Top Tech of 2020

Sprinkler Age Highlights New Innovative Products

Innovation, resilience, creativity—among other things—are just some of the things 2020 has taught us. It hasn’t been easy for everyone, but among all the challenges, there have also been many things worth celebrating. In an industry like fire protection, which is laser-focused on saving lives and property, the pandemic has spurred us to be more agile, more creative, and more inventive than before. Over the last ten months, the pandemic has accelerated plans for innovation and transformation and changed the future of work forever—from the world’s largest and most powerful organizations to small businesses and individuals. For many, their work may have looked different, but it never slowed or stopped.

Despite being full of challenges, the year 2020 hasn’t been without some silver linings. Sprinkler Age celebrates 2020 and the following technical innovations as we take an outside-in look at some groundbreaking products from the members of the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA). Here’s a list, in no order, of some products we enjoyed in 2020, and we hope they may help guide the industry to new heights in the—hopefully, very near—future.

Smart Connected Fire Sprinkler Monitoring

In November 2020, Johnson Controls launched its Smart Connected Fire Sprinkler Monitoring solution, said to be an industry-first solution that delivers real-time insights into fire sprinkler system health to enable swift preventative action. The solution empowers building managers to transform their maintenance strategies from reactive to proactive, helping to prevent costly and dangerous equipment failures before they occur, according to the company. Leveraging monitoring, sensor and data transfer technology, the Smart Connected Fire Sprinkler Monitoring solution continuously gathers information, such as pressure, temperature, and water presence, to measure the overall health of the sprinkler system. This information is relayed to the customer dashboard via the cloud. When collected data indicates a potential adverse system condition, such as freezing pipes, pressure imbalances or pipe leaks, a proactive notification is automatically sent to the building manager, who can then quickly address the issue.

High Expansion Foam Systems

Viking’s UL Listed high-expansion foam systems feature an innovative foam generator, uniquely designed to aerate high-expansion foam with no moving parts or external power requirements. By eliminating the moving parts, these foam generators have lower deterioration, which greatly reduces long-term maintenance. The new systems form a stable blanket that suppresses flammable vapors and cools down the fuel surface, resulting in an extinguished fire and preventing re-ignition. The system features stable bubbles with expansion rates in excess of 830:1. The generators weigh just 153 lbs and are available for either vertical or horizontal installation with single or paired mounting capabilities.

The systems are complemented by the new “HiEx Estimator” tool, which assists with calculating the number of generators and amount of concentrate needed for NFPA 409 and UFC projects. From the web-based tool, users can quickly create a complete system materials list after choosing the applicable design. In addition, an online interactive guide provides step-by-step instructions for the installation of high-
expansion foam generators.

Model AH42 and AH56 Attic Sprinklers

Reliable Attic Sprinklers are cULus Listed specific application sprinklers and are now available for use in hip roofs with coverage areas of 10 ft by 15 ft. These sprinklers are available for protection of combustible and non-combustible light hazard concealed spaces with roof/ceiling slopes of 4:12 to 8:12. Reliable attic sprinklers are upright sprinklers listed for use on wet-pipe or dry-pipe sprinkler systems. All Reliable attic sprinklers use a 212°F (100°C) temperature-rated fusible link operating element that is Listed for installation where the maximum ceiling temperature is up to 150°F (66°C).

VicFlex Style AB6 

Specifically designed to streamline fire protection installations for the cold storage industry, Victaulic’s VicFlex Style AB6 bracket offers fitters a quick and easy off-the-truck flexible solution that adjusts to any ceiling or wall thickness. The bracket is available for order with the V33, V36, or V40 dry sprinkler and the Series AH2-CC or Series AH2 braided hose. The industry-leading seal integrity stays intact, reducing the risk of condensation impeding the system. Optimized for cold storage applications, the bracket is available with pendent, concealed, and horizontal sidewall deflector styles and available pendent interchangeable escutcheons include recessed, sleeve and skirt, and flush. The maximum working pressure is rated at 175 psi/1375 kPa. The standard maximum working temperature is 150°F/65°C (EPDM/neoprene foam). An optional high-maximum working temperature is available and rated at 225°F/107°C (silicone closed-cell foam).

