Fire sprinklers are common in office buildings but not so common in people's houses. How come?

I'm thinking of adding such a system to my house but... I don't know... maybe there is a reason for why that is? Might not be a good idea? Too expensive? What?

Why aren't houses equipped with fire sprinklers?

  • While this would make an interesting discussion I think that it's too broad and open ended a question for Stack Exchange.
    – ChrisF
    Nov 24, 2011 at 13:08
  • @ChrisF There are some practical reasons for this. Water pressure in residential neighborhoods (especially with row homes) could go down significantly in some circumstances, which makes fire plugs (and other sprinklers 'down the line') less useful, for instance. If this question was edited to state a more specific area (or even country), it would be better.
    – Tim Post
    Nov 24, 2011 at 13:16
  • Here's a benefit-cost analysis made for the US government: residentialfiresprinklers.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/… Might help answer the question (or raise more questions). It's also probably worthwhile to take a look at the studies that cites the paper, as well.
    – Borror0
    Nov 24, 2011 at 13:31
  • @ChrisF: Unfortunately I don't know how to rephrase this in another way. I'm just looking for the practical reasons to install or not install them and thought this is the best place to ask since it's about home improvement.
    – user982364
    Nov 24, 2011 at 13:42
  • 2
    Too expensive- but at least you could save 50% on home insurance? especially if it calls the fire department auto. It law in offices because when there is panic loads of people can cause exits to block up- so there has to be some sort of safety system in the event of a fire. At home- a fire alarm is good enough because you know to grab your children and shift outside as a natural instinct.. but if you had a family of 30... its a mental then.
    – Piotr Kula
    Nov 24, 2011 at 14:08

2 Answers 2


Actually, there are different types of sprinkler systems. In lots of residential homes, a personal protection type system are being installed. These systems use existing water pressure and lower flow heads. The heads are not interconnected and only release water if the temp is high enough at the individual heads. The purpose is not to extinguish the fire, rather give occupants more time to escape a burning building. These are very affordable and becoming quite popular. In fact, they are required in many areas now, especially for new construction and multi-unit rental properties. They are easy to install, especially in new construction as they use standard 1/2 inch PEX tubing and an inexpensive thermo heads.

These differ greatly from the traditional pressurized systems that are designed to trip all the heads if one is activated and supply a deluge of water to extinguish fires. These systems are normally monitored by a security company or local fire dept via phone lines. They use a control board, communications modems, and closed loop water supply systems. The high cost of this type of system is the reason they are rarely used in residential settings.

  • 3
    +1 We use these on our condos, but not our townhouse builds, because of local building codes. There's certainly the added cost, but I'd also add that we had to install a pump to increase the water pressure at one site (we were slightly below the cutoff), and you have to worry about these pipes freezing so any outside plumbing areas had to be heated. I also suspect the risk of breaking a sprinkler and causing a lot of water damage is greater than a fire itself, but water damage isn't fatal.
    – BMitch
    Nov 24, 2011 at 15:11
  • In my condo all the sprinklers that are in the living areas are recessed behind little cover plates and pop down when activated by high heat. This type should be pretty hard to damage by accident, and they look nicer.
    – JayL
    Nov 24, 2011 at 22:20
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    I was under impression that regular sprinklers in office buildings and such don't go off all at once either.
    – Vitaliy
    Nov 25, 2011 at 5:02
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    Vitaliy is correct: the only types of sprinklers that go off at once are the deluge systems used in industrial plants. Normal sprinklers (whether built to NFPA 13, 13R, or 13D) are either wet-head, dry-head, or a mix of the two, and use thermostatic (fusible) heads that open individually from the heat of a fire. While the costs are still somewhat high, fire sprinklers are becoming an option for single-family dwellings, and is often required by code in apartments. Oct 28, 2014 at 0:41

I have been researching this subject and it seems like its pretty cheap to add sprinklers during the construction stage.

If I was building a house I wouldn't hesitate for even a second to install one. I don't understand why someone wouldn't do if given a choice. Moreover I think it should be mandatory for all new construction. I'm currently saving up money to retrofit them to my 3 family apt building.

But a lot of times there is a strong lobby from builders and developers against sprinklers as installing them cuts into their profit margin. Also many people are not aware of them or misunderstand how they work(I.e they think if one sprinkler goes off, then they all go off and flood tr house) Even if that was the case I would take a flood over fire any time

  • That's how it is where I live. California adopted the code in 2009, but where I live the city was lobbied heavily by builders and are not enforcing it. Another problem is that when the code came out there were not enough contractors licensed to install them.
    – lqlarry
    Nov 27, 2011 at 5:45

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