Hangers are Important to System Performance

by Kraig Kirschner, from the 9/2003 issue of Sprinkler Age, page 42

A fire sprinkler system is not just another mechanical system. It is an emergency mechanical system, whose primary function may be life safety. So, we need to install fire sprinklers like someone's life depends on it. Hangers are important to reliable future performance of a fire sprinkler system. The ability of the fire sprinkler system could be compromised if its components are not at their intended locations.

It's important that fire sprinklers be at precise locations during sprinkler head activation. Hangers guard the reliability and function of a fire sprinkler by durably maintaining installed piping locations. The hangers are part of a system that provides long service life. Accordingly, NFPA 13 has defined its hanging process more thoroughly than that of any other mechanical construction standard in the building industry. NFPA 13 hangers are specified to high standards as evidenced by safety factors in excess of 5 and precise criteria for placement, spacing and attachment. NFPA 13 hangers are UL listed and FM approved to these high standards, further emphasizing their importance.

The ability of the hanger and the quality of its installation go hand in hand. NFPA 13 hanger criteria specifies quality craftsmanship evidenced by both durable components and detailed installation procedures. Secure attachment methods address fastener ability and quality of its installation. The hangers provide uniform support to minimize component stress and maximize system stability. They maintain sprinkler head spacing and deflector distance necessary for uniform density and thermal response. Hangers provide seismic resistance and control system flexibility.

As shown by changes to the '99 edition of NFPA 13, the NFPA hanging and bracing committee strives to modify criteria wording in order to improve its understanding. The committee does not want the text of NFPA 13 to enable poor craftsmanship and is in the process of addressing this issue for the next edition. We realize that clear text wording fortifies the intent of the code, which helps AHJs enforce the code.

The 13D system is NFPA's most forward thinking life safety solution. As recognition of this fact grows and more fire sprinklers are installed in our homes, the hanger criteria of NFPA 13D should be expanded similar to that of NFPA 13. This change would provide significant improvement for a negligible cost, thus maintaining the tenant of the 13D committee regarding reasonable cost. The durability and quality control that good hangers provide is important. Durable hangers ensure that the dimension and geometry of the sprinkler system components will remain as installed, plumbers tape with nails provide no such assurance. To further guard the acceptable level of life safety, the NFPA 13D Committee should implement NFPA 13 hanger standards.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kraig Kirschner is president and CEO of AFCON, a manufacturer of fire sprinkler pipe hanger products and sway braces. He is a principal committee member of NFPA 13 Hanging and Bracing and holds numerous patents for seismic bracing and pipe hangers. He can be reached at (610) 444-0451. Visit AFCON's website at

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