Water Mist System Innovation

Posted by ORR Protection on Nov 25, 2020 9:00:00 AM

During the MCFP Virtual Conference series, Derek Wickersham, Business Development Director for Water Mist at the Fike Corporation, discusses innovations in water mist systems and applications. In the video below, watch as Derek dives in-depth on the technology and varied applications of water mist system innovation.

Video Transcript:

I'm going to talk about water mist innovation. When we look at innovation, continuing what Lee said in his presentation, we know that innovation is something new or improved, where we have the refinement of existing technologies, development of new technologies for new applications, or new technologies for existing applications. If we look back at suppression innovation throughout the years, dating back to 1856, which, at the time this was innovation,— it kind of gets modernized to our 1916 fire engine—again, innovation for its time. And we look at early electronic fire detection of having to actually ring the bell for it to go off—again, innovation for its time. And some of this early fire suppression with the grenade you launch into the fire and some type of spray can, that, I guess you would spray onto what you're trying to put out—but again, all innovation in its own time.

So as we look at what's going on in today's fire suppression industry with innovation, we look at the more modernized fire engines to some of the fire suppression systems that Lee mentioned. We look at inert gases and such. We also look at fire modeling, learning about the fire even before it happens, so we can base our design around what we think is going to happen. Lee mentioned video analytics, and now I'm here to talk to you about water mist technology. As we look back at water mist innovation of past, we look at the history of fire protection, we know that sprinklers have been around since the 1800s when there was a little nozzle that the cap used to pop off and water would come out. So it's been around for the longest time.

People really think that water mist is a new technology. It's actually been around since the 1940s. Some of the military establishments were experimenting with the use of mist systems and we see this around the seventies, or, I'm sorry, nineties, high-pressure systems being developed. Then right around the early nineties is when we see water mist evolve from water applications or being on vessels. And that's really the origin of where water mist came from. And then we talk about hybrids. And now we see some in the early two-thousands, some low- pressure water mist systems, but you guys all know that unfortunately within our industry, it takes some type of catastrophe for codes and regulations to change. Our water mist strategy was back on the night of April 7, 1990, the Scandinavian star caught fire, killing 157 people aboard.

And at first they thought it was an insurance kind of thing, where they wanted to claim the money for the boat and they set it on fire got out of hand. But I just read a recent article that said the debt—they still haven't found evidence of exactly what happened. So it still remains a mystery, but either way, that required new marine industry codes and standards aboard vessels. So the amount of water it took for a classic traditional sprinkler system was just much too much and the pipe sizes were too big. I heard earlier, they tried to put a sprinkler system on a boat and it actually started tipping the boat. So we needed something more innovative to go aboard these vessels. So that's really when the installation of water mist just fit that niche. So our first installation on the ship was 1992.

And because of those applications, protecting engine enclosures and actual rooms where people stayed, they saw a need for that on land applications. And that's what we're going to talk about today. So as we look to the present, you know, water mist, as it turns to steam, it expands 1700 times its size. And that's how we displace oxygen at the fire source. So we're going to operate like an inert gas, since we are turning to steam, at that point, we do operate like an air gas. So we're providing 3D fire protection. So we take the energy out of fire. We cool and we prevent against any re-ignition. Water mist does a phenomenal job of cooling. And you'll hear me touch on that a couple of times throughout. And they also found that it provides a smoke scrubbing element where it's going to lessen the smoke into fumes because smoke is made up of particles.

And what happens is these particles actually attach to these small droplets and fall down to the floor. So I won't take it away, but it definitely does lessen than the amount in an enclosure. So we talk about water usage. If you compare us to a traditional sprinkler dilute system, we use about 80% less water. And then when you look at our light hazard or what are comparable traditional sprinkler systems, we use about 50% less water. So our main objective is to provide extinguishment, not just control. So all the fire tests that we go through, we actually have to put out that fire. So the three main concepts, when you're dealing with water mist is that inerting the cooling or heat extraction and then our blocking of radiant heat, and a really good way to think about that is when you kind of wake up in the morning and you see that there's a fog outside as that fog starts to clear away, now you start feeling the heat from the sun. So that's kind of what water mist does is it blocks that radiant heat.

