How Does Fire Sprinkler Work? [Home Fire Safety Guide]

Two minutes.

This is all the time you have to safely escape from a home fire before it’s too late, according to the American Red Cross.

We all know the importance of proper fire safety practices to protect properties and people from potential fire hazards. Fire sprinkler systems are a simple, yet key component in the fire protection system of any building, whether it is residential or commercial.

How do fire sprinklers work, exactly? Learn more about this life-saving system in this blog. Keep reading below.

What is a Fire Sprinkler System?

Fire sprinklers are essential for both commercial and residential building safety.

The sprinkler is just a plug that holds water in a pipe similar to your other plumbing pipes.

Installed into ceilings or side walls, a fire sprinkler system consists of water supplies, a distribution piping system, and the fire sprinkler head. These components work together to automatically detect fires and suppress them, allowing for early intervention, while preventing flame spread.

Types of Fire Sprinkler Systems:

Wet Pipe System

Wet Pipe Systems are the most cost-effective and popular type of system found in residential and commercial properties. This features pipes filled with water that are then connected to nearby sprinkler heads for rapid response time when heat thresholds are met.

Dry Pipe Sprinkler System

Dry pipe systems work best in cold climates. They are filled with nitrogen or pressurized air that is connected to a storage tank. When a fire occurs, the air is released, allowing water to flow and reach the sprinkler heads.

Pre-action Sprinkler System

This type requires two-step activation. When heat or smoke is detected, a pre-action valve opens to let water into the pipes, and sprinkler heads can then be activated individually for the release of water.

These systems are frequently employed in facilities with high-value assets like museums, libraries, and offices where false alarms could cause severe water damage.

Deluge System

A deluge system stands apart from its counterparts by constantly opening its sprinkler heads. When heat or fire is detected via an alarm system, all sprinklers release water, releasing massive volumes.

Deluge systems are commonly found in industries with highly hazardous environments that could quickly lead to fire spread, such as chemical plants or power generation facilities.

fire sprinkler

How Does Fire Sprinkler Work?

Now, how do sprinkler fire systems work? Keep reading below to learn how they activate and put out fires during an emergency.


Each sprinkler head contains a thermally sensitive element. This element activates and releases water once temperatures reach between 135 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Note: Sprinklers respond only when present nearby fires require action.


Most fire sprinkler systems rely on heat sensing as their primary activation mechanism. As soon as a fire begins, its surrounding air heats up as quickly. This heat is detected by thermally sensitive elements in sprinkler heads which then releases water via sprinkler heads.

Fire Growth Control

The rate at which a fire spreads depends on many variables, including available fuel sources in a room and airflow conditions in its environment.

Modern construction materials and furnishings contribute to more intense fires that spread quickly. The automatic sprinklers’ quick response time is essential in controlling this fire from spreading beyond control.

How Do Fire Sprinklers Activate?

Commercial and home fire sprinklers are activated by a trigger located in the sprinkler head. A glass bulb filled with a liquid based on glycerin that expands upon exposure to heat. The trigger mechanism is activated once it reaches a certain temperature, usually around 155 degrees Fahrenheit.

This quick response ensures water is discharged quickly to control or put out the fire. Once released, water sprays in an orderly pattern that covers the area around the automatic sprinkler and stops the fire from spreading further.

How Do Fire Sprinklers Know When to Go Off?

Automatic sprinkler systems are activated solely by heat generated from fires; not fumes or smoke. The activation of fire sprinklers is solely based on the temperature rise caused by the fire.

Sprinklers work to extinguish fires quickly by responding to heat; by releasing water when truly necessary to contain and extinguish them as efficiently as possible.

[Also read: 5 Best Practices To Maintain Your Sprinkler System]

Benefits of Fire Sprinklers


Fire sprinklers have a proven track record of saving lives. Between 2015 and 2019, homes with sprinklers had 88% fewer deaths and 28% fewer injuries compared to homes without sprinklers in reported fire incidents, according to a report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

Property Protection

Sprinklers can significantly reduce property damage. The average property loss for each reported home fire was 62% lower compared to homes without automatic fire extinguishers.

They help contain the fire before it becomes uncontrollable, limiting the extent of damage to the building and its contents.

Early Fire Suppression

While smoke detectors and fire alarms provide early warnings, they can’t suppress or contain a fire. Fire sprinklers will spray water directly on the flames. They can extinguish the fire or reduce its spread until a fire department arrives.


Fire sprinkler systems are specifically designed to activate when there is an actual fire. With proper care and maintenance, their functionality should remain high and reliable enough to reduce risks of failure.

[Related: 3 Simple Steps for Fire Sprinkler Maintenance]

how does fire sprinkler work

Make Sure Your Fire Sprinklers Are Working Properly During an Emergency

Fire sprinkler systems play a critical role in fire safety by quickly detecting and suppressing fires. They are designed to respond automatically and effectively, safeguarding lives and minimizing property damage.

Note fire sprinklers work efficiently if regular inspections and proper maintenance are done. They must be inspected and tested annually by a licensed and qualified professional, following NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems.

You’ve only got two minutes to safely escape from a home fire. Make sure your fire protection systems are working properly to assist you.

Contact B&W Fire Security Systems for your fire safety systems installation, inspections, and repair needs!



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