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CPVC or steel for fire sprinkler systems?


With so much talk surrounding adequate fire protection in the UK, one of the biggest challenges for many installers and specifiers will be finding, and implementing, the right system.

Steel piping for fire protection systems has become a traditional fixture in both new builds and retrofit projects throughout the UK and Europe. But with CPVC pipes on the market, should steel still be the preferred material for fire sprinkler systems?

BlazeMaster® CPVC piping is a specialty thermoplastic used reliably across more than 60 countries for decades, and poses a real challenge to traditional materials found in fire sprinkler systems in both cost, performance, and lasting quality. Here’s how:

Easy Installation

CPVC piping can be installed with a quick and simple one-step joining system, which eliminates the need for complicated heat-fusion techniques traditionally used in steel installations. CPVC is not just flexible – meaning it can get to hard-to-reach areas, but also light weight.  For a standard DN25 pipe, CPVC weighs 0.390 kilograms per metre when empty. In comparison, steel systems can weigh 2.440 kilograms for the same measurement when empty.

CPVC is also less disruptive, as it does not require the building to be vacated, unlike steel, and is a cleaner and quieter installation, with no electrical tools required.

Cost savings

One of many misconceptions behind CPVC is that it is expensive. But in fact, considerable cost savings can be made during the initial installation of a BlazeMaster CPVC system, with reduced installation times, and labour and equipment costs. BlazeMaster CPVC pipes and fittings are a joy for an installer – requiring only one man with hand tools to fit and complete a project.

Unlike steel, CPVC is also considerably adaptable to change during installation. For example, when a large school in Hampshire decided to rebuild and expand, fire safety officials wanted the most secure and cost efficient solution possible for fire protection. However, when the intimidating-looking job faced complications, BlazeMaster fire sprinkler systems allowed installer to stay on budget and meet their deadlines.

“We believe it’s the easiest medium to work with and it allows a flexibility to the design,” said Colin Taylor, head of the Oxfordshire office for Domestic Sprinklers, who led the installation.

“The amount of changes that were forced upon us during the installation would have resulted in very high additional costs if BlazeMaster Piping Systems hadn’t been used.”

Corrosion benefits

In addition to the short-term savings, BlazeMaster CPVC piping delivers a long-term cost benefit to you and your customers since the piping remains corrosion free for up to 50 years of service life. In the long term, corrosion is always going to be an issue for steel and other metallic fire sprinkler alternatives. The higher the corrosion levels inside the pipe, the more friction is created, decreasing the flow of water in the event of an emergency and potentially causing a hazard that stops the system from working altogether.

CPVC in comparison has a natural immunity to Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC), which is integral to ensuring the smoothness of the inside of the pipe, delivering a quality performance when required.

CPVC’s performance was tested using the Hazen-Williams formula, which calculates the friction inside a pipe, and how it affects water flow. Steel’s performance can drop by over 50% for pipes that were in service between 4 and 40 years. Meanwhile, CPVC continues to stave off corrosion, ensuring reliability and protection.

Hydraulic advantages

As well as the benefits of a pipe that doesn’t corrode, the hydraulic performance of CPVC is greater when compared to steel too. The technology of BlazeMaster ensures optimal flow rates and the highest Hazen Williams C-factor in the industry of 150, that will not diminish over time, unlike steel.

Because Blazemaster CPVC piping is also smoother than steel, it delivers an equivalent flow rate through smaller pipe. This can mean smaller pipe sizes and components, saving time, material, and labour.  

Whether you’re a builder, architect, designer or installer, a BlazeMaster Fire Protection System presents advantages that protect both your profitability and reputation. Remember, not all orange pipe is BlazeMaster CPVC piping, so make sure to ask for it by name before your next fire sprinkler installation.

To get further guidance about BlazeMaster CPVC piping, as well as news and insights from the fire protection industry, visit the BlazeMaster blog. For enquiries, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.

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