HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

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retiredjg
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by retiredjg »

Antifreeze is not mildly toxic to animals. It's deadly. If the system did activate and animals died, I would not want to be one of the people involved in that decision.

If the building is pet free....I'm not sure how I would feel about antifreeze in the pipes. Is this a common solution?
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retiredjg
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by retiredjg »

Investigate the plumbing protection systems for recreational vehicles. I believe the pipe are wrapped with a heating wire that can be turned on when needed.
neilpilot
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by neilpilot »

In industry we would install a dry system, filled with air at a low pressure. If a fire opens a sprinkler, a sensing system would activate a shuttle valve and start water flow. Probably not practical for a residence.

Other than heat tape on the circuit exposed to unheated conditions I'd choose the second option.
3feetpete
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by 3feetpete »

I would stay away from the antifreeze. My condo had recurring problems with frozen water pipes. The ultimate fix was.

- replaced pipe with a type of pipe that doesn't burst when frozen. I believe it is called cross linked polyethylene. Any plumber should know.
- wrap heat trace electric cables on all of the pipes that are in the area.
-insulate the pipe chase
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Smorgasbord
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by Smorgasbord »

Since the pipe is in a conditioned space, it doesn't seem like you would need that much suppression of the freezing point. A 20% alcohol / water solution doesn't freeze until 22F. Of course, since alcohol is flammable it probably would not be okay to do the whole system with that type of anti-freeze...perhaps just the one section that tends to freeze.
Last edited by Smorgasbord on Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:06 am, edited 2 times in total.
barnaclebob
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by barnaclebob »

retiredjg wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 8:44 am Antifreeze is not mildly toxic to animals. It's deadly. If the system did activate and animals died, I would not want to be one of the people involved in that decision.

If the building is pet free....I'm not sure how I would feel about antifreeze in the pipes. Is this a common solution?
If the system activates the antifreeze will quickly be diluted with water. The pets might die in the fire anyway too. Its possible new anti freeze has something put in it to make it taste bitter instead of like maple syrup but that is a vague memory of reading something about it online so i could be wrong.
Liberty1100
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by Liberty1100 »

retiredjg wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 8:44 am Antifreeze is not mildly toxic to animals. It's deadly. If the system did activate and animals died, I would not want to be one of the people involved in that decision.

If the building is pet free....I'm not sure how I would feel about antifreeze in the pipes. Is this a common solution?
I don't agree with your argument against the antifreeze.

We are talking about a building sprinkler system that is only activated when the temperature is about 155F. Unlike the movies, the sprinklers are activated only when that particular sprinkler head senses 155F and only that one opens up. They don't all open all at once. With the antifreeze, there will be no more freezing accidents. By the time a sprinkler goes off, the smoke alarms and possibly the building fire alarm system is already blaring and flashing. The human occupants should be leaving if present. When a building sprinkler is activated due to an emergency, you and your pets lives are in immediate danger and you should already be exiting the building. Your pet will be far away from the spraying of the sprinkler. The sprinklers are there to attempt to reduce the spread of the fire so that people can exit safely.

However, if we were talking about the landscape sprinklers, I totally agree. Don't use antifreeze for that. Get them blown out and drained.

Along with the insulation in the common space, you can add a self-regulating heated tape that can be wrapped around the pipe. You can have it so that it is only running when it sees cold temperature and not during the summer. I'm not suggesting this is the right product to use, but this is similar to what you may want to look into: Grainger Self-Regulating Heat Tape.
dbr
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by dbr »

If you are going to put a hazardous chemical in the sprinkler system I would advise consulting the fire department about that. If nothing else they need to be informed regarding any hazardous materials involved in a fire. Also, what about combustion products from such a material before the fire is suppressed.
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corn18
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by corn18 »

RV antifreeze is safe for all. Get the kind with propylene glycol.
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retiredjg
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by retiredjg »

barnaclebob wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:04 am
retiredjg wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 8:44 am Antifreeze is not mildly toxic to animals. It's deadly. If the system did activate and animals died, I would not want to be one of the people involved in that decision.

If the building is pet free....I'm not sure how I would feel about antifreeze in the pipes. Is this a common solution?
If the system activates the antifreeze will quickly be diluted with water. The pets might die in the fire anyway too. Its possible new anti freeze has something put in it to make it taste bitter instead of like maple syrup but that is a vague memory of reading something about it online so i could be wrong.
Not sure this changes my mind. What if the system is activated accidentally and turns off before the entire system is flushed out? The anti-freeze would not be diluted in that case.

Have not heard about changes to anti-freeze. That would be good.
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retiredjg
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by retiredjg »

Liberty1100 wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:16 am By the time a sprinkler goes off, the smoke alarms and possibly the building fire alarm system is already blaring and flashing. The human occupants should be leaving if present. When a building sprinkler is activated due to an emergency, you and your pets lives are in immediate danger and you should already be exiting the building. Your pet will be far away from the spraying of the sprinkler. The sprinklers are there to attempt to reduce the spread of the fire so that people can exit safely.
This argument doesn't work if you are away from home. But the idea that lots of sprinklers don't go off at one time could make a difference.

