According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a residential fire occurs in the United States every 77 seconds. In 2004 alone, more than 400,000 residential fires caused over 3,000 deaths and nearly 14,000 injuries. And the property damage resulting from these fires reached a staggering $5.9 billion.

To reduce the devastating effects of residential fires, the NFPA recommends better fire safety education, greater use and maintenance of smoke alarms, development and practice of escape plans and, most importantly, wider use of residential sprinklers.

A residential fire protection system, used in conjunction with fire escape plans, fire drills and working smoke alarms, increases the survival rate from a residential fire to 97%. And fire protection systems--unlike smoke alarms--can actually control a fire and reduce the average property loss by as much as two-thirds.

Considering the cost of installing a residential fire protection system is typically only 1% to 2% of the total cost of building a new home, it makes sense to have a residential sprinkler system installed for the safety of loved ones and the protection of valuable property and possessions inside the home.

A sprinklerhead with a four-port fitting.

The AQUASAFE® Multi-purpose System

The Uponor AQUASAFE® Residential Fire Protection System (formerly Wirsbo AQUASAFE) is the only non-stagnant, multi-purpose plumbing and fire system on the market designed specifically for one- and two-family homes, such as townhouses and condos. The multi-purpose system means fresh water circulates throughout the tubing that feeds to heat-activated sprinklers every time an occupant uses a cold-water plumbing fixture.

Multi-purpose systems offer great benefits because they cost less--as much as 15% less than a stand-alone system--since they use less pipe and fittings, plus they eliminate the need for two different installers. With the AQUASAFE system, plumbers can be trained to install both the cold-water plumbing and the fire protection system at the same time, saving valuable time and labor costs.

The AQUASAFE system uses a grid layout to deliver water.

Common Misconceptions About Residential Fire Protection Systems

A common misconception about fire protection systems is that they can malfunction and cause damage, but industry statistics indicate that the chance of a sprinkler malfunctioning is merely 1 in 16 million.

Another concern for homeowners is that all the sprinklers in the home will go off at the same time--causing extensive water damage. But 50 years of insurance records show that the likelihood of sprinklers accidentally activating is remote. Fire sprinklers are specifically designed and rigorously tested to only release water when they detect the surrounding temperature has reached 155°F (68°C).

The Uponor AQUASAFE Residential Fire Protection System is designed to offer the safest, most reliable and most dependable fire protection system.

Uponor Wirsbo PEX Tubing

The core of the AQUASAFE system is the safe, durable and installation-friendly Uponor Wirsbo AQUAPEX® tubing. AQUAPEX is classified within the industry as PEX-a tubing. PEX-a tubing is considered to be a superior PEX tubing because the crosslinking is done during the manufacturing process when the polyethylene is in its amorphic state (above the crystalline melting point). Because of this, the degree of crosslinking reaches around 85%, resulting in a more uniform product with no weak links in the molecular chain.

Crosslinking the molecules gives AQUAPEX shape memory, which allows the use of Uponor's exclusive ProPEX® fitting system. The fitting system uses a special ring, and expands the ring and tubing to slip the expanded ring and tubing over the fitting. The ring and tubing immediately return to their original diameter, gripping the fitting and making an extremely strong connection without the need for calibration, heat or flame.

In addition to shape memory, the tubing also features thermal memory, which allows an installer to reform kinked tubing with a simple shot of heat from a heat gun. The tubing is able to return to its original shape without damage or weakening to the repaired area.

Because of its superior structure, AQUAPEX tubing does not pit, leak or corrode like copper pipes, and it is highly freeze resistant.

The tubing is manufactured to ASTM F876, ASTM F877, ASTM F1960 and ASTM F2023 as certified by NSF International. Both the tubing and fittings are UL and C-UL listed for use in multi-purpose systems of residential occupancies as defined in the Standard for Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One and Two Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes per NFPA 13D guidelines.

Uponor Wirsbo PEX tubing is the most installed, most field-proven PEX tubing in the world. More than 2 billion feet of Uponor Wirsbo PEX tubing is in service in North America alone, and more than 11 billion feet of Uponor PEX is installed worldwide.

With tree or simple-loop layouts, the sprinklers that are further away from the water supply require more pressure than those that are closer. But in the AQUASAFE grid, all the sprinklers have similar discharge pressure.

System Overview

The main components in the AQUASAFE system include the following.

  • 1/2" Uponor Wirsbo AQUAPEX tubing

  • 1" type-L copper manifolds

  • ProPEX fitting system

  • Stainless steel four-port fittings

  • 1/2" brass tees

  • Sprinklers--Concealed, Recessed Pendent and Recessed Horizontal Sidewall

Heat-activated fire sprinklers are attached to Uponor's multi-port fittings. The multi-port fittings are Type 300 stainless steel, which is highly resistant to corrosion or scaling. The fittings feature four ProPEX outlets, and attach to the fire sprinklers using a standard 1/2-inch NPT connection.