So when we talk about droplet size and FPA defines water mist as anything 1000 microns or below, so you could be 999, or you can be 10, and you're still on their definition of water mist, but we do know sprinkler heads, when you go above this, those are really the right product for storage applications when you need large droplets. If you look at like now Vikings actually come out with a K 28 head. Um, but that's where you're talking about 50 foot ceilings, high pile storage. You need a lot of water. You need large droplets to penetrate down. However, when we talk about water mist, we need small droplets. Therefore we can quickly vaporize when we come out, providing our cooling in a nerdy. So you can see here, I pressure systems, their micron size. When you talk about momentum of getting your droplet down into the fire, they work off of velocity.

That high pressure they're taking that water and they're shooting it as hard as they can into the fire or some of the low pressure systems, they operate right around three to 400 microns. They're using more than mass principle of momentum, where that size, a little bit larger, it's going to fall down into the fire. When I talk about a little bit larger, though, I'm talking about human hair type sizes between the two, but what you have to remember is that droplet size has nothing to do with actual fire testing. So make sure, based on your application, that you have the adequate fire testing behind any manufacturer or any size droplet that you may use.

So we look at the different systems that are out in the marketplace. We have our low pressure, that operate at 175 or less, our intermediate pressure from 176 to 499 PSI. And our high pressure systems, 500 all the way up to 2000, some of the systems operate. We have a single fluid. Water's being piped throughout the discharge nozzle atmosphere. And then our twin fluid, where they may use nitrogen to actually push that water out at the nozzle. Therefore, you're going to have two different pipe runs. We have a fixed supply where they actually have a water storage tank as their water supply. And then a continuous supply would actually will hook into the building's main water supply, uh, city water. And therefore it's just like a sprinkler system where that's just a continuous supply. One of the things different about water mist is, when you're designing a sprinkler system, you follow what NSPA 13 says, no matter if you're using a Viking head, a reliable head, a globe head, a Tyco head, it doesn't matter. You follow what NFTA 13 says. Water mist is a little bit different. There is no universal design. There is NFPA 750, which is for water mist, but they basically tell you to go follow what the manufacturer says. So you must design all systems with each manufacturer's DIOM or design, installation, operation, and maintenance manual and follow what it says. So if you're doing a fight system or Tyco system or a Mariano system is follow each individual manual, so we're all gonna have different spacing analysis. We're all going to require different material within our systems, different parts and pieces of it. So it's a little bit harder for people who are specifying these type of systems, you know, that lovely "or equal." You can't necessarily always use that in the case of water mist, because there's just so many different factors in each system.

So why use water mist? So we know when there's no pressure, or very little water pressure, and you have to start digging up? Mains can get very costly. Well, obviously we don't need as much water. Therefore we don't need as large of water mains supplying our system. Remote locations. So, you know, if you're in a remote location, you have to use a water storage tank? Again, we don't need to use as much water. Therefore our storage tanks can be smaller, cost less, use less of your end user's real estate. And then, you have additional benefits of if there ever was a discharge we're half the amount of water and then we're clean, non-contaminated water compared to traditional sprinkler systems, which you guys know that water can get pretty nasty. And then depending on the occupancy that you're in, whether it be a restaurant or fitness center, when any sprinkler water that touches the ground, the facility is now considered contaminated, and must be cleaned up professionally before they're allowed to open again.

CO2 systems, what we're seeing in the marketplace now is a lot of, especially in the power industry, a lot of them are taking out their CO2 systems because of the life safety risk, either being told by their insurance company or their safety department. So water mist has been a perfect retrofit replacement for CO2 systems. Here's an example of a sprinkler system that went off and there's that black water that I'm sure smells lovely going off in a restaurant.

I'm sure you've heard or seen the effects of metal oxidation or MIC which can eat through pipe, and that's why within water mist systems, you have to use pipe that will not corrode, whether it be stainless steel, pipe, or tubing. Some of the low pressure systems you can use CPVC piping as well as copper. So all pipe that will not corrode.

I'll break out the system types into two different sections: our industrial section and our commercial section. So our industrial section, we're talking about deluge type systems or, using open nozzles, a total flood, the piping network is empty or open, our water supplies held back by our deluge valve. And that deluge valve is opened up by detection that's in the area that it's protecting. So when that opens up our water mist system kicks on supplies, our pressurized water into our enclosure.

