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If you own a restaurant, you know you're nothing without your kitchen. Fire is one of the greatest dangers in a kitchen, but you can protect your livelihood, your employees, and your investment with a kitchen fire suppression system.
Between multiple hot surfaces and myriad flammable materials, it's a wonder we aren't putting out kitchen fires daily. Unfortunately, water isn't an option for many of those fires, since it can actually spread the fire in some cases. And a fire extinguisher presents its own issues, since it can ruin the food. That's where a restaurant fire suppression system comes in.
What Is a Fire Suppression System?
Systems vary according to brand and type. However, every kitchen fire suppression system includes two basic elements. The first kills the fire's fuel source and the second stops it from spreading.
A restaurant fire suppression system connects to your cooking station in two areas: the hood and the gas line. When it senses fire, the system first shuts off the gas line. Then, nozzles in the hood's ventilation system discharge a unique, water-based suppressant that includes a chemical designed to stop a grease fire. Finally, the ventilation system does its primary job and removes smoke from the area.
These systems are easy to use and resemble the sprinkler systems most of us are familiar with, at least as far as operation goes. The suppression system activates when it detects heat and flame (how it does this varies by brand and type). It reduces damage and financial loss, since it only destroys the food on the affected cooking surface.
The ideal system includes a manual activation option to guard against malfunctions in the triggering system.
Types of Fire Suppression Systems
There are two types of chemical systems for suppressing kitchen fires: wet and dry.
The wet chemical system is the most common type, using a chemical reaction called saponification to suppress fires. They use a strong alkali, such as potassium hydroxide, to neutralize the fat source fueling the fire. Wet chemical systems include a saponification value, which describes the level of alkali needed to extinguish the fat or oil. For the system to be effective, some fats require a higher saponification value than others.
Intended for liquid fires, dry chemical systems remove oxygen via the application of a chemical that essentially covers the burning material, starving it of the air it needs to grow. It can even be used on fires involving electrical components because it is non-conductive.
How Much Does a Kitchen Fire Suppression System Cost?
Costs vary according to a variety of factors, including:
- How large is the hood?
- What appliances do you need the system to cover?
- Does it need to cover specialty appliances, such as open-face broilers or pizza ovens?
Your kitchen size and type determines the number of detection brackets needed as well as number of nozzles, wall brackets, hood penetration seals, and suppression tank.
Although estimates are impossible without knowing the particulars of your kitchen, the following guidelines should help give you an idea of what to expect for budgeting and comparing vendor quotes.
- Superior Hoods FIRESUPP fire suppression systems are rated for medium to high heat, with sizes ranging from 4' to 16' and costs starting at around $2,000 and going up to around $4,200.
- The Ansul R-102 uses a low pH liquid agent and is designed for a variety of appliances. It also detects fires in ventilating equipment, including hoods, ducts, and grease extractors. Costs range from around $3,000 to around $5,500.
- HoodMart offers hoods with built-in fire suppression systems. Costs range from around $6,500 to $7,500.
Kitchen Fire Suppression System Installation and Maintenance
Most fire suppression systems integrate with your hood system, which means you need to collaborate with your hood vendor to ensure the suppression system works with your equipment. In addition, the following best practices ensure the system operates properly and maximizes your investment.
- Regular maintenance and preventive service keeps your equipment running and helps discover issues early while they're still easy – and less expensive – to treat.
- Cleaning and maintaining your appliances lowers your risk of fire while also making it easier to put out any fires that do start.
- Training employees ensures they understand how the system works and how to activate the manual switch in the event it's needed.
- Before making changes to your lineup, such as installing new equipment, talk to your technician to see if you also need to reconfigure your suppression system.
- A backup fire extinguisher with a Class K rating protects your property and staff in the event of system failure.