Halon System Upgrades

Posted by ORR Protection on Feb 15, 2021 9:51:52 AM

VP of Sales, Bryan Wilburn discusses the features, benefits, & safety of Halon 1301 as well as its availability and when you should consider replacing your Halon 1301 system.


Video Transcript:

Hello everyone, I'm Brian Wilburn and today I'm going to be sharing with you a little bit about the availability of Halon 1301 and when you should consider replacing your Halon 1301 system. When I first got started in the fire protection business 27 years ago this was a product that was being phased out and a new product was emerging onto the scene to replace Halon 1301 called FM 200. For me, Halon 1301 is what I learned about when I first came to ORR and it became very dear to me because all of our customers had this product. So I have a passion about Halon 1301, because this is where my career began. I enjoy talking about it and I enjoy explaining the benefits that Halon has provided for so many years and continues today. For today's agenda, I'm going to be covering the following topics and questions that will help you plan to potential next steps about your Halon 1301.

So one of the questions that we'll talk about is what is Halon 1301 and what are some of the benefits the business provided. Some of you have not been around long enough when Halon 1301 first emerged onto the scene. And I want to share with you some of the benefits of why it was actually used. I can recall when I first came to ORR 27 years ago, people would always talk about the good old Halon days. I don't know what those days were like, but every time I hear someone say that I recognize that that was a memorable timeframe in their life. And then another thing I want to talk to you today about is the safety concern centered around Halon 1301. I've heard many people say that Halon 1301 will kill you. And I want to go over some misconceptions about that particular topic.

The other thing I want to share with you today is Halon is still being used and is it being used for the right application? If you have a Halon system today and it discharges, how do you handle that particular situation? Is there a mandate to replace your Halon 1301 or not due to the supply and demand? I also want to share with you the current market values for Halon 1301 and make you well aware of some financial scenarios to help you understand what the costs are, if you were to experience a discharge and also to make you understand what the value of your Halon is today. I want to answer the question that if you were to also consider replacing your Halon 1301 system, recognizing that this is protecting probably a mission critical space, you know, will you experience any type of downtime of suppression protection and what alternatives you may have? And lastly, I want to share with you what has replaced Halon 1301 in the marketplace today?

So what is Halon 1301?  It's also known as bromotrifluoromethane. NFPA defines a clean agent as an electrically, non conducting volatile or gaseous fire extinguishant that does not leave a upon evaporation. By definition, Halon 1301 meets that requirement. It's a fire suppression gaseous agent that's been used for over 50 years in various applications that's stored as a liquid under dry nitrogen pressure. And upon discharge, it stops the spread of a fire by chemically disrupting the combustion between the fuel source, oxygen, and actually heat. Areas that contained Halon 1301 were typically found in spaces that would consist of computer rooms, museums, telecommunication, switching rooms, including aircraft aviation, and also the military. Generally you typically saw Halon being installed in areas where one did not want to use water as its primary means of fire suppression. So now I want to talk to you about some of the benefits. The reason that this particular agent was so widely used and so accepted because of its ability to penetrate tight spaces upon a discharge. It was released as a gas, it could spread quickly throughout a given volume of a room. It also had the ability to extinguish a fire fast by being discharged within 10 seconds. It was non-conductive. It would not leave any type of residue. And most importantly, it was actually safe for human occupancy. When the system was actually designed at proper design concentration requirements.

So one of the questions I've heard out there in the market space is how safe is Halon 1301? The misconception about the safety of Halon 1301 is that it removed the oxygen from the space. However, the agent, when discharged, it chemically reacted to disrupt the conduction of the fire triangle, oxygen, fuel, and the ignition source. And therefore it does not remove the oxygen from the air, therefore allowing it to be safe, to be occupied in that particular space. There's been extensive toxicity evaluations that have compiled by nationally recognized medical laboratories within the United States and institutions on Halon 1301. And these evaluations have shown that Halon 1301 is one of the safest clean agent extinguishing agents still available today. So one of the questions is why can't we use Halon anymore? Because Halon is a CFC, the production of any new Halon ceased on January 1st of 1994, under the Clean Air Act to follow the Montreal Protocol Act pertaining to substances contributed to the depletion of the ozone layer. This means that all of the Halon available today for purchase is only available in a recycled state. So if you currently have a Halon 1301 fire suppression system in the United States, it is still legal to use that system for protecting your critical spaces but it's also equally important to note that you must have it maintained by a qualified fire protection company in accordance with NFPA 12 guidelines.

So what if my Halon 1301 system discharges, what happens next? So if your Halon system experiences a discharge, whether inadvertently, whether through something malicious, it's still legal to purchase and use recycled Halon 1301 to refill your system. However, due to the age of some of the Halon 1301 systems that are still in operation, there could be a chance that the reconditioning kits, the O-rings to recondition that cylinder may not be available, potentially leaving your space unprotected for an unexpected period of downtime. That's why it's so important that you discuss this with your local fire protection provider, who can advise you if your Halon cylinders are still supported, should you experience a discharge. I will provide my contact information at the end of the presentation for you to send me photos or email me part numbers off your Halon cylinders and I can advise you if those particular cylinders are still supported for reconditioning and refill or not.

