ith an ever-increasing demand for kitchen fire-suppression systems and at the same time lack of legislation, the market seems to move to low-cost and non- or partially approved fire-suppression systems rather than installing proven and reliable technology protecting all kitchen environment hazard areas.
This is mostly due to lack of knowledge and understanding of having a proper listing or approval on the system and unfortunately very often a fully listed system is considered too expensive.
However, a fully listed system is not just a matter of cost but also a guarantee that the system has been thoroughly tested and approved for use on all hazard areas in a commercial kitchen environment, including but not limited to exhaust ducts, filter banks, deep fat fryers, ranges, griddles, electric grills, gas grills, A-class grills, woks, salamanders and other appliances using cooking oil or grease.
Some systems currently on the market actually may have an approval, like LPS-1223 or ANPI NTN-113, but this comes down to having a listing on just ducts, filter banks and deep fat fryers only, since no other appliances are covered within those standards. Because the approval process is limited, the cost for such approval is also much lower as opposed to full-scale testing and approval processes like UL-300 which at the same time also makes a UL-300 listed system more expensive than other systems, but at least one can rest assured that the system will do what it is made and tested for!
Even on deep fat fryers the UL-300 testing is much more detailed and difficult than any other standard because of specific requirements for pre-burn time, power-source requirements during extinguishment and re-ignition time.
Not testing or protecting appliances other than deep fat fryers makes no sense since NFIRS and NFPA research shows that ranges and cooktops were involved in 14% in eating and drinking establishments and deep fat fryers in 21% and are therefore almost equally important to protect.
The only standard currently active on the market covering all kitchen environment hazards like the ones mentioned above is the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 300 standard.
In February 2022 a new and non-harmonized European standard EN-17446 was issued which now also includes fire testing on all kitchen environment hazards, like UL-300. Unfortunately, there are very few agencies that are currently offering testing and approvals per this standard yet.
Fire testing standards for commercial kitchens
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) administers the UL-300 fire testing standard, formally known as Fire Testing of Fire Extinguishing Systems for Protection of Restaurant Cooking Areas. Appliance companies wanting to earn UL labels on their products must submit individual models to UL for testing. Then, if the appliances meet specific requirements, they are approved and certified as UL 300.
History of UL-300
In late 1994, the Underwriters Laboratories unveiled a new test standard entitled UL-300. It came about as the result of changes in commercial kitchen fire hazards.
Change in cooking oils
Before UL 300 went into effect, most commercial kitchens fried food with animal fat (lard), and because of that, dry chemicals were the standard fire-suppression method. Today, vegetable oils are used 70–75% of the time. These oils are considered superior, not only because they are healthier than lard but also because they heat to consistent cooking temperatures quicker and cool slower.
Improvements of deep fat fryers
Deep fat fryers have also improved, with recent models featuring excellent heat retention and insulation features, resulting in a more efficient cooking experience.
Unfortunately, these factors also increase fire hazards in cooking areas, which is why UL recognized the need for a new set of standards and developed UL-300 when the shift from lard to vegetable oils was taking place.
One important requirement of UL-300 is that deep fat fryers use wet-chemical fire-suppression systems. Like dry-chemical systems, wet chemicals are able to effectively smother and put out the fire, but they serve a second purpose that dry chemicals can’t accomplish: cool the oil so it doesn’t reignite. This is of utmost importance when putting out vegetable-oil fires since these oils have an auto-ignition temperature of 360°C or hotter (compared to 288 to 315°C for lard), which is only further enhanced by high-efficiency, heat-retaining fryers.
What are the requirements for a UL-300 system?
Fire-suppression systems that are UL 300-compliant must use a wet-chemical agent. Wet chemicals suppress flammable vapours but also cool the source so it can’t reignite. Remember that although a system may be labelled as a ‘wet chemical’, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is UL-300 compliant.
In addition to using a wet-chemical agent, UL-300 systems must also include:
- A manual pull station
- An automatic fire-detection system
- Automatic fuel shut-offs for gas and electric
- Nozzles located in the hood and duct
- Nozzles located over each grease-generating cooking appliance
- Wet-chemical system serviced semi-annually by an authorized licensed service company
- Hood and duct maintenance and cleaning semi-annually by an authorized licensed service company
Installing a UL-300 compliant fire-suppression system
Installing a UL 300-compliant fire-suppression system is more than a requirement for a kitchen. It’s a critical step in protecting employees, customers and livelihood with a thoroughly tested and listed system protecting your critical assets.
For more information, go to www.desusystems.com