Diagram of the difference between quick response and standard response fire sprinklers

Quick response sprinklers have a slightly different mission than standard response sprinklers

In 1996, the NFPA 13 standard, which deals specifically with fire sprinkler systems, was updated to require quick response fire sprinklers in all light-hazard occupancies. As a result of this change, most newer office buildings, restaurants, hotels, and schools now employ quick response sprinklers instead of the traditional standard response sprinkler. But what is the difference between a quick response and standard response fire sprinkler?

In this blog, we’ll explore the slightly different missions of standard verse quick response models and how to tell them apart with ease. If education isn’t the reason for your visit today, feel free to skip directly to our online selection of fire sprinklers.

Six fire sprinkler characteristics

Since Henry S. Parmelee invented the first automatic fire sprinkler in 1874, the goal of delivering water exactly where it is needed, as early in the fire’s development as possible, continues to drive innovation in the fire sprinkler industry. However, the challenges that Parmelee faced in his piano factory differ from those of a high-rise building, a modern warehouse, or a university brimming with students. In response to these unique fire hazards, engineers have developed different types of fire sprinklers.

Six primary aspects of a fire sprinkler impact its usefulness for various buildings:

  • Thermal sensitivity
  • Temperature rating
  • Orifice size
  • Installation orientation
  • Water distribution characteristics
  • Special service conditions

But many of these options for temperature, orifice size, and others are available for both quick and standard response sprinklers. While those alone are not the key differences, if you need to deviate for a second to better understand a fire sprinkler’s thermal sensitivity, we’ll wait.

Standard response fire sprinklers can be found in warehouses, factories, and other commercial or industrial buildings. A standard response sprinkler’s mission is to pre-wet materials around the fire, removing its fuel source. Drenching the surrounding area slows the fire, buying critical time for the fire department to get on scene. Containing the fire in its original location and suppressing its growth are the focus.

Quick response fire sprinklers are installed primarily in light-hazard applications (e.g., office buildings, schools, etc.). They have similar fire-control benefits as a standard response sprinkler, but their mission is slightly different. A quick response sprinkler discharges water higher on the walls to keep the fire from climbing and maintain lower ceiling temperatures. Cooler ceilings reduce the likelihood of flashover and slow a fire’s rise within a building. Improving the odds for human survivability is the quick response sprinkler’s primary mission.

Quick response sprinklers got their name from their slightly faster response time when compared to standard response sprinklers. Their only physical difference is the bulb size. The standard response sprinkler has a 5 mm glass bulb and the quick response sprinkler has a 3 mm glass bulb. The smaller bulb achieves improvements in thermal responsiveness:

A Tyco TY315 standard response upright sprinkler is on the left, whereas the thinner bulb belongs to a Tyco TY313 quick response upright sprinkler.

Differences also exist in spacing, density, and placement of sprinklers within a quick response system compared to a standard response system. These changes combined with the smaller bulb are all designed to support the quick response sprinkler’s mission.

So which do you need? The answer depends on your project: new construction or replacement

Ceiling height, ambient room temperature, occupancy status, NFPA guidelines, local regulations, and more factor into which type of sprinkler is the best fit for any given situation. If you’re constructing a new building, hire a local, qualified fire sprinkler contractor with a design team. Their staff will know what is needed and whom to ask when questions arise.

If you’re replacing fire sprinklers in an existing system, it is best practice to match the old sprinkler’s type and temperature with the new. So here’s a trick so you can use today: on most fire sprinklers, all the information is stamped on the deflector. Just get up close and take a look for yourself, as in the image below:

Fire Sprinkler Diagram

If you’d like more information about replacing fire sprinklers, check out these 5 fire sprinkler replacement tips. If you’re still unsure about what type you need or your sprinkler’s deflector doesn’t have the details, then call or write QRFS – customers even text us pictures to help them identify their sprinklers and get replacements ordered!

It’s important to note that both types of fire sprinkler have specific areas of coverage and control fire hazards per NFPA 13 guidelines. Regardless of their different missions, both are fire-fighting superheroes that deliver drastic reductions in water used, greenhouse gasses emitted, and lives and property lost.

Now you can order 1 or 1,000 of either sprinkler type in different styles, finishes, and temperatures from wherever you are right now: browse QRFS’s fire sprinkler selection.

This article originally posted on January 14, 2013, on QRFS.com by Jason Hugo. It was updated on January 1, 2019. If you’d like to learn more, read more articles from Thoughts on Fire, QRFS's ever-expanding knowledge center, tweet with us @QuickResponseFS, or connect on Facebook.