Nevertheless, things happen. Things break. Things go off when they shouldn't. And some foreign country may have hacked into a sprinkler system somewhere.... :D That's why I'm wondering if this is a tested and proven solution that is standard in the sprinkler industry. The whole idea just feels wrong to me especially since it seems more expensive than just using heat tape designed for that purpose.
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retiredjg
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by retiredjg »

taguscove wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:39 am The heat tape is a great idea, and the sprinkler people agreed. Thanks so much.
That makes a lot more sense to me. Why didn't they suggest that in the first place?
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by TLC1957 »

My point of view from someone who worked in the insurance industry as a loss prevention engineer for 36 years...call your agent and request they have a loss prevention engineer from your insurance carrier come out and provide suggestions. They deal with this kinda stuff all the time and will know the codes and how they suggest you take care of the problem. Believe me they do not want to pay for water damage anymore then you want to have another event.
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by dbr »

TLC1957 wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 10:53 am My point of view from someone who worked in the insurance industry as a loss prevention engineer for 36 years...call your agent and request they have a loss prevention engineer from your insurance carrier come out and provide suggestions. They deal with this kinda stuff all the time and will know the codes and how they suggest you take care of the problem. Believe me they do not want to pay for water damage anymore then you want to have another event.
That makes all kinds of sense. Any ad hoc solution may have its own drawbacks. For example, heat tape is not entirely free of fire hazard, etc.
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by neilpilot »

dbr wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 11:00 am
TLC1957 wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 10:53 am My point of view from someone who worked in the insurance industry as a loss prevention engineer for 36 years...call your agent and request they have a loss prevention engineer from your insurance carrier come out and provide suggestions. They deal with this kinda stuff all the time and will know the codes and how they suggest you take care of the problem. Believe me they do not want to pay for water damage anymore then you want to have another event.
That makes all kinds of sense. Any ad hoc solution may have its own drawbacks. For example, heat tape is not entirely free of fire hazard, etc.
Sure it makes sense, but presumably the sprinkler repair company is NICET certified, or has similar credentials to work on residential sprinklers.
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by HongKonger »

Use green antifreeze - the kind they use in food. No need to use the toxic cheap stuff these days.
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by iamlucky13 »

My first thought reading the first post was heat tape. Since it apparently was not previously suggested, I suppose you should see if there was a reason for that.

Even without the heat tape, improvements to insulation seem worth investigating.
retiredjg wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 8:44 am Antifreeze is not mildly toxic to animals. It's deadly. If the system did activate and animals died, I would not want to be one of the people involved in that decision.
Mildly toxic is deadly, too. It's a matter of dose. Ethylene glycol is in the middle. It's definitely a hazard in relatively small doses, and just as importantly, can be slightly sweet tasting. It's usually, at least when sold for vehicles, mixed with a bitterant. With that added, it tastes absolutely terrible. If you got a drop on your tongue (such as if you were flushing the cooling system on a Honda, not designed for easy service), then spat and immediately and thoroughly rinsed your mouth out with water, you'd still be regretting your carelessness an hour later.
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by TLC1957 »

Folks we are discussing something that is very technical and really needs special attention. For all those that suggested antifreeze just note the following below from that code that applies to sprinkler systems....note the "inability for the solution to ignite" this has been a big problem. A fire starts and the antifreeze actually ignites resulting in a larger more intense fire....


The use of antifreeze in new NFPA 13 sprinkler systems is now prohibited unless the solution use has been listed and the listing indicates illustrates the inability for the solution to ignite.
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by barnaclebob »

retiredjg wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:36 am
barnaclebob wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:04 am
retiredjg wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 8:44 am Antifreeze is not mildly toxic to animals. It's deadly. If the system did activate and animals died, I would not want to be one of the people involved in that decision.

If the building is pet free....I'm not sure how I would feel about antifreeze in the pipes. Is this a common solution?
If the system activates the antifreeze will quickly be diluted with water. The pets might die in the fire anyway too. Its possible new anti freeze has something put in it to make it taste bitter instead of like maple syrup but that is a vague memory of reading something about it online so i could be wrong.
Not sure this changes my mind. What if the system is activated accidentally and turns off before the entire system is flushed out? The anti-freeze would not be diluted in that case.

Have not heard about changes to anti-freeze. That would be good.
That would be a very rare occurrence on top of another rare occurrence. Fluffy's life has a price.
mikebee
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by mikebee »

Replace all exposed pipes with PEX pipes. Easy.
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by TLC1957 »

mikebee wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:40 pm Replace all exposed pipes with PEX pipes. Easy.

Sure is IF all the pipe is exposed and easy to get to, unlikely.....Not to mention all the calculations and engineering signed off drawings needed....oh and since this is a a complete tear out you may need to bring this section up to current sprinkler code.

Also PEX pipe is not a code solution to unheated or poorly heated areas....the code assumes the area has adequate heat if not choices are limited...dry pipe system, single interlocked preaction system or antifreeze....yea like I said complicated...

