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Kitchen Fire System Acceptance Tests

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  • Kitchen Fire System Acceptance Tests

    When it comes to witnessing an acceptance test of newly installed commercial kitchen fire suppression systems, do many other inspectors utilize the balloon test?

    If you are not familiar with a balloon test, it involves placing a balloon on each discharge nozzle of the suppression system. You "should" at least be aware of the flow volume of each nozzle on the system: Ansul for instance has nozzles coded 1N, 1F, 1W, 2W, 230, 245, 260, 290, 2120 etc. with the first number being the flow volume, and the N being narrow flow, W being wide flow, and the 2 or 3 digit number being the degree pattern, ie; 30 degrees, 45 degrees or 120 degrees etc. Thus a 245 Nozzle is a 2 flow, 45 degree spray pattern.

    The balloons thus will inflate upon system air flowing at different rates and volumes from the respective nozzles.

    Some installers claim this test proves nothing. I beg to differ. One installer just yesterday actually provided me with a printed article that after reading it a couple times over (the other inspectors I work with also formed the same opinion), I came away with the belief that the writer was almost advocating no testing/commission of new systems! Basically stating that these systems are already UL listed and tested by the manufacturers, and that by requiring tests, we are "testing what has already been tested!" The magazine (Firewatch) is put out by the fire extinguisher and fire suppression system industry. You can google "Balloons are for parties, not fire protection" to find the specific article. I do find it odd that a fire protection company was armed with a pre-printed article to hand me on this very topic!
    The installer states that the nozzle caps blowing off, and merely doing a puff test should suffice.

    And after having a few install "quality" issues in our jurisdiction (some of which have been major install flaws), we have adopted a stricter acceptance/commissioning testing stance with new systems.
    I personally have been to the Ansul Design, Installation and Maintenance Course two times over the last 12 years and am also ICC Certified in Pre-Engineered Fire Systems and can spot deficiencies rather quickly. Finding visible deficiencies in the open cause me to start looking further and I end up finding more hidden above ceilings and hoods, etc.

    Do any others perform this same test, have you had issues with new installs? Or does anyone view these tests (with balloons) as ridiculous as the Firewatch article suggests?
    Last edited by Fireguyminn; 12-02-2011, 09:16 AM.

  • #2
    Have not done ballon tests on wet systems

    I kinda of do not see how looking at balloons inflate can tell you if you have the correct flow

    Have seen some minor problems in systems, mainly the owner not putting in the appliances that were submitted on the plans

    What flaws have you been seeing????

    Yes they need to do a function test and blow air threw the lines

    The ballon test maybe a hold over from the old dry systems, when a full dump test was done. Which did not prove anything, except getting everyone powder coated when the balloons broke


    • #3


      • #4
        Sorry read the article

        Agree function tests and manufactures test is what I agree with only


        • #5
          Originally posted by fire49 View Post
          What flaws have you been seeing????
          With my familiarity with some of the design manuals, I have seen where 2 agent tanks were connected together (manifolded-which is allowed) and the max distance between the two was to not exceed 8 1/2" center-to-center and I've found tanks 17" or more apart.

          I've found tee connectors where they were bullnosed tees, where two tanks discharging would deadhead against each other, which will restrict the agent flow upon discharge. This is all detailed in system design and installation manuals.

          I've found threaded piping that was not connected with the use of teflon tape, severely loose piping, and too many 90 degree elbows installed in an agent distribution line, wrong nozzles installed to protect a specific appliance.

          These are all things that a properly trained and certified technician should know!

          If your agency does not have the manufacturers manuals for the respective systems in your jurisdiction, I would strongly suggest obtaining copies. Many of the suppression companies will gladly provide you with them.
          It is in our interest, as well as theirs, that these systems are installed properly and function as they are designed to do. If a fire does happen, and you witnessed and signed off on the acceptance test of that system but it failed during the fire and someone dies, or the building is a total loss, what could happen?

          Once the forensic examination of the system is completed and it is determined that something was installed wrong and it was accepted and signed off by the AHJ, will the lawyers just go after the installer? Depending on the final determination, they could go after the manufacturer of the system, the distributor, the installer, the city (because one of their fire inspectors accepted it and signed off), the restaurant owner. . . . . .

          That is why we feel it is in our best interest to make sure all bases are covered. To put it simply, I don't trust contractors. They are known to cut corners to save time and money. Is it so far outside the realm of possibility to believe a fire protection contractor won't? I'm not about to bet my position and title on it. Until I stop seeing major mistakes, I'll remain vigilant.
          Last edited by Fireguyminn; 12-02-2011, 06:00 PM.


          • #6
            Sounds like you are doing good

            But the items you mentioned do not justify any testing outside what is required by maker

            Yes if there is a question I ask for the install manual

            I would say and have seen they go after the installing company first

            Yes the city will be drug through it


            • #7
              Absolutely we require a balloon test as part of the system acceptance test. When I schedule a test, I require that the system installer as well as the fire alarm tech be present so that we can test it all in one shot. Alarm is placed on test, then we trip the system. Check for proper alarm activation, fuel cut off, and flow (balloons.)
              "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."


              • #8
                FWIW, a "balloon test" does not provide any more real data than simply checking to see if the system has blown all the dust caps off the nozzles. There is really no way to empirically determine if the system is distributing agent as desired without doing an actual system dump and collecting the agent at each nozzle (in a bag -- not a balloon). Such a "bag test" -- aside from being impractical -- is unnecessary and unreasonably expensive to require.

                BTW, I googled and read the article; it's dead on correct.

                (We don't conduct any system testing for acceptance per se; we witness the system testing conducted by the licensed installation and alarm technicians. Personally, I would never ask a technician to waste his time (or mine) doing a "balloon test".)
                Last edited by DeputyMarshal; 12-05-2011, 12:50 PM.
                "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"
                The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.


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