FAQ -Domestic Sprinklers

The following commentary is an overview and should always be adjusted to suit the specifics of your project

Q: Why are sprinkler / fire suppression systems now to be introduced in Wales?

The Welsh Government introduced new fire safety measures for certain categories of residential and domestic properties in 2016 with the stated aim of saving lives from house fires via the use of statutory sprinkler / fire suppression systems.

The models for this guidance have been taken from other places around the world including Australia and California where the precedents are often hot, dry places with a significant risk of catastrophic conflagration spreading from timber frame houses to the wider environment in the form of bush fires. In the maritime climate of Wales, this aspect thankfully carries a somewhat lesser risk and the measure is understood to be mainly intended to protect individuals in their own homes, based on the recommendations of the Fire Service and the Sprinkler Manufacturing industry.

Q: Will sprinklers make homes in Wales safer places to live?

The Welsh Government have concluded that the answer is yes, but this only affects new developments. The vast majority of the existing residential building stock (where most domestic fire fatalities occur) will fall outside the scope of this measure. Remember that fire suppression systems are reactive measures that activate after the fire has already started. As such, good housekeeping and safe management practices will always be the best preventative measures you can take against the risk of fire, regardless of sprinklers.

Q: As a homeowner, will I need a domestic sprinkler in my extension or loft conversion?

Probably not, depending on your circumstances and discussion with the Building Inspector, unless you intend to self-build a stand alone new dwelling after 2016, have an existing sprinkler system that will need to be extended as well, or simply want to have new sprinklers as a 'belt and braces' measure. Different inspectors can have different interpretations as to what is required.

Generally speaking, a compliant British Standard whole house fire alarm system with interlinked smoke detection in all habitable rooms, and a heat detector in the kitchen, should be sufficient to alert the occupants straightaway and allow the Building Inspector to sign off a scheme without necessarily needing fire doors or sprinklers, but sometimes an additional fire safety report by an independent consultant will be required if applying through your Local Authority Building Control (LABC).

Q: What if I want or need a domestic sprinkler system in my extension?

Domestic sprinklers, whilst a specialist area, are generally much less onerous than commercial systems, and are usually based on plastic piping and standard water pressures. Dwr Cymru Welsh Water will need to be consulted on the available local water pressures in advance. If the town water main flow rate is insufficient, you may additionally require a single booster pump and 1 cubic metre of water in a storage tank, depending on the Water Authorities requirement. Such systems will require an annual maintenance regime, although this maintenance is not enforceable in law for domestic properties. Note that painting over a sprinkler head may render it ineffective.

Q: Are sprinklers metered?

Not normally as domestic water meters may reduce the flow rate in an emergency, so sprinkler systems often by-pass the domestic meter on a separate circuit. Sometimes additional controls are required to shut off supply to washing machines and dishwashers in an emergency to help reduce local demand and allow the available flow to divert towards the sprinkler system.

Q: Are sprinklers required to be linked to the main fire alarm system?

At the time of writing, whilst there would presumably need to be an alarm or sounder to alert that a sprinkler head had activated somewhere within the house, our understanding is that this is an independent system and that, perhaps a little surprisingly, there seems to be no current requirement to link it back to a main household fire alarm/smoke detection system.