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What Is A Clean Agent Fire Suppression System?

What Is A Clean Agent Fire Suppression System?

Fire suppression systems use various types of suppressing agents to extinguish fires. Many of these suppressing agents, however, cause damage to the equipment and assets they intended to protect.

Clean agent fire suppression systems were developed as a solution to this problem, protecting people and critical assets from fires without causing further damage to critical infrastructure.

What Are Clean Agent Systems?

Clean Agent Fire Suppression System

Clean agent systems were initially developed as an environmentally acceptable alternative to Halon agents, which are known to cause ozone damage. Since the new production of Halon agents have been discontinued, clean agent fire suppression systems have largely replaced Halon systems.

The NFPA 2001 defines a clean agent fire extinguishing system as an electronically non-conductive, volatile, or gaseous fire extinguishing agent that does not leave residue upon evaporation.

These extinguishing agents are called ‘clean’ because they are environmentally friendly with a low Global Warming Potential (GWP), safe to use in occupied spaces, leave no residue and require no clean-up after discharge.

How Do Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems Work?

When a fire suppression system is installed, cylinders containing the extinguishing agent are stored separate from the protected area. Specialised selector valve systems are designed to connect these cylinders to rooms throughout a facility via a distributed piping network with nozzles strategically placed across each protected room.

Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems Selector Valve

Once a fire is detected the extinguishing agent is directed to a particular zone and gets discharged as a gas, flooding and cooling an enclosure to extinguish the fire. Most clean agent fire suppression systems reach extinguishing concentration levels in just 10 seconds or less, offering a fast and effective response to fires. These systems aim to suppress and extinguish a fire during its early stages before the fire gets a chance to grow.

Clean agent fire suppression systems use gases that are safe for both humans and the environment. Unlike water, foam, dry chemical, and other suppressing agents, clean agent gas systems are able to extinguish fires without causing damage to assets and electronic equipment. These systems are electronically non-conductive, meaning they provide effective protection against electrical fires.

For more information on how clean agent fire suppression systems work, visit our How Does a Fire Suppression System Work blog.

The 3 Most Common Types Of Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems

The three main types of clean agent fire suppression systems are FM-200TM (HFC-227ea), 3M™ Novec™ 1230, and Inergen® Inert Gases. These clean agent systems are similar in many ways, however, there are key functional differences between each of them.

FM-200™ Clean Agent (HFC-227ea)

Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems HFC-227ea

The FM-200TM is a Heptafluoropropane (HFC-227ea) clean agent that is stored in cylinders as a pressurised liquid and discharged as a gas agent. It is a colourless, non-toxic gas that uses heat absorption to extinguish fires. The FM-200TM clean agent removes the heat element from a fire and is relatively safe to use in human-occupied spaces. 

However, the HFC-227ea gas agent has the highest Global Warming Potential (GWP) ratings out of the three main types of clean agents. Global Warming Potential (GWP) is a measure of the amount of greenhouse gas emitted that contributes towards global warming.

3M™ Novec™ 1230

Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems FK-5-1-12

The 3M™ Novec™ 1230 is a fluorinated ketone (FK-5-1-12) clean agent that is stored in cylinders as a liquid and discharged as a gas agent. Similar to the FM-200TM, the Novec™ 1230 is another colourless, non-toxic gas that uses heat absorption to extinguish fires. 

Both the Novec™ 1230 and the FM-200TM have a zero Ozone Depletion Potential, however, the Novec™ 1230 is considered to be the more environmentally friendly option with a significantly lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) and atmospheric lifetime.

Inergen® Inert Gas

Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems Inergen Inert Gas

Inergen® is a clean agent that consists of 3 inert gases – nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide. It is stored in cylinders as a gas and works by lowering the oxygen content in a room to a level low enough to suppress a fire, but high enough to support human breathing.

The Inergen® agent is considered to be the most environmentally friendly of the three clean agents, with zero Ozone Depletion Potential and zero Global Warming Potential. Once discharged, the inert gases return to the atmosphere in its natural state.

Inert gas fire suppression systems are therefore safe for humans and harmless to the environment.

Benefits of Clean Agent Systems

Clean agent fire suppression systems are proven to be effective in extinguishing Class A, B, and C fires. When used in total flooding applications, clean agent fire systems provide three-dimensional fire protection for enclosures or rooms, going under tables or into server cabinets to extinguish fires.

Clean agent fire suppression systems offer many benefits when compared to other types of fire suppression systems.

Safety

Clean agents are non-toxic and non-corrosive which means they are safe to use in rooms where people are present. Certain extinguishing agents, such as carbon dioxide, may cause suffocation, asphyxiation, and bodily harm to people exposed to the gas. Clean agent gases, on the other hand, can be discharged without harming people in the room.

No Clean-Up

Clean agent fire suppression systems leave no residue after use. Once discharged, the clean agent gas evaporates leaving no wastage behind. No costly cleanups are required, making it easy for your business to resume operations.

Damage Limitation

Certain extinguishing agents, such as water, foam, and dry chemical powder, often damage the assets they are intended to protect. Mechanical equipment, electronics, paper documents, perishable goods, and irreplaceable collectibles are all examples of items that can be destroyed when the wrong extinguishing agent is used.

Since clean agent systems use gas agents to suppress fires, they are safe to use in application with electronics, sensitive technology, and high-value assets. Typical applications include server rooms, data centres, warehouses, industrial facilities, laboratories, medical facilities, museums, libraries, record repositories and archives.

Clean agent fire suppression systems react to fires within seconds of detection. It aims to extinguish fires during the fire’s early stages of growth, limiting fire damage to only a small area.

Environmentally Friendly

While various fire suppression agents are great for extinguishing fires, many of them cause environmental damage. Clean agents, however, distinguish themselves as a more environmentally friendly option compared to other extinguishing agents.

Clean agent fire suppression systems have zero Ozone Depletion Potential, meaning that these systems do not destroy the earth’s ozone layer when discharged. Most clean agents have a short atmospheric lifetime and dissipate quickly without polluting the environment.

FST Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems

Clean agent fire suppression systems provide a reliable and sustainable fire protection solution for commercial facilities.

FST are specialists in supplying and maintaining fire suppression systems suited to your unique fire protection needs. Contact Us for expert advice on clean agent fire suppression systems that simultaneously protects people, the planet, and valuable assets.

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