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What’s Inside Your Piping is Just as Important as the Outside

Published June 10, 2019

What’s Inside Your Piping is Just as Important as the Outside

There is a simple reason why the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) requires a full internal piping and obstruction inspection every five years. This is the optimal time to test your fire system to make sure in the event it is needed it operates to full capacity.

Even with the best materials used in the installation process, it is possible for internal corrosion and damage to occur. This may not be visible on the outside of the pipes, but in the event the sprinkler system was needed, there may be limited flow through the system or even leaks and pressure loss throughout the lines, resulting in limited if any water available through the sprinkler heads.

The required 5-year inspection includes several different inspections. The good news is that with routine maintenance of the system, there is a limited risk that anything will be found as problematic. However, if it is, it can be replaced or corrected immediately, ensuring your fire sprinkler system is always ready to perform to maximum potential in the event of a fire in the building or facility.

The Inspection

The inspection process starts with the basics. As with any type of system, starting from the location that is farthest away from the water inlet is the most effective option. During the 5-year inspection, the initial assessment includes the inspector opening the flushing connection, which is located at the main ends of the system.

In addition, a sprinkler head is also removed from the branch lines, the smaller lines that run off of the main to different rooms or areas of the building or facility. If the water is running freely and clear at these ends, the rest of the system is free from problems.

However, if there is any type of sludge, organic material, inorganic material, or other types of debris found at these ends, the rest of the system needs to be fully inspected.

The most common types of materials found at the water coming out of these ends include rust flakes or pieces, slime or sludge and other types of organic material. The organic material is linked to MIC or microbiologically influenced corrosion, which can be very damaging to piping, components, and parts throughout the system.

The additional inspection if these types of materials are found in the water, checks four additional points. These include a branch line, cross main, riser, and a system valve. When any type of material or obstruction is found in these locations, the entire system will be flushed to remove any material from the system.

Flushing is a relatively simple process and can be easily completed. If there are parts or system components that are found to be damaged, they can also be replaced at this time.