And due to the current supply and demand of Halon 1301, the cost to recharge the Halon 1301 system today is at an all time record of cost per pound. So do I have to replace my Halon 1301 system today? Currently there's no law or legislations that you must replace your Halon 1301 system today, but the EPA recommends replacing your Halon 1301 with an environmentally safe alternative agent sooner than later. The challenge is the limited available parts to recharge those older style cylinders, not the ability to get Halon 1301. So as with the cost to replenish your Halon 1301, should you experience a discharge, the buyback value of a Halon 1301 is also at an all time record high. Halon reclaimers are paying top dollar for your Halon 1301, which can be used to help offset the cost to replace and retrofit your current system today. So if you've been putting off upgrading or replacing your Halon 1301 system now is the time to consider replacing your Halon 1301 with an alternative clean agent, such as FM 200, ECARO 25 or Novec 1230, just to name a few.

So let's walk through a specific example here of what a Halon system retrofit potentially may look like. So let's pretend you have a Halon 1301 system that has 500 pounds of gas protecting that volume of space. Essentially you have two options. One you can retrofit to a new clean agent or two, you can leave your Halon in place since it's okay to leave that system in place. If you retrofit to FM 200, let's assume you'll need approximately 750 pounds of FM 200 to protect that same volume. Now let's assume it will cost you approximately $50,000 to outfit that space with FM 200 where we're only upgrading the Halon 1301 gas and cylinders, leaving your detection and control equipment in place. The 500 pounds of Halon 1301 could be used towards the cost of retrofit. Assuming an average of $20 a pound for our example, would equate to $10,000 credit towards the purchase of your retrofit. So now let's look at a second option. Let's look at the option of if I leave my Halon in place. So if you choose to leave your Halon 1301 in place as is, again, depending on the age of your cylinders, you're at risk of the agent leaking or even worse accidentally discharging or having a disgruntled associate maliciously discharge the system by activating a manual release station. When that happens, two things now come into consideration. Number one, you've lost out on the potential value of that gas. In our example, here, $10,000 that could have been used towards the retrofitting of your current system.

Secondly, if you can still support the recharge of your cylinders by getting the reconditioning parts, the cost to refill the 500 pounds of Halon could cost you in excess of $25 - $30,000 or even more. So I can recall a customer of mine that had taken his son to his telecommunication switching facility over a holiday weekend several years ago. His office happened to be next to a gas protected space, totaling about 1200 pounds of agent that happened to have a manual release station in his office. And while in his office, for whatever reason, the dad started bouncing a tennis ball on the floor, bouncing it on the floor, hitting the wall and coming back to him. And he was doing that several times, coming back to him back and forth. It just so happens that the wall that he was bouncing, the tennis ball on was the same wall that the manual pull station was actually located on. Well, guess what happened? Yeah. You guessed it, the ball ricocheted and hit that manual release station and discharged 1200 pounds of gas. He called us in a frenzy and we were able to get his system back online, but I share that story only because accidents happen. And with the value of Halon at an all time high right now, we're strongly urging you to consider replacing your Halon's 1301 system with a new clean agent system and take advantage of the potential buyback value in savings toward a new system. If I choose to replace my Halon 1301 system, will I experience any type of downtime? And I will say, as with any retrofit and depending on the size of your system, there could be a period where you would not have gas suppression protection. However, your system could be configured to where you could have smoke detection as a means of protecting your space during your retrofit. The goal with any retrofit modification or expansion is to minimize downtime and disruption as effortlessly as possible.

So what has replaced Halon 1301 since the early nineties? Agents such as FM 200, ECARO 25, and Novec 1230 are some halocarbons. And FM 200 was the first clean agent gas that emerged onto the scene that was pronounced by the EPA on their snap list, which is this significant new alternatives policy list, as the most accepted proposed agent to replace Halon 1301. Novec 1230 is an agent that's manufactured by 3M. And from an environmental perspective, this agent when discharged only has an atmospheric lifetime of five days, whereas agents like FM 200 and ECARO 25, they will have an atmospheric lifetime of approximately 30 years. These halocarbon clean agents, primarily extinguish fires by heat absorption, and the other agents have options of choice are inert gases, such as Inergen and Proinert, Nitrogen, and Argonite. Those agents extinguish fires also by heat absorption, but also lowering the oxygen concentration within the space.

Now I'm sure many of you have one of these types of fire protection system clean agent systems within your facility. But if you still have a Halon 1301 fire suppression system, I want to encourage you to reach out to your local fire protection company and discuss your options to replace your Halon with one of these Halon alternatives. Your Halon is very valuable today, but we don't know how much longer. I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity before it's too late. For additional resources, you can visit any of the following associations, the Fire Suppression Systems Association, the Halon Alternatives Research Corporation, or the National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors. I'd like to thank you for your time and allowing me to share with you a little bit about Halon 1301 today. If you have any questions, I've posted my contact information for you to personally email me or call me (bryan.wilburn@orrprotection.com, 502-773-3832). And remember, if you want to know if your existing Halon 1301 cylinders are discontinued and no longer supported for recharging, you can email me the part numbers or take a photo of that off the cylinder and I'll be happy to let you know if they can still be supported or not. Thank you very much.

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