Innovative Alternative For Internal Pipe Assessments

Automatic sprinkler systems have a phenomenal record for saving lives and reducing property damage—when they’re active. In order to confirm that the piping network associated with sprinkler systems has not become compromised due to corrosion (MIC), NFPA 25, Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, requires that the internal condition of sprinkler system piping be assessed every five years. MIC bacteria have been reported to be extremely aggressive, with corrosion rates recorded as high as 20 to 100 mils per year (MPY). This makes the integrity of four-inch (schedule 40) pipe subject to failure within one year. What about the risk to the popular thin-walled (schedule-10) pipe? Neither is a long-term asset if MIC is not identified and controlled.

This assessment, not to be confused with an obstruction investigation, historically has been conducted by draining the system, disconnecting pipes and fittings, and physically looking inside the system. This is still the most common method for conducting the five-year internal assessment, but it also requires the system (or at least a portion of it) to be out of service for a period time. For larger facilities or high-rise buildings with multiple systems, this can mean several days (and in some cases weeks) of downtime for their sprinkler systems. In many cases, shutting down the sprinkler systems means that day-to-day business operations must be halted or modified due to system shutdown. This can be costly from both a financial and a productivity perspective and is untenable to many owners and facility managers.

“…This can mean several days (and in some cases weeks) of downtime for their sprinkler systems.”

Why do I need a 5-year fire sprinkler inspection?

Property managers keep their fire sprinkler systems working optimally in the long term because of NFPA 25’s 5-year inspection requirement.  This inspection goes beyond the systems, valves, and piping and goes internal.  This inspection is especially important because, although a fire sprinkler system failure is rare, when it does occur, it is often associated with a blockage in the system.  Materials blocking the fire sprinkler piping can cause either no water or insufficient water when a fire sprinkler activates during a fire. The 5-year inspection is the only inspection that ensures there are no blockages in the system, so water flows with the correct pressure.

Alternative Pulse Echo Ultrasonic Technology

As identified in A.14.2.1 of NFPA 25, though, draining the system and opening a flushing connection is not the only means for conducting the internal assessment. This section specifically states that nondestructive or noninvasive methods for conducting the assessment are permitted.

One such nondestructive approach involves the use of ultrasound, or ultrasonic technology. This technology allows an assessment to be performed without shutting down the system as the testing is being conducted. By applying ultrasonic transducers to the pipe’s exterior surface, internal conditions can be identified quickly and accurately. Pulse echo and guided wave technology are two types of ultrasound that have been used in the sprinkler industry for years with great success.Pulse echo ultrasonic technology works by measuring the amount of time it takes for an ultrasonic straight beam signal to travel through the wall of the pipe and reflect off the back wall, resulting in a “remaining wall thickness” measured down to 1/1000th of an inch.

Both technologies allow technicians to obtain an instantaneous understanding of the internal condition of a segment of pipe. This allows for dozens of pipe segments to be analyzed in the time it would normally take to look at only a handful of segments. It also allows facility managers to reduce operational downtime and maintain the facility’s normal operating schedule.

While draining the system and looking inside the pipe has remained an industry staple for conducting internal assessments, it is not the only recognized approach. For facilities that are sensitive to downtime or the potential for water damage, such as hospitals, data centers, and production facilities, alternative assessment methods may be a better fit and tell a more complete picture for the facility manager.

CertiPro Fire and Life Safety Now Uses This Innovative Technology for 5 Year Internal Piping Assessment

Our Partners At Sonic Inspection Corporation Bring A Patented,
Non-Invasive Fire Suppression System Inspection

Sonic Inspection is a non-invasive fire suppression inspection company that began its journey in 2004. Their goal is to bring an advanced technology into the fire suppression industry. Many aspects of the fire suppression industry have been improved these innovative technological advancements, but the fire sprinkler pipe inspection solutions have remained the same.

For years, the industry has relied on invasive and time-consuming techniques to inspect and assess the internal condition of fire sprinkler pipe. Conventional methods of fire sprinkler pipe inspection required shutting down the entire fire suppression system, draining (part or all) of the system, physically cutting open the pipe in multiple locations, visually inspecting the pipe, and finally, sealing or closing the pipe system in multiple locations. This invasive technique causes disruption to business operations and system down time resulting in additional cost.

Advancements in scanning technologies have found applications in the fire suppression industry. These innovative techniques for inspecting and assessing the internal condition of fire sprinkler pipes results in precise analytical data of the fire suppression system with no operational down time and no destructive measures. These new proprietary ultrasonic scanning methods have forever changed the way fire sprinkler pipe systems will be inspected and assessed.

Our patented Guided Wrap Wave Ultrasonic (GWWU) technology is the only technology used for scanning fire suppression systems. This technology assesses the internal condition of the pipe without the hassle and risk of invasive practices. We can assess wet, dry, deluge, anti- freeze, pre-action, and/or any systems fabricated in carbon steel or galvanized steel. By using lamb waves that propagate around the circumference of the pipe we can detect corrosion, MIC, air pockets (in wet systems), wet pockets (in dry systems), ice plugs, wall loss/degradation, remaining wall thickness, and obstructions.

In 2013, Sonic Inspections met with Mathew Klaus, Editor and Principal Chief Fire Protection Engineer of NFPA 25 Water Based Fire Protection Handbook, to review our technology. By 2014 Sonic Inspection’s technology was added to the code as an acceptable means of inspecting fire sprinkler pipe. Spending an afternoon with him lead to us being approved and published in NFPA 25. Sonic Inspection offers solutions that are unmatched. Our client base includes facilities within DOD, DOE, public school districts, semi-conductor companies, data centers, universities, hospitals, as well as buildings and warehouses across a variety of markets and industries. There is no fire suppression system too small or too large for the technology.

Today, they are nationally and internationally recognized for maximizing the in-service life of fire suppression systems and preventing unwarranted system replacement by offering industry leading non-invasive fire suppression system inspection solutions that save businesses thousands of dollars in capital assets.They are grateful for their past and eager for their future. Their hearts and ongoing efforts are to save lives and property through innovation.

Save Yourself the Hassle. Call Us Today.

If you need expert professional fire sprinkler system service in Arizona, connect with CertiPro Fire & Life Safety. Our technicians have extensive experience in performing complete assessments on-site, and we have the expertise needed to recommend the ideal system that suits your property’s needs as well as your budget. We also provide installations in existing systems, inspection, maintenance and repair services whenever needed.

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