How to Prevent Your Fire Sprinkler System from Freezing

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 25, 2024

This winter has been a little warmer than we’re used to, but February means that we’re only halfway through the chilly season. You never know when temperatures are going to plummet, so it’s important to make sure that the pipes in your home’s fire sprinkler system are ready for freezing weather.

Getting caught off guard can result in a soggy mess that calls for immediate cleanup and water damage repair. The more you know, the better prepared you are to prevent your fire sprinkler pipes from freezing.

Home Security That Needs Protection

More and more, municipalities are requiring the installation of fire sprinkler systems in new homes. Every year, approximately 3,000 lives are lost due to residential fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, a well-maintained sprinkler system reduces the chance of house fire fatalities by 80 percent, and it also cuts the dollar value of property losses due to fire by 70 percent.

As homeowners rely more and more on these life-saving networks, they also face the possibility of flooding caused by sprinkler pipes that freeze during the winter. Sprinkler system repair and water damage restoration costs can run into thousands of dollars.

We’ve already shared five critical steps to take when good sprinklers go bad, so let’s take a closer look at what happens when sprinkler pipes freeze and how you can protect them from cold weather.

Frozen Water in Closed Systems

frozen water in closed systems

You know how water expands in an ice cube tray when it freezes. Imagine that same process happening inside the pipes that network through your fire sprinkler system. Freezing water increases in volume by almost 10 percent putting enormous pressure on pipes, fittings and sprinkler heads.

Most home sprinklers are built with backflow preventers and check valves that keep pipe water separate from your home’s water supply. This forms a closed system with no room for extra volume or pressure.

Frozen water inside sprinkler pipes shuts the system down and prevents it from operating properly in case of a fire. As pressure increases, pipes eventually burst, and this often occurs in an area of the network that isn’t frozen.

If freezing water cracks a sprinkler head, the fitting doesn’t begin to leak until the water thaws. A typical fire sprinkler system rupture can flood as much as 500 gallons of water through your home in under 15 minutes.

5 Simple Steps That Protect Sprinkler Pipes

Most homeowners don’t realize that the water in a fire sprinkler system is prone to freezing because it doesn’t move. However, you can protect sprinkler pipes from winter cold and avoid the property damage that results from bursts and leaks.

We recommend these five simple steps to prevent your fire sprinkler pipes from freezing:

1. Check and insulate sprinkler pipes in unheated areas like attics and basements.

2. Keep the house warm so that pipes in walls aren’t subjected to cold temperatures.

3. Make sure that your home’s exterior is sealed up tight against freezing weather.

4. Have a professional inspect and service the fire sprinkler system once a year.

5. Consider installing water flow and freeze alarms that alert you to potential problems.

We’re Always Here for You

We all hope that this mild winter doesn’t surprise us with a sudden hard freeze, but we’re not out of the cold quite yet. If you’d like more information about keeping your home safe when temperatures drop, be sure to check out our Ultimate DIY Home Winterizing Guide.

We enjoy sharing strategies that help protect your property and family from winter’s worst, and we’re here for you 24/7. If you should need professional water damage restoration in Chicago or the suburbs, you can always depend on us here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba.