According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a clean agent is an electrically non-conducting, volatile, or gaseous fire extinguishant that does not leave a residue upon evaporation. A clean agent fire suppression system uses either a chemical or inert gas to suppress a fire at the inception stage before it can grow and is incredibly effective in extinguishing Class A, B, and C fires.
Clean agent fire suppression systems are safe to use in occupied spaces, require no clean up after discharge, and are environmentally friendly with a short to no atmospheric lifetime and a low Global Warming Potential (GWP). Systems are designed around providing total flood protection for small enclosed areas or entire rooms containing sensitive documents or equipment.
Types of clean agent fire suppression systems
The most common types of clean agent systems use chemical agents like FM-200™ (HFC-227ea) and 3M™ Novec™ 1230 or inert gases, which are made up of gases like nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide. All clean agents are stored as either a gas or liquid, and when the system activates, it releases the clean agent as a gas to suppress the fire. Upon discharge, the clean agent removes or disrupts one of three elements needed to sustain a fire – heat, oxygen, or the fuel source. Most clean agent fire suppression systems reach extinguishing concentration levels in just 10 seconds or less, making them highly efficient in suppressing a fire before significant damage can be done. Because clean agents quickly evaporate, there is minimal downtime as no clean-up is required.
When it comes to clean agent fire suppression system costs, Novec™ 1230 and FM-200TM will be more cost-effective over other gaseous systems because less agent is needed to suppress the fire, requiring smaller storage cylinders. In comparing Novec™ 1230 and FM-200TM, Novec™ 1230 is slightly more expensive of the two chemical agents.
Of the three clean agents, inert gas is the most environmentally friendly with zero Ozone Depletion Potential (OPD) and zero GWP. While both NovecTM 1230 and FM-200TM have a zero ODP, NovecTM 1230 is considered to be more environmentally friendly because of its lower GWP of 1.
Clean agent fire suppression systems protect valuable assets and equipment when traditional fire sprinkler systems using water or foam would create as much, if not more, damage than the fire. Some typical applications and areas protected by clean agent systems include:
- CNC and EDM machines
- Electrical cabinets and panels
- Components within the nacelle of a wind turbine
- Data storage and telecommunications systems
- Record/file repositories and libraries
- Museums, artwork, and other culturally significant assets
What is the best clean agent fire suppression system?
When it comes to evaluating which clean agent system to implement, several factors should be considered. You must take into account the area or type of equipment you are protecting, amount of space required for the clean agent cylinders, and where cylinders will be located relative to the area or asset being protected. As previously mentioned, inert gases are less effective and require more agent when compared to the chemical agents and therefore need larger or more cylinders to protect the same space. Inert gas systems can be located farther away from the protected space because of the pressure of each cylinder and easier flow of the inert gas through the discharge piping. FM-200TM and NovecTM 1230 systems need to be located in closer proximity to the protected area as the compressed liquids don’t flow as well as inert gases, requiring less distance between the cylinder and discharge piping.