back to blog

What Can Accidentally Set Off A Fire Sprinkler System?

You may be under the false impression that installing a fire suppression sprinkler system is to choose water damage over fire damage. However, the fact is that sprinklers are not set off by smoke and, unlike in the movies, the sprinkler heads don’t trigger all at once. If these myths were true, you would be in danger of soaking all your possessions and company’s assets just by burning a piece of toast in the break room.

How Fire Sprinkler Systems Work

Each individual sprinkler head is triggered automatically when the air rising to the ceiling reaches a fire-specific temperature of 155 to 165 degrees. Often, only one or two sprinklers are required to fully extinguish a building fire. Since sprinklers use only about one-sixth of the water from a fire hose, they cause much less water damage to your property than a visit from the fire department would.

It’s true that early fire suppression sprinklers were unreliable and caused significant water damage when set off, but today’s sprinklers are more advanced. Still, accidental discharge is still possible. Aside from deliberate sabotage, consider the most common reasons sprinkler heads go off when they’re not intended to:

Accidental Overheating

Sprinklers located near heaters, skylights, and other areas of high heat can cause the fire sprinkler heads to discharge by accident. To prevent this, high-temperature-rated sprinklers are required. These activate at 200 to 300 degrees. If new heat sources are added to an existing building, the sprinklers should consequently be adjusted.


Most sprinkler systems are wet pipe systems, meaning the pipes are full of water. If the pipes freeze, the expanding ice produces thousands of pounds of pressure, sometimes enough to break fittings and force valve caps open. When the system thaws, water may discharge from the sprinkler. As a preventative measure, special types of systems can be installed in areas subject to freezing.

Mechanical Damage

Forceful installation can damage a sprinkler’s operating mechanism, potentially causing the parts to come loose weeks or months later. To prevent this, a knowledgeable professional using the proper tools should perform the installation and regular inspection.


Very old sprinklers or systems installed in harsh environments are subject to corrosion, which weakens system parts and releases water. Regular inspection and testing can catch corrosion early and prevent unintentional discharge.

Fire Sprinkler Monitoring & Inspections

Fire sprinkler monitoring and inspections from a fire protection technician can help insure your system is working as it should. With fire sprinkler monitoring and regular inspection, your panel will also alert us if there is a technical glitch or malfunction with your system—this wouldn’t constitute emergency response from the fire department, but our technicians will be able to repair your system as quickly as possible so that your building, employees, and assets are always protected.

To learn more about these services, please contact Kauffman Co., your Houston-area fire suppression experts.

Proudly serving

Alvin  |  Angleton  |  Austin  |  Baytown
 |  Beaumont  |  Bellaire  |  
Clute  |  Conroe
 |  Deer Park  |  Dickinson  |  Freeport
 Friendswood  |  Galena Park
 |  Galveston  |  Houston  |  Humble