What Do Fire Dampers Do?

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For over 35 years, Lloyd Industries has been an active manufacturer of fire dampers and HVAC products. While knowing fire dampers inside and out is our job, we know understanding the logistics of what they actually do can be confusing.

Unlike sprinklers or fire alarms, passive fire protection isn’t something that everyone is familiar with. Fire dampers and smoke dampers are part of a passive fire protection system that protects your building from smoke and fire damage. They also give first responders time to enter the building and fight the fire before it spreads further.

Why Do I Need a Passive Fire Protection System?

A major safety concern for any organization is keeping its employees safe and mitigating the risks of a fire damaging the building. Fire dampers and smoke dampers are part of your Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning System — also known as HVAC. They work within your HVAC system to interrupt flames, smoke, and heat from spreading throughout a building. These dampers are essential for keeping your building, the people within it, and first responders safe.

How Do Fire Dampers Work?

Fire dampers are installed within the air ducts of your HVAC system where two fire-rated barriers meet. Fire-rated barriers are there to slow the spread of fires. By installing fire dampers at the intersection of these barriers, they’re able to stop the spread of flames and heat from circulating through the air vents.

Fire dampers are able to detect excessive heat and are activated when the temperature of a room rises above 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the temperature rises, there is a fusible link that is attached to the fire damper that will melt. When the fusible link melts, the damper closes. This cuts off air distribution into the room and stops the oxygen supply from feeding the fire.

Once the fire dampers are shut, they help contain the fire to its origins. By detecting excessive heat, preventing air distribution and oxygen supply, and resisting the passage of flames, fire dampers can help save lives.

Types of Fire Dampers

While all fire dampers perform the same general function, the way they operate distinguishes them from each other. There are three main types of fire dampers: static fire dampers, dynamic fire dampers, and combination dampers.

  • Static Fire Dampers

A static fire damper works like a curtain. They are designed to cut off airflow as soon as a fire starts. Your building’s fire system will detect the fire, triggering your HVAC system to shut off. Once your HVAC system shuts off, the fan stops causing the static fire damper to close due to lack of air pressure. Once the fire damper has shut, no air or flames can pass through the ducts of your HVAC system.

  • Dynamic Fire Dampers

A dynamic fire damper is spring-loaded, which is how they close — blocking airflow and flames from spreading throughout the building. Unlike with static fire dampers, dynamic fire dampers are installed in HVAC systems that do not automatically shut off in the event of a fire. That means the air will continue to circulate within the HVAC system. Once the fire damper detects heat, its built-in fan activates, forcing the spring-loaded system to shut.

  • Combination Dampers

Combination dampers combine smoke and fire dampers into one unit. Once extreme heat is detected, the combination damper will automatically close. Combination dampers have their own smoke detection systems that trigger the damper to close. Combination dampers operate separately from the HVAC system, similar to how dynamic fire dampers work.

What is a Smoke Damper?

Passive fire protection systems also include smoke dampers. Whenever there is a fire, the first sign is often the smell or sight of smoke. Smoke also poses one of the biggest risks in terms of safety and damage. Smoke dampers help slow the travel of smoke through a building in the event of a fire.

Smoke dampers are triggered by the smoke detection system within the building. When the smoke detection system sense smoke in the building, it sends a signal to the smoke dampers to close.

Once closed, smoke dampers stop air from circulating through a building and trap the smoke. This allows people to get out of the building before the smoke becomes too dense, as well as provides fires responders with time to contain the smoke and fire damage. Smoke dampers are installed at the intersection of smoke barriers, much like fire dampers with fire barriers.

Importance and Maintenance of Fire and Smoke Dampers

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) began recommending the use of fire dampers and smoke dampers as a part of passive fire protection systems during the 1930s. Today, fire and smoke dampers are a mandatory part of the NFPA’s codes and standards. These codes and standards also require inspections of your passive fire protection system occur yearly.

Beyond smoke and fire dampers, your passive fire protection system includes fire doors, fire walls, smoke barriers, fire barriers, glass block assemblies, fabric fire safety curtains, and special protections for hazardous areas. As part of NFPA Code 80, these passive fire protection systems are required and need regular inspections.

Without these protections in place, a fire and its associated smoke can spread faster than you would expect. This makes escaping a building in the event of a fire dangerous for the people in the building, and makes it more difficult for firefighters to control and fight the fire.

At Lloyd Industries, we work with a network of HVAC and fire safety professionals to assist you with all your passive fire protection needs. If you are located in the United States, you can find a list of representations here. If you are international, you can find a list of our international representatives at the bottom of this page. If you want direct assistance from a Lloyd Industries professional, please feel free to contact us at any time.

No matter what your passive fire protection safety needs are, Lloyd Industries has the supplies and products to support you. You can view our entire selection of products here and request a custom quote today.