You know fire safety is critical for businesses but putting safety measures into place is only half the battle. To ensure everyone’s safety, equipment should be installed by professionals and inspected on a regular basis. This is as true for fire dampers as it is for fire extinguishers. So, let’s cover all the questions you might have about fire dampers and fire damper inspection requirements.
What is a Fire Damper?
Fire dampers are products designed to passively protect from fires. A damper is a piece of metal equipment that fits into heating, ventilation, and air conditioning ducts. They are installed in locations where two fire-rated barriers intersect. In the event of a fire, properly installed dampers can prevent the spread of heat, flames, and smoke. To understand how they work, you first need to understand a little about how fires spread.
How Do Fires Spread?
A fire requires three things, often referred to as the fire tetrahedron or triangle:
3. an oxidizing agent—most often oxygen
Fires spread in one of three ways: convection, conduction, and radiation. Convection is the most common cause of fire spread in homes and business buildings. The heat generated by the flames gets trapped by the ceiling of a building, which causes it to then spread horizontally. Flames can consume entire rooms in a matter of minutes.
In larger buildings, fires can spread by conduction. Conduction is the spread of fire through direct contact, meaning structures and items can catch fire and pass to structures and items nearby.
Radiation can spread fires from building to building by transferring heat through electromagnetic waves. The heat transfers in every direction until it comes into contact with an object that can absorb the heat and burst into flames.
How Do Fire Dampers Work?
It’s sobering when you read about the different ways fire spreads and how fast you could lose an entire building. So how do fire dampers help prevent the spread? Fire dampers are activated when the heat rises. A damper resembles the metal air vents in your floor that you can open and close to your liking. Like those air vents, dampers cut off the flow of air. Now that you understand that a fire requires oxygen to keep burning and spreading, you might understand that restricting air and oxygen is essential and potentially lifesaving.
When a building’s temperature rises, the fire damper is activated and the slats close, cutting off air. This act alone helps to contain a fire in a single room and minimize damage. Closing the damper also helps limit the spread of smoke, which is damaging to humans and items as well. There are two types of dampers, static and dynamic.
Each damper serves a unique purpose. Static and dynamic fire dampers are specifically designed to prevent the spread of fire. A licensed HVAC contractor can help determine which option is best for your unique situation.
Why Do Fire Dampers Need Inspection?
Much like smoke and fire detectors require regular monitoring, fire dampers should be tested, monitored, and inspected to ensure they’re in excellent working condition. After all, a faulty damper will not adequately protect from the spread of smoke and fire—the reason they’re installed in the first place.
According to www.nfpa.org, the NFPA 80 is a “standard which regulates the installation and maintenance of assemblies and devices used to protect openings in walls, floors, and ceilings against the spread of fire…” This standard sets the recommendations for testing and inspecting passive fire protection equipment like fire and smoke dampers.
Fire dampers should be inspected as outlined by this standard unless the facility or a local authority has jurisdiction and requires more frequent inspections and monitoring.
Do I Need to Perform Fire Damper Inspection?
Technically, the NFPA 80 does not require that a certified technician performs the inspection of the fire damper, but a person conducting an inspection should have a general understanding of the equipment and how it operates.
While we do not recommend performing your own fire damper inspection, if you choose to go this route, you should carefully read the fire damper inspection requirements below and ensure you have a good understanding of what each requirement means.
Who Does Fire Damper Inspections?
Ideally, a certified HVAC technician will perform your fire damper’s inspection. Professionals have a deep understanding of the way fire dampers work and the fire damper inspection requirements. They know what to look for and common issues that may occur. Someone who is not well-versed in fire damping might perform an inspection and miss an issue that would be glaringly obvious to a professional.
How Often Does Fire Damper Inspection Occur?
The NFPA 105 requires that each fire or smoke damper should be inspected one-year post-installation. Regular fire damper inspection should be executed every four years following the initial inspection.
There are some variations in the frequency of fire damper inspections, including in hospitals where regular inspections are required every six years.
What are Fire Damper Inspection Requirements?
The following is a list of all fire damper inspection requirements as listed by the NFPA 80.
– Fire damper inspection must occur one-year post-installation.
– After the initial inspection, fire damper inspection must occur every four years, except for in such instances as hospitals, where inspection must occur every six years.
– The person conducting the fire damper inspection should be wearing appropriate protective equipment.
– The technician must ensure full, unobstructed access to the damper.
– All fusible links should be removed and tested. Links must fully close and lock.
– Fire damper inspections should verify no foreign objects are interfering with the fire damping, such as damaged frames or rust.
– Ensure the frame of the damper is not penetrated by any object.
– The damper should not be blocked or obstructed in any way. Closure should happen effortlessly.
– The technician must take care to properly re-install all fusible links after the fire damper inspection. If this is not possible due to damage of any kind, then the link must be replaced with an identical link.
– Each fire damper inspection must be documented. Included in the documentation should be location, date, time, name of the inspector, and any issues discovered.
– All issues should be corrected, and all steps of the corrections should be documented.
– Fire damper inspection logs should be available for review by the AHJ and maintained as needed.
These fire damper inspection requirements can also be applied to inspect and test smoke dampers and combination dampers.
How Much Does a Fire Damper Inspection Cost?
Exact pricing depends on the size of your building and the number of dampers to be tested. You can contact your local HVAC expert for a more accurate estimate, but generally, you can expect to pay anywhere from $40-$150 per fire damper to be inspected.
Following a regular inspection schedule helps ensure you’re meeting all legal requirements. It can also give you peace of mind that the passive fire safety measures you’ve put into place are in working order and ready to help in an emergency.