Fire Sprinkler Leak Risks and Prevention in Data Centers

Posted by Patrick Tosti on Jun 2, 2021 9:28:22 AM

As the demand for mission-critical data centers continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, it has become increasingly important to design and build high-functioning protection systems to ensure that these data halls are fully protected and kept operational in the case of an incident.

One of the key protection systems utilized in these data halls is the double interlock preaction fire suppression system which is designed to provide a high level of safety in case of a fire situation, without having water in the sprinkler piping above the data hall servers during normal operation.

How Do Leaks Occur in Data Centers?

Industry misconceptions

Industry misconception has led to many fire suppression systems being installed using galvanized pipe, which we now know has a higher potential for corrosion-related leak risks than standard black steel piping. As these systems have started to age, both galvanized and black steel fire sprinkler piping have revealed the risk associated with systems that have not implemented a proven corrosion mitigation technique.

The science behind leaks

In order for internal corrosion to occur within a fire sprinkler system, there are three (3) entities that must be present: water, steel, and oxygen. Due to many factors including hydrostatic testing and condensate input by the air compressor, all dry and preaction systems will trap water. This trapped water, combined with an endless supply of corrosive oxygen gas from the air compressor and unprotected metal, causes dry pipe and preaction fire sprinkler systems to become a breeding ground for corrosion.

The 2 Critical Risks that Result from Leaks

The failures that will inevitably be caused by this internal corrosion present two critical risks in the data center world: equipment costs and business interruption costs.

1. Direct Costs

 Not only will these leaks put the expensive data equipment at risk, but the costs and liability associated with shutting down an operational data center are astronomical. Based on industry surveys, data center downtime averages a cost of roughly $5,600 per minute, which translates to roughly $336,000 every hour.

If a leak event occurs and causes a data center to shut down for several hours to conduct repairs, the direct cost could easily rise above the million-dollar mark in just a few short hours.

2. Indirect Costs

In addition to the direct monetary risk associated with damaged data servers and data center downtime, one must also consider the indirect costs that will result from lost sales during downtime, damaged reputation, etc. If all these direct and indirect costs are taken into consideration, it becomes immediately apparent how necessary it is to mitigate any risk of fire sprinkler leaks.

What Can You Do About Data Center Leaks?


As the associated risks from fire sprinkler corrosion in data centers have been brought to the forefront of the industry, there has been a massive growth in the adoption of nitrogen generators as a solution. By removing the corrosive oxygen inside a given dry/preaction system and replacing it with inert, non-reactive nitrogen gas, corrosion can be prevented, and these high-cost risks can be prevented.


Utilizing ECS’s patented nitrogen generators in coordination with the patented “Fill-and-Purge” Breathing Method, all corrosive oxygen will be removed from the sprinkler system and replaced with 98% pure nitrogen within fourteen (14) days, preventing the corrosion reaction from continuing.

In addition to the complete oxygen removal that is associated with this breathing method, it also allows for the oxygen removal vent to be installed on the fire sprinkler riser located in the riser room with all other nitrogen inerting equipment, rather than on a remote location at the end of the sprinkler system possibly in sensitive areas. Installing the oxygen removal vent in the riser room will not only reduce installation cost but will also reduce the risk of damaging critical equipment located in protected space.


In an industry where demand is growing at such a remarkable rate, it will become increasingly more important to understand the associated risks involved with fire sprinkler system corrosion in a data center application. Once we understand the risks that corrosion presents and the root cause behind it, the following step is taking every preventive measure possible to ensure that data centers are fully protected from corrosion-related failures.

The mission critical industry simply can not afford to ignore the risks associated with leaking sprinkler pipe.

Read more about how a nitrogen solution from ECS has helped keep a Mission-Critical Data Center leak-free for 9+ years:

View Full Case Study

Patrick Tosti

Written by Patrick Tosti

Project Engineer