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Nitrogen Generators vs. Compressed Air Dryers for Dry Fire Sprinkler Systems

Municipal building codes mandate that all commercial and industrial structures must have a properly working and maintained fire sprinkler system in case of an emergency. Older buildings were fitted with wet fire sprinkler systems. Water was stored in the pipes until a fire had to be put out. Eventually, problems arose with these systems, and they were deemed unsafe due to the risks involved. Compressed air dryers were commonly installed in older buildings to prevent blockages and corrosion that would damage the water pipes and cause them to leak or burst. But the combination of water, oxygen in the compressed air, and metal pipes was actually more damaging than engineers realized.

Due to the risk of significant and expensive water damage over time, wet sprinkler systems were eventually replaced with dry sprinkler systems. Nowadays, nitrogen is the gas of choice to protect fire sprinkler pipes. Keep reading to learn about the advantages of nitrogen generators for sprinkler systems.

The Problems of Compressed Air in Fire Sprinkler Systems

Air is composed of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and trace amounts of other gases including carbon dioxide and argon but compressed air can be damaging when it comes into contact with certain elements, namely water and metal. Even though wet sprinkler systems were replaced with dry sprinkler systems a long time ago, there are still trace amounts of moisture that will always remain present in pipes.

When oxygen comes into contact with moisture and metal, the result can be disastrous. Over time, corrosion occurs and forms pinholes in the metal pipes. Those minuscule holes cause even small amounts of water to drip or leak out of the pipes and eventually result in significant water damage in commercial and residential buildings. Built-up corrosion in water pipes can also lead to valve malfunctions, which means the sprinklers may not activate in the event of a fire due to potential pipe scale blockage.

PVC is a good alternative for metal pipes because it’s impervious to corrosion from water and oxygen. However, PVC piping isn’t strong enough to be used for more intricate piping systems used in larger buildings. To prevent corrosion, modern metal piping systems are flushed with nitrogen gas instead of compressed air when they’re not in use.

How Nitrogen Generators Address Corrosion Issues Caused by Compressed Air Dryers

Unlike oxygen, nitrogen is an inert gas. It’s completely undetectable to human senses and it doesn’t have a chemical reaction when it comes in contact with moisture or other elements. Flushing water pipes with nitrogen gas also removes all traces of oxygen, which helps prevent corrosion and pipe damage.

As a result, using onsite nitrogen generators to blanket dry sprinkler systems can help building owners and managers cut down on pipe maintenance and repair costs. Fewer leak checks are required, and the use of nitrogen gas can help dramatically increase the lifespan of dry sprinkler systems. Dry sprinkler systems that used compressed air are expected to last anywhere between 12 and 15 years before needing to be replaced and that doesn’t account for repairs and maintenance within that timeframe. With nitrogen gas, their life expectancy is extended to anywhere between 60 and 75 years with minimal maintenance and repairs required.

Onsite Nitrogen Generator Advantages for Dry Fire Sprinkler Systems

There are a lot of advantages to using onsite nitrogen generators to protect dry fire sprinklers against corrosion, leaks, and other damages. The good news is that older buildings that were originally fitted with compressed air dryers can be retrofitted with modern onsite nitrogen generators. Here are a few reasons why you should consider making the switch to onsite nitrogen generators for commercial and industrial buildings.

Significant Cost Savings

Retrofitting older buildings with onsite nitrogen generators may have some upfront cost. In some cases, a few structural changes may be required. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around that. But the long-term savings are worthwhile. Onsite nitrogen generators eliminate the need to have nitrogen tanks delivered, which means you’ll always have a steady supply nitrogen available, and you won’t have to pay delivery fees.

Switching to a dry sprinkler system with an onsite nitrogen generator also lowers your water and maintenance bills. Instead of sitting idly in your pipes, water will only be released when the sprinkler system is activated. When it’s inactive, the pipes are flushed with nitrogen gas to remove all traces of oxygen and prevent corrosion.

Convenience and Safety

Onsite nitrogen generators are directly connected to your building’s piping system, which means you’ll never have to replace another heavy nitrogen tank again. Storing and replacing high pressure nitrogen tanks in your building can also be dangerous and lead to injuries during handling. Nitrogen tanks also need to be monitored on a regular basis to ensure that you don’t run out before your next delivery. Onsite nitrogen generators pretty much pay for themselves by cutting out the need for scheduling deliveries, inspecting tanks and doing the back breaking work of replacing empty tanks.

Environmentally Friendly Option

If reducing your building’s carbon emissions is a priority, then installation of an onsite nitrogen generator can help you achieve that goal be eliminating the need for tank deliveries by truck.

When Is the Right Time to Move from Compressed Air Systems to Onsite Nitrogen Generators?

Given the well-documented benefits of onsite nitrogen generators for dry sprinkler systems, there’s no better time than the present to make the switch from compressed air dryers. Nitrogen gas works well for galvanized steel and PVC pipes. Don’t wait until corrosion and water damage occurs. Be proactive and protect your pipes now.

Onsite Nitrogen Generators from Advanced Gas Technologies

Advanced Gas Technologies is one of the leading suppliers of state-of-the-art PSA and membrane nitrogen generators for sprinkler systems and other types of industrial applications throughout North America. Contact us today to learn about our products.

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