Three types of sprinklers--Concealed, Recessed Pendent and Recessed Horizontal Sidewall--are compatible with the AQUASAFE system. Concealed Sprinklers are not visible in the ceiling because they are covered by a special plate, which drops away from the sprinkler when the surrounding temperature reaches 135°F. Recessed Pendent Sprinklers are visible in the ceiling and Recessed Horizontal Sidewall Sprinklers are mounted through the sidewall of the room, between four and six inches down from the ceiling.

The sprinklers in the AQUASAFE system are designed to activate when the surrounding temperature reaches 155°F (68°C). Because fire sprinklers are heat-activated and operate individually, only the sprinklers necessary to stop the fire will turn on. For most home fires, a single sprinkler is usually sufficient to extinguish the fire and keep it from spreading to other areas in the home.

Early operation allows residential fire sprinklers to control fires with much less water--typically 10 times less than fire department hoses. These hoses can discharge up to 200 gallons of water per minute, which could destroy property not damaged by the fire. And home fire sprinklers, in many cases, can contain a fire in less time than it would take the fire department to arrive on the scene.

The AQUASAFE system uses the most efficient method of delivering water to fire sprinklers--a grid layout. In an AQUASAFE grid, water can reach every sprinkler from four directions, greatly improving hydraulic efficiency. In fact, hydraulic efficiency is improved so much that 1/2" diameter tubing, the same dimension tubing used for domestic plumbing, is sufficient to supply residential sprinklers in an AQUASAFE system.

The supply manifold distributes the water to different points in the grid, giving the AQUASAFE system a further hydraulic advantage. With tree or simple-loop layouts, the sprinklers that are further away from the water supply require more pressure than those that are closer. But in the AQUASAFE grid, all the sprinklers have similar discharge pressure.

The uniform available pressure in a grid yields a significant advantage. In a tree or simple loop, sprinklers with a higher-than-minimum pressure will flow more water (over discharge), but the higher available pressure reduces as the sprinkler locations move farther from the supply riser. In the AQUASAFE system, water enters the grid at multiple locations, and all the sprinklers are interconnected. This means any extra pressure is available to all the sprinklers--not just the ones next to the water supply.

Because each tubing section is interconnected, water moves through every tubing section toward the flowing sprinkler when the sprinkler opens, eliminating dead-end branch lines. With no dead-end branch lines, there is no need for costly check valves or backflow preventers, making the AQUASAFE system even more efficient and economical.

Stage One is the initial distribution of water from the manifold.

System Operation

To keep the water pressure high, there are always at least four flow paths to an operating sprinkler. Once an area reaches a temperature of 155°F (68°C), a sprinkler is signaled to operate.

The flow of water occurs in three stages. Stage One is the initial distribution of water from the manifold. The manifold can vary in size depending on the system design. In Stage Two, the water flow from Stage One is distributed through the non-flowing sprinkler fittings. In Stage Three, the tubing sections leading to the flowing sprinkler fitting combine the small volumes in the tubing sections from Stage Two.

Since each sprinkler is heat activated, only the sprinklers necessary to control the fire will operate. This minimizes the amount of water used and decreases the amount of personal property affected.

In Stage Two, the water flow from Stage One is distributed through the non-flowing sprinkler fittings.

Designing an AQUASAFE System

All AQUASAFE systems are designed by Uponor or factory-authorized designers using HydraCalc™ and HydraNet™, Uponor's custom design software programs.

These programs contain the following design documents to create professional systems that provide reliable fire protection.

  • Design information form

  • Sprinkler plans

  • Sprinkler labels

  • Hydraulic calculations

  • Confirmation of the hydraulically most remote sprinkler

  • Sprinkler manufacturer data

These design programs specify the proper location for sprinklers, calculate necessary flow rates and find the most efficient layout for the AQUASAFE system. The programs are designed to comply with national fire codes and standards, and meet the requirements of NFPA 13D and the National Building Code of Canada (as applicable).

In Stage Three, the tubing sections leading to the flowing sprinkler fitting combine the small volumes in the tubing sections from Stage Two.

Installer Qualifications and Training

All AQUASAFE contractors are bound by Uponor's Alliance agreement. The terms of the agreement cover contractor and installer training, as well as contractor obligations to install systems per Uponor's designs. The agreement assures that the Alliance contractors will perform high-quality work that complies with applicable codes and standards. Alliance contractors must also obtain the state or local licenses required for installing multi-purpose systems.

The Future of Residential Fire Protection Systems

According to industry professionals and associations, if the current forecast continues, fire sprinkler systems could soon become a standard part of a home--much like a plumbing or heating system. Because of its relatively low installation cost and the high potential to save lives and property, more and more areas, such as regions in California, Florida, Texas and Illinois, are mandating fire protection systems for one- and two-family home construction.

The Residential Fire Safety Institute (RFSI) carries a complete listing of jurisdictions in the United States with various fire sprinkler ordinances. To view the listing, click here.

Furthermore, fire protection systems are becoming so prevalent, the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) recently reported the industry is experiencing a manpower crisis because so many builders are now required to install fire protection systems in residential homes.

Soon builders, contractors and homeowners will have to make a decision about which fire protection system to use. The answer is a durable, reliable and efficient multi-purpose system like AQUASAFE. It provides the safety of a fire protection system coupled with the efficiency of a multi-purpose system--a combination no other product in the industry can offer.