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Nitrogen Generators for Dry Sprinkler Systems: An ECS Guide

Corrosion in the fire protection industry has raised concerns in recent years. Corrosion in fire sprinkler systems can cause system failure/malfunction, facility downtime, and occupational hazards. Until nitrogen based inerting strategies were introduced, there were several products that claimed to control corrosion in fire sprinkler systems - but zero products to eliminate it.

By using a nitrogen generator in conjunction with a vent to purge the pipe network of the corrosive oxygen gas, corrosion in the system can be effectively stopped.

In this guide, we’ll be taking a closer look at what causes corrosion in dry sprinkler systems – and the ECS nitrogen generator systems that stop corrosion in its tracks.

CAUSES OF CORROSION IN FIRE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

The primary cause of corrosion in all fire sprinkler systems is oxygen.

Whenever oxygen, liquid water and steel are in close contact, a chemical reaction takes place which causes the iron to bond with oxygen, creating iron-oxide. If you have experience with fire sprinkler systems you know that all fire sprinkler systems – even dry and pre-action – contain all three elements necessary for corrosion to occur.

The chemical reaction needed for oxygen corrosion to occur involves an electron donor (steel sprinkler pipe), an electron acceptor (oxygen), and an electrolyte (water). When raw iron ore is transformed into fire sprinkler pipe it is taken from a low energy state to a high energy state by adding an electron. At the high energy state the steel is less stable then it was previously. The laws of nature dictate that all energy moves towards a lower energy state. Therefore, the steel is seeking an opportunity to give up an electron and return to a lower energy state. When the steel sprinkler pipe is put in close proximity of liquid water and oxygen this reaction occurs – and corrosion takes place.

Corrosion Management Equipment and Fire Sprinkler Corrosion

CORROSION MYTHS

Many pervasive myths regarding the causes of corrosion have hindered the implementation of effective corrosion control strategies in fire sprinkler systems. Here are the top five:

MIC Corrosion (Microbiological Influenced Corrosion)

Myth #1 – MIC (Microbiological Influenced Corrosion) is the primary cause of leaks in fire sprinkler systems.

Bacteria are always present, but oxygen is the primary cause of corrosion in fire sprinkler systems.1 (“Corrosion and Corrosion Mitigation in Fire Protection Systems” by Paul Su and David Fuller, FM Global Technical Report – July 2014)

Galvanized Pipe Corrosion and Nitrogen Generation System

Myth #2 – Bad Water causes fire sprinkler system leaks.

Almost all fire supply water comes from fresh, clean municipal water supplies that are not chemically corrosive within the temperatures and pressures to which a fire sprinkler system would be exposed.

Corrosion Monitoring System and Sprinkler System Maintenance

Myth #3 – Material Defective Sprinkler Pipe causes leaks, particularly at the weld seam.

Pipe materials used today meet or exceed ASTM requirements incorporated in NFPA 13.  Root cause analysis very rarely identifies material defect as the cause of failure.

Galvanized Pipe Corrosion and Dry Pipe Sprinkler System

Myth #4 – Galvanized pipe provides better internal corrosion protection than black steel pipe.

All systems, even dry and pre-action, will trap water. When a galvanized surface is subject to persistent moisture, such as an accumulation of water, it will detach from the base metal and leave the steel exposed. Once the steel is exposed all of the oxygen available to react will preferentially corrode the exposed steel resulting in an accelerated leak.

Corrosion Management Equipment and Corrosion Detection Equipment

Myth #5 – Sprinkler systems with frequent leaks must be completely replaced.

Oxygen corrosion in fire sprinkler systems requires that oxygen, liquid water and steel pipe be in close proximity; corrosion is highly localized at air/water interfaces. On average, only 20% of system piping shows significant signs of corrosion.

HOW ECS NITROGEN GENERATORS WORK

Using nitrogen as the source of supervisory gas in a dry pipe or pre-action fire sprinkler system will eliminate corrosion due to the lack of oxygen to support the corrosion reaction. The use of nitrogen as a supervisory gas has been approved by NFPA 13 (Section 7.2.6.1) and FM Global Data Sheet 2-1: Corrosion in Automatic Sprinkler Systems (Section 3.2, April 2018).

An economical way of providing a reliable source of nitrogen is with the use of a nitrogen generator. A nitrogen generator makes 98% nitrogen by taking compressed air that is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and other trace gases and separating it. ECS nitrogen generators achieve this by using membrane separation technology.

