There are three ingredients needed to create fire: heat, fuel, and oxygen. Heat starts a fire, and when it is added to fuel, it maintains fire. Fuel is anything combustible, but the drier it is, the better it burns. Oxygen provides support for the other two ingredients to continue to burn. When oxygen from the air interacts with burning fuel, it creates smoke, gases, and embers.
So, what happens when CO2, or carbon dioxide, enters the equation? When added to the three ingredients used to make a fire, carbon dioxide separates oxygen from fuel. It essentially eliminates the oxygen element, and the fire burns out.
Fire extinguishers hold CO2, and when released, it is cold, adding a cooling down effect to the fuel. The same is true for all CO2 fire suppression systems.
What is a CO2 Fire Suppression System?
Fire extinguishers are great for small fires in residences or offices. Sprinkler systems work well for larger buildings. But some environments require a much more sophisticated system that detects a fire and eliminates the fire without human involvement.
CO2 fire suppressions systems are the right choice since they utilize control panels that constantly monitor for signs of fire. As soon as it senses a fire, the system releases carbon dioxide into the room. The gas covers the entire room, and because gases are invisible and odorless, people can return to the area immediately following the release of carbon dioxide.
How a CO2 Fire Suppression System Works
CO2 fire suppression systems are equipped with heat detectors. When they sense heat that could be related to fire, an alarm triggers. This alarm is an alert that action is needed immediately. Fire suppression systems can be activated manually or automatically.
If the system is automatic, it will release carbon dioxide into the room as soon as it senses a fire. If the system is manual, someone who has extensive training on how to use it will manually activate the release of CO2 or cancel the alarm based on their assessment of the room.
Benefits of CO2 Fire Suppression Systems
Multiple suppressing agents can be used when extinguishing a fire. Carbon dioxide is the choice of many because of the following benefits:
- It is fast-acting. A CO2 suppression system detects fires in the very early stages. It activates quickly to put out a fire before it can cause too much damage.
- Range of Uses. CO2 can put out a fire on many different types of flammable materials.
- Invisibility. CO2 is odorless and colorless. When used, it does not coat the room with a film or residue. You can move back into the room soon after the fire is extinguished.
- Waterless. With sprinkler systems, everything in the room has a chance to be ruined by water. Replacing carpets, computers, lab equipment, papers, tools, and more are costly. CO2 suppression systems do not damage anything in the room.
- Eco-friendly. Carbon dioxide is not harmful to the environment.
Where Should CO2 Suppression Systems Be Installed?
Work environments where few or no employees work are typically the spaces where CO2 fire suppression systems are installed. Examples include generator rooms, electrical panels, large machine storage, power stations, and anywhere flammable materials are stored.
CO2 suppression systems are rarely used in areas where employees work because CO2 can be dangerous for humans at certain levels, with a minimum of 7.5%. At this percentage, CO2 can be fatal to humans. Even though most suppression systems release CO2 at 34%, there can still be risks.
Safety Devices on CO2 Suppression Systems
All fire suppression systems are required to have life safety devices to protect humans from exposure. The CO2 suppression system has multiple life safety devices. One is the pneumatic time delay device, which delays the release of CO2 by up to 60 seconds. This gives employees additional time to leave the area.
Another safety device is the pneumatic siren. When the time delay device is activated, an alarm sounds at the same time. The siren continues to go off until all the CO2 is discharged.
The pneumatic wintergreen odorizer is a device that releases the scent of wintergreen when CO2 is discharged. Because CO2 has no smell or color, this can be a lifesaver. Warning signs are posted in every area affected by the fire suppression system. Safety maintenance switches allow manual disabling of the system. Finally, the supervised lockout valve prevents accidental discharge of CO2 when performing testing and maintenance.
Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance
Testing and maintenance of CO2 fire suppression systems are necessary to ensure the system is functioning correctly. Recording and documenting every step of the process must be done. It should include the date, time, and person doing the inspecting.
The inspection ensures the system meets standards to ensure it is located in the right place, is easily accessible, gauges are working, and check the CO2 levels, refilling if needed. Their signature and confirmation of the equipment passed are required. If the system does not pass inspection, you must do whatever it takes to bring it up to code or purchase a new one.
Maintenance checks help pass inspections because you can perform repairs, if needed, before the inspection. You have the ongoing assistance of a certified inspector who can go over all the mechanical parts, physical condition, CO2 levels, and if the release is functioning. Maintenance is a check-up for the internal and external components.
Finding the Right Fire Suppression System
You can find the right fire suppression system by finding the right fire protection company. Look for certified and approved technicians by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the State Fire Marshall, and local fire departments.
Services provided will comply with NFPA regulations and offer installation, inspection, semi-annual testing and maintenance, record keeping, and training and education for personnel as required by the regulations.
Choosing the right company means you build a long-term relationship with the people who can keep your employees and your equipment safe.