Maybe not so easy.....
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by alex_686 »

mikebee wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:40 pm Replace all exposed pipes with PEX pipes. Easy.
Or wrap the pipes with an electric heat cable. Yeah, somebody will have to remember to turn it on during the cold months. This plus better insulation in the common area.
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by TLC1957 »

alex_686 wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:59 pm
mikebee wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:40 pm Replace all exposed pipes with PEX pipes. Easy.
Or wrap the pipes with an electric heat cable. Yeah, somebody will have to remember to turn it on during the cold months. This plus better insulation in the common area.
Yep it is a possible solution IF the heat taped is approved for fire sprinkler systems and tied into your building fire alarm panel AND if all of the pipe is accessible oh I think the limitations on heat trace pipe is a maximum of 2" or 3" pipe.

The type of heat tape sold at the hardware store is not approved for fire sprinkler systems....
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by alex_686 »

TLC1957 wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 1:06 pm Yep it is a possible solution IF the heat taped is approved for fire sprinkler systems and tied into your building fire alarm panel AND if all of the pipe is accessible oh I think the limitations on heat trace pipe is a maximum of 2" or 3" pipe.

The type of heat tape sold at the hardware store is not approved for fire sprinkler systems....
That is interesting to know. Follow up question - why would it have to be tied into the fire alarm panel?
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by livesoft »

Heat tape uses electricity, so when electricity fails during a freeze / cold snap maybe from ice on the power lines which causes said power lines to fall to the ground and away you go ....
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by wilked »

Lots of what I believe is bad advice being offered here. Credentials don't mean everything, but I am a ChemE and work in Manufacturing - in other words this stuff is my job day in and day out

First, don't use antifreeze. As others (correctly) noted it is a temporary solution (if there is a discharge it needs to be recharged), and not the best for pets and enviroment. I would rule that out altogether

Second, don't rely on heat tape. When it works it works great. When it doesn't work you are screwed. You want a 'passive' fix, not an 'active' fix. Heat tape relies on electricity which may not be available, and even if available may fail / not be turned on / etc.

99+% of buildings rely on good insulation and design to keep sprinkler water above freezing. You should do the same. First the good news - all other areas in the building handled those crazy low temps fine, so your problem is isolated to that top floor. Spend the money, rip it open, and add lots of insulation. Rip enough open that you convince yourself you have fixed all of the insulation. Insulation is cheap - the finish work will cost some money but 'do it once / do it right' axiom applies. Wrapping the pipes themselves in insulation is not a bad idea on that top floor as well. I would skip the heat tracing.

One last thing I might do - add an access panel in the ceiling near the piping. Spend $50 and get one of these
https://www.amazon.com/SensorPush-Wirel ... 01AEQ9X9I/

After you fix the insulation, pop one of these up and tie wrap it onto a pipe. Gather data for a winter, see how you do on the those coldest days. If you stay >40 F you know you are all set
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by TLC1957 »

alex_686 wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 1:12 pm
TLC1957 wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 1:06 pm Yep it is a possible solution IF the heat taped is approved for fire sprinkler systems and tied into your building fire alarm panel AND if all of the pipe is accessible oh I think the limitations on heat trace pipe is a maximum of 2" or 3" pipe.

The type of heat tape sold at the hardware store is not approved for fire sprinkler systems....
That is interesting to know. Follow up question - why would it have to be tied into the fire alarm panel?
Part of the listing requirement is the heat tape system must be monitored for failure i.e. the wiring and or power fails. Because this is now becomes part of the fire protection system by code it must be monitored just as control valves, low building temperature water flow, fire pump operation, fire detection, etc. are required to be monitored.
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by denovo »

taguscove wrote: Fri Mar 30, 2018 8:39 am I am on the HOA board of a 5 floor, 10 unit condo association. In January, the sprinkler system in a top floor unit froze and burst causing $200,000 in damage. The broken pipe was like a bathtub faucet cascading through 9 of the 10 units. The sprinkler is in the common area space immediately above the unit. After investigation, the common area space wasn't properly insulated.

Options:
1. Replace the sprinkler fluid with anti-freeze for $25,000. This ensures that the burst won't happen anywhere in the system. I believe the antifreeze is mildly toxic.
2. Add insulation and wind blocking to the common area space. This would cost $5,000, but does not absolutely guarantee another another unit won't freeze. The condo was built 12 years ago, and this was the first time this happened; the week it burst was unusually cold (0 degrees for a week).

I feel conflicted in choice, and the financial impact is large. Bogleheads, please assist me.
Did insurance cover the damage?
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North
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by North »

Whole lot of nonsense and bad advice on this thread. As wilked mentioned, insulate the space properly and it will solve the problem. I’d also add a louvered vent with a fan to blow warm conditioned air on the pipes on the coldest days. Done.
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Re: HOA Sprinkler Burst: $25,000 fix

Post by motorcyclesarecool »

A dry system will need condensation drained from its low points. Probably annually. A very very messy job, as the water that accumulates in those iron pipes is about the color you’d expect from combining stagnant water with iron.
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