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OVERVIEW OF ECS NITROGEN GENERATORS

ECS nitrogen generators are designed specifically for fire protection systems to meet the growing industry need for corrosion management. Our innovations and patented technologies provide a permanent solution to mitigate corrosion in dry-pipe and pre-action fire sprinkler systems.

Small to medium projects can generally be supplied with a pre-engineered nitrogen generator that includes an integral air compressor (PGEN-3/5/10/20). Projects with a larger cumulative sprinkler system capacity should be supplied with an engineered stand-alone nitrogen generator paired with a separate air compressor or house air (PGEN-30/40/50/60).

Wall Mount / Skid Mount Nitrogen Generators

Capacity – Up to 2,000 gallons of sprinkler volume for wall mounts and 3,200 gallons for skid mounts.

Storage – Wall mount generators do not require any floor space. If your project is too big for a wall mount generator, the ECS skid mount generator (PGEN-20) is a compact, pre-engineered solution. 

Optimal project types – These generators are a great fit for many small to medium projects. Whether the project consists of a small data center or converting an assisted living facility anti-freeze system to a dry system, the wall-mount series has demonstrated exceptional performance while requiring minimal installation time and space.

PGEN-3 PGEN-5 Nitrogen Generator and Fire Sprinkler Corrosion
PGEN-5 Nitrogen Dry Sprinkler System and Fire Sprinkler Corrosion

PGEN-3/PGEN-5

Features

  • Up to 675/950 gallons total sprinkler system capacity
  • FM Approved
  • UL 508A Listed Industrial Control Panel
  • Integrated oil-less air compressor
  • Wall-mount ready
  • Air bypass and leak monitoring alarm signals included
  • Equipped with multiple monitoring outputs

Specifications

Nitrogen Purity: 98%+
Electrical: 120VAC, 6 amps
Dimensions: 36” (H) x 24” (W) x 9” (D)

PGEN-10 Fire Sprinkler Corrosion and Nitrogen Generator

PGEN-10

Features

  • Up to 2,000 gallons total sprinkler system capacity
  • FM Approved
  • UL 508A Listed Industrial Control Panel
  • Integrated oil-less air compressor
  • Wall-mount ready
  • Air bypass and leak monitoring alarm signals included
  • Equipped with multiple monitoring outputs

Specifications

Nitrogen Purity: 98%+
Electrical: 120VAC, 24amps
Dimensions: 38” (H) x 29” (W) x 11” (D)

PGEN-20 Nitrogen Generator and Fire Sprinkler System

PGEN-20

Features

  • Up to 3,200 gallons total sprinkler system capacity
  • FM Approved
  • UL 508A Listed Industrial Control Panel
  • Integrated oil-less air compressor w/ air receiver tank
  • All equipment skid-mounted
  • Air bypass and leak monitoring alarm signals included
  • Equipped with multiple monitoring outputs

Specifications

Nitrogen Purity: 98%+
Electrical: 120VAC, 2 amps (generator) 208/480VAC, 3 phase (compressor)
Dimensions: 57” (H) x 32” (W) x 40” (D)

PGEN-40 Nitrogen Generator and Fire Sprinkler Corrosion

Stand-Alone Nitrogen Generators

Capacity – Up to 22,500 gallons of sprinkler volume.

Storage – The largest ECS stand-alone nitrogen generator only requires two square feet of floor space. 

Optimal locations – These generators are a great fit for large data centers, cold storage applications, or large parking garages.

PGEN-30 and Nitrogen Generator for Fire Protection

PGEN-30

Features

  • Up to 6,500 gallons total sprinkler system capacity
  • UL 508A Listed Industrial Control Panel
  • Paired with 5 hp oil lubricated air compressor
  • Air bypass and leak monitoring alarm signals included
  • Equipped with multiple monitoring outputs

Specifications

Nitrogen Purity: 98%+
Electrical: 120VAC, 2 amps
Dimensions: 53” (H) x 24” (W) x 12” (D)

PGEN-40 update

PGEN-40

Features

  • Up to 11,000 gallons total sprinkler system capacity
  • FM Approved
  • UL 508A Listed Industrial Control Panel
  • Paired with 7.5 hp oil lubricated air compressor
  • Stand-alone cabinet
  • Air bypass and leak monitoring alarm signals included
  • Equipped with multiple monitoring outputs

