you really want to keep your home and the people and
property in it as safe as possible from fire, consider a
residential sprinkler system.
to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), a division of
FEMA, fire sprinklers inside a home reduce the chance of
fire death by 80 percent and cut the likelihood of
property damage by 71 percent.
experts and fire control and prevention pros say
sprinklers are a good idea for all homes, whether new or
existing, and should be used in combination with smoke
the United States, hundreds of municipalities as well as
California and Maryland require that new residential
construction include fire sprinklers. However, newly
proposed mandates generally face strong opposition from
home building organizations, in large part because they
add to the cost and complexity of building. To find out
if your locality mandates sprinklers, contact your state
fire marshalís office.
interviewing consumers, highly rated sprinkler
installers and experts on fire control and prevention,
including the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA),
our research staff learned that many homeowners have
misconceptions about home sprinkler systems:
Every sprinkler in the house will go off at once. The
reality, experts say, is that only the heads that detect
fire will activate. Usually, one head will extinguish a
blaze before it spreads.
Sprinkler systems are unattractive. The reality, experts
say, is that the heads stay flush against the wall or
ceiling until deployed, so they donít greatly affect
home aesthetics. A single sprinkler head can cover from
144 to 200 square feet.
to the NFPA, the cost of a fire sprinkler system,
installed, has dropped from an average $1.61 per square
foot in 2008 to $1.35 in 2013. The association says the
decline is due to government mandates, which increase
the number of contractors doing the work. In some parts
of California, according to the NFPA, the cost is less
than $1 a square foot.
actual price can vary widely by region. One Chicago-area
homeowner, whose town of Libertyville, Ill., requires a
fire sprinklers in new construction, paid about $12,000
to have a sprinkler system included in a home built in
NFPA doesnít maintain statistics about installing
sprinklers in existing homes. However, additional work
to cut walls and update existing plumbing means the cost
is likely higher than for new construction. One state
fire marshal told our team that he retrofitted his
2,400-square-foot home with sprinklers for $3,500.
to the USFA, homeowners who have sprinklers should
expect a discount of 5 to 15 percent on their home
recommend that fire sprinkler systems should be
regularly maintained. This includes checking to make
sure that sprinklers arenít blocked, annually opening
the drain valve to be sure water flows freely, and
arranging an annual inspection by a licensed plumber to
be sure the systemís backflow prevention device is