So this is what a typical system would look like with the water mist system, feeding out to the nozzles within the enclosure. And like Hollywood loves to say, all nozzles, go off and al nozzles get water.

We can also, zone our systems, so if you have separate enclosures, let's say these are all generator enclosures, where they all have their separate individual enclosure. You can take those and zone them off. See I'm using just one pump skid, and then I'm adding zone or deluge valves per each enclosure. What you do is size for the largest one, knowing you can supply all the smaller ones, you may design for one going off, you may design for two, or you might design for one and the two adjacent to go off wherever you want it to, but that gives you the ability to not have to size the pump larger, to protect all the spaces at one time. So this is well within NFBA 750, and you can actually have as many of these in a row, as you wanted to, all up to each manufacturer's volume approval, as long as you can provide adequate flow and pressure to that farthest one.

Our wet pipe or our commercial type system, we're utilizing closed heads, just like a sprinkler system would. We have bulbs inside you can see here. So when that bulb breaks, this whole piece will actually fall out. The nozzle will come out and disperse water, but a pipe with water in at all times must be kept above 40 degrees. So this kind of illustrates how the nozzle activates the bulb breaks. The whole piece falls out, a nozzle comes out and then we have water. And then through the flowing of our flow switch paddle, that's what was sending our signal to our releasing panel, which will start the flow of pressurized water from our water mist system. Here's just a picture of it installed, very low profile some of them. We also have PreAction systems. So when we look at water mist for protection of data center and computer rooms, we're going to use a PreAction valve, just like a sprinkler system would, where we have an inlet for compressed air to provide our supervisory air. We're going to use closed nozzles and we're going to use detection. So our detection goes off as well as the breaking of our bulb before we get water into that area. And within that our case, we're always going to use compressed air. We don't have to use any nitrogen because again, our pipe will not corrode. Therefore we have no corrosion issues. So compressed air can be used at all times.

So I'm going to talk about some of the actual FM testing protocol. So these applications are all FM approved, meaning FMS put together an actual fire test and a little bit different than a sprinkler system that water mist goes through is if I'm a sprinkler manufacturer and I want to take my sprinkler head and get FM approved, all I do is take my sprinkler head. I go to FM, I get that tested. Water mist, you have to take your entire system to testing and pass that fire testing protocol. So you don't have the individual components to prove, you have your system approved for that application. So our first one is protection of combustion or steam turbines in enclosures. These are application-specific approvals. A lot of you guys who are used to sprinkler design, what do you usually design around? Density, right? Density doesn't even play a factor in water mist because we'll never hit the densities that sprinklers do because we're just such fine water. So these are application-specific based on protecting steam combustion turbines. And what you basically do is you follow each manufacturer's manual and base it on their spacing of their nozzles throughout your enclosure, and then providing the volume of water that those nozzles require.

But we're talking about deluge system with detection and open nozzles. And we also want to make sure that we avoid any direct impingement of nozzles on an uninsulated turbine. So we don't want any tensile cracks.

Very similar to the protection of turbines. We have protection of machinery and enclosures. So we're basically talking about equipment using class B type fuels where water mist is ideal because we don't want to agitate that fuel source. So with water mist and their small droplets, it doesn't do that, but we're still talking about deluge system with detection, open nozzles, we're talking about complete compartment protection. So when we look at a volume of an entire enclosure, we must make sure that each manufacturer has that approval because each manufacturer is different. Ours based to somebody else's are going to be completely different. So make sure that it's well within, if you need that FM approval, that manufacturer's volume as well as the ceiling height.