Specifications

Nitrogen Purity: 98%+
Electrical: 120VAC, 2 amps
Dimensions: 77” (H) x 24” (W) x 12” (D)

PGEN-50 Sprinkler System Vent

PGEN-50 / PGEN-60

Features

  • Up to 18,500/22,500 gallons total sprinkler system capacity
  • FM Approved
  • UL 508A Listed Industrial Control Panel
  • Paired with 7.5 or 10 hp oil lubricated air compressor
  • Stand-alone cabinet
  • Air bypass and leak monitoring alarm signals included
  • Equipped with multiple monitoring outputs

 

Specifications

Nitrogen Purity: 98%+
Electrical: 120VAC, 2 amps
Dimensions: 77” (H) x 24” (W) x 12” (D)

ECS Dry System Venting Devices

A nitrogen generator system for dry pipe and pre-action fire sprinkler systems is not complete without a venting device.

The primary function of a dry system vent is to allow removal of corrosive oxygen from the fire sprinkler system. Without a vent, the nitrogen generator will only provide high purity nitrogen gas as the system depressurizes through natural system leakage, allowing the oxygen trapped inside to continue to corrode for 90 to 120 days before being consumed. By comparison, a fire sprinkler system with a nitrogen generator and a vent will completely remove oxygen in 14 days or less, offering a significant benefit in corrosion control.

We offer two different models of dry system vents to remove oxygen from the fire sprinkler system. The ECS Protector Dry Manual Vent (PAV-D) offers a lower upfront cost and does not require any electrical connections. The ECS Protector Dry SMART Vent (PSV-D) offers more functionality and automation, closing automatically in 14 days once the sprinkler system reaches the desired concentration. Both vents are installed at the fire sprinkler riser and facilitate the fill and purge breathing process.

Protector Dry Manual Vent (PAV-D) and Fire Sprinkler Corrosion

Protector Dry Manual Vent (PAV-D)

Features

  • Installed at fire sprinkler riser, no remote installation required
  • Facilitates patented “fill and purge” breathing process
  • Sprinkler system reaches 98% nitrogen within two (2) weeks
  • Pressure regulator prevents system depressurization
  • Float valve prevents water discharge
  • Requires no plumbing to drain No electric required
Protector Dry SMART Vent (PSV-D) and Nitrogen Generator for Fire Protection

Protector Dry SMART Vent (PSV-D)

Features

  • Installed at fire sprinkler riser, no remote installation required
  • Facilitates patented “fill and purge” breathing process
  • Automatically closes once 98% nitrogen has been reached
  • Pressure regulator prevents system depressurization
  • Float valve prevents water discharge
  • Requires no plumbing to drain Includes control box enclosure, requires 120V power supply

THE ECS ADVANTAGE

ECS sells directly to fire sprinkler contractors

We do not sell equipment through traditional fire sprinkler distribution channels. This means that our project engineers can work alongside your teams to provide system design and product selection assistance for every project.

ECS nitrogen generators are the simplest, most compact solutions on the market

ECS generators are quick to install, operate and maintain. We do not require nitrogen storage tanks or air dryers. Our wall mount nitrogen generator series requires no floor space and can serve up to 2,000 gallons of total system volume while meeting the NFPA 13 fill requirement for up to 1,120 gallons.

Our vents can be installed at the riser

They are not required to be located at the end of the dry or preaction system. This saves time and money when installing and maintaining the system. No longer will you be required to coordinate power to the end of the system for an electronic vent or run tubing from the end of the system to the valve room for a gas analyzer. With ECS equipment everything is installed in the riser room.

ECS has the industry best lead times, hands down

We guarantee that all orders are processed and shipped within 72 hours of receipt of an order.  There is no need to go through traditional fire sprinkler distribution channels.

ECS offers support and training for new dry and wet pipe fire sprinkler system installations

ECS engineers are on call 24/7/365 to provide technical assistance, trouble-shooting and commissioning/start-up support.  Additional corrosion education from ECS includes:
  • Contractor field office training
  • Joint calls with fire sprinkler contractor clients
  • ECS University at the ECS St. Louis headquarters with classroom and hands on sessions
Ready to learn more about which nitrogen system is perfect for your project? Contact our team of experts today.
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