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Fire Pump Testing and Maintenance

Proper fire pump performance is necessary to supply enough water flow and pressure when a sprinkler system's water supply can't keep up on its own. If there is a lack of water supply, your sprinklers won't function correctly during a fire. Fire pumps come in all shapes and sizes and can run on electric or diesel engines. But size and shape aside, it's vital that all pumps are in good working order.

Test your system frequently and provide ongoing preventative maintenance so it will function if there's a fire. Testing is complex and should be completed by a qualified professional and in accordance with regulations from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Documentation Requirements

Property owners are required to keep written records of fire pump results. According to NFPA 25, these reports must include:

  • All data necessary for a complete evaluation of fire pump performance, including suction and discharge pressures, voltage and amperage readings, and pump speed at each flow rate tested
  • The fire protection system demand
  • Pump performance
  • Issues noted during the testing and analysis, as well as recommended fixes
  • Manufacturer's performance data, actual data and the available pump discharge curves required by NFPA 25
  • Time delay intervals associated with the pump's starting, stopping and energy source transfer
  • Comparisons with previous test results

Annual Performance Tests   

Annual fire pump flow tests are arguably the most important. They can help uncover problems such as closed valves and blocks between the water supply and equipment. This ensures the fire pump is ready to respond if there is a fire.

During the test, the fire pump will not be online. So, make sure there isn't anything out of the ordinary occurring on your property and those on site know a test is occurring.

Once the test is complete, have the professional go over the results with you. Test results should not deviate by more than five percent from the initial acceptance test performed right after the fire pump was installed or the pressures indicated on its nameplate. If that information isn't available, a satisfactory test should deliver:

  • 150 percent of rated capacity at 65 percent of rated pressure
  • 100 percent of rated capacity at rated pressure
  • A maximum of 140 percent of rated pressure at churn (no flow)

If any test is failed, investigate and correct the issue. Once the repair has been made, arrange for a retest of the fire pump to ensure proper performance. Document the details of all repairs for your records.

Additional Testing

Weekly:

  •  Test the fire pump. Start the booster or diesel pump as if there was an actual fire. The sprinkler head will turn on and the pressure in the system will drop, causing the pump to start working.
  •  Test the drivers. Run the engine at a rated speed for 30 minutes, allowing the pump to discharge water through the relief valve and into a drain. Give the engine 20 minutes to warm up. This will be enough time for any issues to surface. For an electric-motor drive, check the starting devices and run the pump for 5 to 10 minutes every month.
  • Verify the pressure relief valves work (if you have them). The pressure relief valves are there to prevent the pressure from building up and exceeding its limit. Make sure there is no water being discharged through the valves.
  •  Verify there are no issues with the waterflow and pump temperature. Check the pump and feel the casing and bearings for leaks or overheating issues.
  • Check the water supply. Make sure all valves on the suction line are working for public supply booster pumps. Examine the suction tanks. Apply heat to the supply lines and suction source during the winter if needed. If you are drawing your supply from open bodies of water, make sure there are no barriers in the suction intake. During warmer weather, make sure your water supply hasn't dried up.
  • Check the temperature of the pump room. The pump room should be kept at a minimum of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. For internal combustion engines, the room should be kept at a minimum of 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  •   Make sure the engine is clean and dry (for diesel engines):
    • Ensure the fuel tank levels are at least three quarters full
    • Change out the crankcase oil if it has been contaminated or if its consistency has changed
    • Make sure the batteries and the charger are working
    • Clean the water cooling system strainer if needed
    • Check the engine instruments including the oil pressure, rpm, and temperature amps
    • Test the speed governor

Monthly:

  • Measure the specific gravity of the battery electrolyte
  •          Run your electric motor pump for 5-10 minutes

Semi-Annual:

  •          Check the oil filter and replace if needed

 

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