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Charlie Glahe WIN Broomfield

Why a residential fire sprinkler system is a smart investment for homeowners

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Fire safety experts overwhelmingly support the inclusion of residential fire sprinklers in newly built homes, pointing out that in the majority of cases, severe damage can be curbed thanks to the water that they douse flames with.

But according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, there is still a widely held belief that fire sprinklers aren't worth the trouble.

To help set the record straight, IBHS says there are some commonly held beliefs about sprinkler systems that aren't true.

Systems are reliable and affordable
Perhaps the most significant mischaracterization of sprinkler systems is that they're not reliable. In other words, if the system detects warm temperatures from something other than a fire, that in and of itself will cause the sprinklers to go off, soaking a home belongings and damaging them in the process. IBHS says that based on reports of when sprinkler systems have been tripped, they have rarely occurred by accident. And with the advances in technology, developers have been able to design sprinklers so that they're more attuned to fire danger.

Another myth that's taken on a life of its own is that home sprinkler systems are expensive. IBHS says that the assessment of cost is relative, especially when compared to other renovations homeowners often perform. For instance, it's not unusual for homeowners to line their floors with wall-to-wall carpeting or put in a new driveway. Both of these upgrades are right around what it would cost to install a home sprinkler system, averaging about $1.60 for ever square foot of a home's size.

Some believe that sprinkler systems can diminish home values by making construction firms less likely to build new properties in a given area where there are sprinkler laws. But here, too, this assertion is not true. IBHS points to a 2009 study that was done on behalf of the National Fire Protection Association. It found that sprinkler laws had no impact on how many homes were being built in the four counties that they studied, which were located in Maryland and Virginia.

Benefits of installing system are numerous
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Fire Administration recently released a report, detailing the variety of benefits that come with installing a residential fire sprinkler system. Citing its reliability, simple installation process and low water requirement, one of the biggest benefits that can come with it is how it can lower homeowners' insurance premiums. FEMA and USFA note that sprinkler systems have the potential to lower rates by between 5 and 15 percent, as they diminish the destructive impact of a fire.

Should homeowners decide to install one in their home, there are certain home inspection strategies that need to be performed on a regular basis. According to the Windsor Fire Protection District based in California, a visual check of the sprinkler system should be performed each month to ensure that nothing obstructs the sprinkler heads. For example, nothing should be hanging from them and there shouldn't be any blockages within 18 inches of the head in all directions.

In addition, once every two years, check to see that the fire sprinkler pressure is at the proper level by checking the gauges, which should be located near where water enters the house from the outside. Pressure readings ought to be between 40 and 75 PSI. If it's lower than this range, a licensed fire sprinkler installer should be contacted soon so that they can fix whatever the problem happens to be.