Self-Maintaining and Automatic Auxiliary Drains with Freeze Protection 

AGF introduced two new heated auxiliary drain cabinets into their COLLECTanDRAIN line. Their original Model 5400 features an auxiliary drain in a heated and locked cabinet with integrated NFPA 25 signage. An energy-efficient heater keeps the cabinet above freezing to prevent tripped systems due to frozen drum drips. A float switch triggers a visual, auditory, and remote notification when the drain is full and needs service. The new cabinets feature the same benefits as the Model 5400 with the addition of automatic draining. The Model 5450 is a self-maintaining auxiliary drain that sheds excess condensation to keep the condensate level within the safety of the heated cabinet. Model 5500 is a fully automatic auxiliary drain. A local or remote button can trigger the automatic draining process when the drain is full, or the fully automatic mode can start the draining cycle automatically.

freezemaster Antifreeze

New and existing fire sprinkler systems now have protection against costly corrosion and severe cold with a new UL-listed, factory premixed antifreeze that remains in a protective liquid state down to -12°F (-24°C), the lowest temperature of any listed antifreeze. freezemaster™ antifreeze offers breakthrough corrosion performance beyond what UL requires and superior to listed alternatives, including guarding against microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC). It’s formulated to meet NFPA requirements for all new fire sprinkler systems now and all existing systems by September 30, 2022, including at volumes up to 500 gallons for NFPA 13 and 13R unoccupied light hazard attics versus listed alternatives limited to 40 gallons,* and results in a lower total cost of ownership than other commercially available freeze protection methods.

freezemaster™ antifreeze is a patent-pending technology developed and engineered in America by Lubrizol Advanced Materials, a specialty chemical company with a 30-year history. (*Refer to the installation guide for design parameters and listing limitations.)

Victaulic Series Universal Manifold Check

The Victaulic Series UMC Universal Manifold Check can cut installation time of floor control and shotgun riser assemblies up to 50 percent. The Victaulic Series UMC is available in many configurations, allowing you to order the type that meets your specific needs—and eliminates the need to order separate riser manifolds and control, check, and relief valve kits. It integrates all necessary components into a single assembly—resulting in the industry’s most compact footprint. It also includes a UL listed and FM approved adjustable relief valve that can be set to > 200 PSI test without removal. The Victaulic Series QD Quick Drain, a Series UMC accessory, can save half the time of traditional hard piped drains, allowing for faster installations and lower installed costs.

VK4621 Concealed Pendent Sprinkler

Viking’s VK4621 5.6 K-factor concealed pendent sprinkler allows sprinkler contractors to install it with its protective cap in place! The new commercial sprinkler is designed for installation on concealed pipe systems where the appearance of a smooth ceiling is desired. Along with the new sprinkler, Viking offers an innovative installation wrench to make the process a breeze. The new plastic wrench allows for installation with the protective cap in place, minimizing damage to the sprinkler during installation. The protective cap is designed to withstand rough usage and protects the sprinkler from overspray. Viking also offers a cap removal tool to complete the installation.

The VK4621 is cULus Listed as a quick response sprinkler and FM Approved as a standard response sprinkler. Also available is the UL Listed and FM Approved VK4921, a standard response 5.6 K-factor concealed pendent sprinkler. The sprinklers are available in brass and Electroless Nickel PTFE (ENT) and can be ordered in 155°F (68°C), 175°F (79°C), and 200°F (93°C) temperature ratings.

Ultra SprinkFLEX® Hose, IPT Bracket 

Anvil International’s new Ultra SprinkFLEX® Hose combined with the SprinkFLEX Infinite Position Tall (IPT) bracket provides versatility for fire sprinkler connections in the industry. The Ultra SprinkFLEX fully braided hose is UL listed with a 2-in. bend radius, making it the most flexible hose in the SprinkFLEX line. With a 1-in. inner diameter and three-piece construction, the Ultra SprinkFLEX hose installs quickly and can accommodate pendant, semi-recessed, and concealed sprinkler heads.