When we're looking at protection of Hazard Category 1 or what NFPA defines as Light Hazard. We're talking about non storage occupancies, lightly loaded non storage. You can see here that NFPA has its definition or examples of what they consider light hazard, as well as FM global has theirs. And they kind of meet in the middle on a, on a few of these, but they differ in some. We had a case where we actually had one of our water mist systems in a fast food restaurant. So when you look at that fast food restaurant, the dining area is fine, that's light hazard, but then when you look at the kitchen area, you can see FM global actually defines that as their HD1, whereas NFPA defines that as ordinary hazard. So you've got to kind of run into some of those instances sometimes, but we have closed head nozzles with the bulb breaking. So one alarm system were present at all time, and then depending on what standard you're following, FM does require 60 minutes of water if you're using a storage tank to the nine most hydraulically remote nozzles. But one of the advantages we have over a sprinkler system is we're not limited to that 53,000 square foot, like a sprinkler system is, we actually can provide unlimited area as long as we can provide adequate pressure and flow to that farthest nozzle. So really think about how many fire pumps are on a job. Usually one, right? Cause you size accordingly. So we don't have that. We can provide a limited area as long as we're always providing an adequate flow and pressure per the manufacturer specification.

Protection of wet benches. So here we have basically testing equipment, or similar processing equipment where they're reaching in with gloves and testing different kinds. So we're actually going to protect inside of those types of equipment.

Data center. I kind of touched on this earlier. PreAction System protection of computer rooms as well as our sub floors. So we will have in the case of our system, we have actually upright nozzles in the sub floor itself and then pendants above. So there is quite a few, there's actually four different approvals that we go through for FM testing for data centers. Local application. If we have machinery within a large shop, we don't have an actual enclosure for that machinery we are now considered local application. So when we do that, we actually have to bring our spacing in so that we make sure that the lack of enclosure integrity, we're designing around that. You can see here, we actually design a little bit outside of the actual hazard itself and then move our spacing in. So typically this manufacturer has 10 foot spacing. They're cutting it in half at five, and then going a little bit beyond the hazards.

Industrial oil cookers. This is actually becoming a very popular one. We had one that was installed in a peanut producing facility. And I got on the phone with our distributor as well as the fire chief of where this was going to. And the first words out of his mouth is why in the heck you want to put water on oil? No water mist systems in this jurisdiction. So this is the first time dealing with a water mist, but basically water mist is a perfect application for this because what happens with these oil fires is they're extremely hot. I mean, we're talking well up into the thousand degrees possible. So if you think about it, how quickly our small little nozzles that are going to turn to steam, we actually put it out with steam. But what they found was beyond that, after that discharge in our extinguishment time, it actually cools that oil right back down to the temperature it needs to be. So we have no possibility of any reignition of a fire. So we're clean water. So we're talking about a little bit of cleanup. We're not talking about complete removal of oil and putting it back in. And part of the FM testing protocol for these is you must extinguish in a minute or less and you cannot have any splatter of oil. And it doesn't matter the position of the hood up or down, the system has to be just as effective. Now it's basically all of his questions. So we actually did this was for a new installation. So they had new equipment, they didn't put any oil on it. They'll let us flow on it and he loved it. So he okayed it.

Continuous wood board presses. So machinery presses and plywood, as well as, there are actual systems out there for conveyor belts, where they'll put a single line of pipe down the middle and protect the entire conveyor belt as well as continuous wood board presses.

And if you look in the back of FM 55, 60, there's some additional ones that they would like to test, but no one's given them the money to do so yet. But they are looking at it for flammable liquids, CNC machines, engine test cells, believe it or not, if you read it right now and their machinery says except engine test cells. But we actually are finding that these are being pushed by the end users. Most of them who are self-insured and know this technology works in those situations and it's supplemental, but they actually want the water mist to go off first, before any of the other systems. Cable spreading rooms, flight simulators, and then any occupancy above their HC1 that they have. So getting into a little bit more of a higher hazard and then tunnel protection. There's no standard right now for tunnel protection, but you can go over to Europe, water mist is basically used as protection for everything over there in tunnels.

So you think about what your hazard is that your class B fuel or the automobiles or the diesels, water mist is just awesome. We're not going to flood the tunnel. We're going to lower some of that smoke , help some people escape if needed. And what you do in a tunnel protection is, you'll have detection running through, the detection goes off your security or operations office will get that. And they'll actually manually activate the fire hazard by your zone, and then the two adjacent zones. And there's valves out there you can remote remotely, turn on, turn off, remotely test. So no one actually has to go into these tunnels to activate any of it. And there's also systems again, one single pipe down the middle of the tunnel, protecting the entire tunnel.

Topics: Featured Article, Featured Blog, MCFP

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