sprinkler/standpipe components are in working condition and are acceptable for fire department use.

The test is completed by applying hydrostatic pressure to the fire department connection and maintaining the pressure for up to 2 hours. It must be conducted by a licensed fire sprinkler contractor, such as Capitol Fire Sprinkler in the presence of the Fire Department.

To learn more about the hydrostatic test, check out our post: Everything You Need To Know About the Hydrostatic Test and 4 Reasons to Schedule a Pre-Test for Your 5 Year Hydrostatic Test

Sprinkler Main Drain Tests by U.S. Fire Administration

Sprinkler Valve Alarm by Rob Sinclair is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Fire Pump by Snapper is licensed under CC BY 2.0