Why Do Houses Not Have Fire Sprinklers?
News reports about fatal house fires are an all-too-common occurrence. In many instances, sprinkler systems could have prevented these tragic events by putting out a localized fire before it could spread throughout the home. Even if an automatically activated sprinkler does not completely extinguish a fire, it can keep it under control until the fire department arrives — and that can make the difference between life and death.
Just how effective are residential fire sprinklers in preventing major fires? According to the U.S. Fire Administration, sprinkler systems can reduce the risk of fire death by as much as 80 percent and lower the amount of fire-related property damage by approximately 70 percent.
Resistance to Home Sprinkler System Installation
So, if it’s true that sprinkler systems save lives and minimize property damage, why isn’t every home required to have one? There isn’t a simple answer to this question. Although the International Residential Code mandates that all new single-family dwellings must have sprinkler systems on a national level, each state has the right to chose whether to enact the guidelines.
There are currently more than 30 states that have not made sprinkler system installation a requirement.
In Arizona, for example, there is no statewide law requiring sprinkler systems in one- and two-family homes. Some state laws also prohibit local jurisdictions from adopting ordinances that mandate sprinkler systems installation, although there are exceptions for certain cities. The Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale has had an ordinance that requires sprinklers in new homes in place for more than 30 years.
Real estate developers and home builders pose the biggest obstacle to wide-scale sprinkler system installation, citing that sprinklers are not cost-effective and needlessly drive up the price of new homes. They also state that modern homes have sufficient safety features that make sprinklers unnecessary.
Many homeowners are also reluctant to install sprinkler systems for various reasons. Cost is one major drawback — on average you can expect to pay about $1.35 per square foot. Given that the typical size of new homes these days is approximately 2,400 square feet, the average sprinkler system price tag is around $3,240.
Some residential property owners believe that a sprinkler system will detract from the appearance of their home as well. However, today’s systems enable an installation that hides the water pipes, meaning that the only the sprinkler heads are visible. There are also unfounded worries about accidental activation. It typically takes an actual fire to set off the sprinklers, which should minimize concerns over unnecessary water damage.
Should I Install Fire Sprinklers in My Home?
The decision whether to install a sprinkler system essentially boils down to weighing the cost vs. the potential lifesaving benefits. If you are looking to fire-proof your house, sprinklers deserve careful consideration. Even if you only need it once, your sprinkler system can pay for itself by preventing costly property damage and, more importantly, saving the lives of you and your family.
Learn More About Fire Sprinkler Systems
- Essential Sprinkler System Facts
- Fire Sprinkler Corrosion
- 5 Reasons to Have Your Fire System Inspected
Updated by Titan Alarm on November 5, 2018.