Tips that may Reduce the Likelihood of Sprinkler System Freeze-ups
With the upcoming cold weather there is renewed concern with possible freezing of the residential fire suppression systems in our single family homes. While there is no fool-proof way to guarantee that any water source will not freeze in the right conditions, steps can be taken to minimize the possibility. Hopefully, all of the "at-risk" homes have been modified to correct the problems associated with the original installation. These issues dealt with the location of some piping systems in un-heated locations without protection from heated spaces above, such as un-heated garages with open attic space above or in instances of inadequate or improper insulation coverage.
For those houses that have not been modified simple steps may help to reduce the likelihood of freeze-ups. The easiest method of increasing protection is to be sure that the piping is properly insulated. Additional insulation may be all that is needed. An additional batt of fiberglass insulation can be placed over the piping to ensure complete coverage. Most of the systems utilize circulating piping with a connection to a toilet in the house. If this toilet can be located, a small wedge placed beneath the flapper would allow a small trickle of water to occur which may help by keeping the water flowing. Low wattage heat tapes may also be used provided that it does not overheat the plastic piping beyond the pipe manufacturer's specifications. The name of the pipe manufacturer is located on the piping. If heat trace tape is used, there should be positive confirmation that the circuit is energized. This will require that where heat tracing is used, there is a means to visually confirm that the system is active
Some homeowners elect to shut off and drain the systems during prolonged cold weather. While this will avoid freeze-ups, it also leaves the house unprotected by fire suppression sprinklers. Homeowners wishing to take this step may want to discuss it with their insurance provider.