by Grant Lobdell

The 2020 edition of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, has been out for some time now.  While most jurisdictions have yet to adopt this edition, it is still important to recognize and understand the changes made in this revision regarding the frequency of field sprinkler testing.

Dry Sprinklers

In previous editions of NFPA 25, dry sprinklers were expected to be replaced or tested 10 years after installation.  If the sprinklers were tested in lieu of replacement and were found to still have adequate performance, they could be left in service but they would then need to be tested again every 10 years thereafter. 

In the 2020 edition of NFPA 25, dry sprinklers do not need to be replaced or tested until 15 years after installation.  If the sprinklers are tested in lieu of replacement and are found to still have adequate performance, they can be left in service, but they must be tested again every 10 years thereafter. 

Why is the 2020 edition of NFPA 25 now allowing dry sprinklers to be in service an additional 5 years before testing?  The testing intervals are based on field service test data.  If data suggests a high rate of failure after a given amount of time, the frequency may be increased to help identify issues sooner.  If data suggests a low rate of failure after a given amount of time, the frequency may be decreased to avoid unnecessary testing costs.  The dry sprinkler testing frequency was moved from 10 years to 15 years in the 2020 revision due to field sprinkler data suggesting the failure rate after just 10 years is now quite low.

Why has the failure rate of a 10-year-old dry sprinklers decreased?  Previously, the dry sprinkler failure rate was quite high due to the prevalence of the O-ring water seal design.  Due to the increased failure rates of this design, O-ring sprinklers have not been listed at UL LLC in over 15 years.  With the number of dry sprinklers in service that feature the O-ring water seal design decreasing every year, the failure rate has also drastically decreased.

Listed Corrosion-Resistant Sprinklers in Harsh Environments

In previous editions of NFPA 25, any sprinklers exposed to a harsh environment were expected to be replaced or tested 5 years after installation.  If the sprinklers were tested in lieu of replacement and were found to still have adequate performance, they could be left in service but they would then need to be tested again every 5 years thereafter. 

In the 2020 edition of NFPA 25, listed corrosion-resistant sprinklers in harsh environments are specifically called out as not needing to be replaced or tested until 10 years after installation.  If the sprinklers are tested in lieu of replacement and are found to still have adequate performance, they can be left in service, but they must be tested again every 10 years thereafter.  Any sprinkler that is NOT listed as corrosion-resistant must still be tested every 5 years.

Why is the 2020 edition of NFPA 25 now allowing listed corrosion-resistant sprinklers in harsh environments to be in service an additional 5 years before testing?  The previous language treated all sprinklers in harsh environments the same.  However, if you are to invest more money up front into a listed corrosion-resistant sprinkler, you should expect such a sprinkler would have a longer lifespan.

If you have any questions regarding this article, please contact Dyne Fire Protection Labs at lab@dyneusa.com or (800) 632-2304.

©Dyne Fire Protection Labs 2020

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