The SprinkFLEX IPT bracket ships with pre-installed mounting screws and allows for easy positioning of the sprinkler drop by sliding the open hub anywhere along the center bar. The flexibility of the hose and repositionable open hub on the IPT bracket combine to allow the most adaptable fire sprinkler connection while maintaining exceptional flow characteristics. The tall bracket and variety of drop accessories compatible with the Ultra SprinkFLEX hose ensure installation at proper height with the ceiling tile without requiring tiles to be installed before the drop, preserving the install schedule, saving time and labor. Ultra SprinkFLEX is cULus listed, FM approved, complies with NFPA 13, and meets ASTM C635 and C636 standards.

ESFR-34 Pendent Storage Sprinkler

The Tyco® Model ESFR-34 Pendent Storage Sprinkler provides the tallest ceiling-only fire protection and narrowest aisle width currently available. This early suppression, fast response sprinkler helps protect storage arrangements of 50 ft with a ceiling height up to 55 ft and aisle widths as narrow as 6 ft. It can be installed with a maximum element-to-ceiling distance of 17 in., the farthest distance in the industry. These features make the ESFR-34 Pendent Sprinkler suitable for warehouse and storage operations seeking design flexibility for increased storage. 

With a nominal K-Factor of 33.6, the ESFR-34 sprinkler is especially advantageous as a means of eliminating the use of an in-rack sprinkler system when protecting high-piled storage. The sprinkler uses a fast-response fusible link available in both 165°F and 212°F and is approved for Class I-IV commodities and cartoned unexpanded plastics stored in single or double row racks. 

Corrosion Resistant VSR Flowswitch

Potter’s VSR-CR Flowswitch is UL and ULC listed and rated NEMA 4X to withstand corrosive environments for long periods of time with minimal corrosion damage. Thanks to its corrosion-resistant saddle and housing, the VSR-CR can monitor systems that are exposed to nature’s elements without fear of damage or inoperability. Potter’s product line of corrosion-resistant monitoring switches also includes the OSYSU-CRH and PCVS-CRH which monitor outside screw and yoke valves and control valves respectively.

Wrench-able Caps for Flat Plate Concealed Sprinklers

Introducing the new wrench-able protective cap for Reliable flat plate concealed sprinklers—for use with the new W3 wrench on Reliable G5, RFC, and LT56C sprinklers. Using the model W3 wrench, Reliable’s concealed sprinklers are easy install with the wrench-able protective cap. The caps project beyond sprinkler cup and are angled out to help avoid damaging ceiling finish. The cap is colored to indicates sprinkler temperature rating and can be removed with a standard 1/2-in. NPT- or BSPT-threaded adapter on pipe.

Architectural Powdercoat 

Bull Moose Tube Company’s fire sprinkler pipe architectural powdercoat finish comes in four standard colors—red, yellow, blue, and orange, as well as custom colors. Matching touchup paint in aerosol cans is available for welds, weld-o-lets, and general touchup.  This can also be supplied on hot-dip galvanized sprinkler pipe.

Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021

As the pandemic accelerated innovation, employees prioritized their pursuit of passion, the retooling of products and services, and retraining for the future of work. Amid the challenges of 2020, there are reasons to be optimistic heading into the new year. For some, it may still feel like we’re still amid the pandemic, and at least for the first few months of 2021, things will probably look a lot like they did in 2020. But finally, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. We can take on 2021 together and meet it head on—with innovation and grit.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nicole Duvall, MBA, is the director of communications & social media at the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA), where she focuses on publishing its official communications. She currently serves as the AFSA staff liaison to the Public Education & Awareness Committee, Manufacturers & Suppliers Council, and the NextGen Initiative. She is also a member of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition board of directors. Duvall is a graduate from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, with a degree in Journalism and holds an MBA from The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.


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