WHEN SEEING RED IS A GOOD THING
aquatherm red® provided an easy solution for this manufacturing office to have trustworthy sprinklers.
The McElroy design team was looking for a sprinkler piping system that would be freeze- and burst-resistant.
aquatherm red® met that challenge, while also allowing the McElroy team an opportunity to use their new fusion machine on this cutting-edge product.
aquatherm red® solves sprinkler piping issues at 11,300 sq. ft. manufacturing facility
aquatherm’s red® for fire protection systems has been used with much success internationally for years, and now it is making its way to the United States.
One of the first projects using red®, which is made from polypropylene-random (PP-R), was christened at McElroy Manufacturing in Tulsa. The fusion welding machine and finned tube machine company was in the market for an updated fire safety piping system for an 11,300-sq-ft office facility. They had already experienced what can happen with a traditional piping system: a sprinkler pipe froze and broke at the fitting, causing flooding and extensive property damage.
aquatherm North America had only recently acquired the rights to sell aquatherm red® in the U.S., adding a dedicated sprinkler solution to its lineup of piping solutions. Now building owners, contractors and engineers have the ability to specify a pipe system that can typically withstand the stress that comes from water freezing inside the pipe, and a pipe system that resists corrosion, rust and scale buildup. That means there’s constant flow in the pipe and lower maintenance costs.
Formerly known as aquatherm FireStop Fusiolen® PP-R, aquatherm red® belongs to the aquatherm family of PP-R piping systems which includes green®, blue® and lilac® which are growing in popularity in the U.S. for potable water, heating and cooling, industrial, compressed air, geothermal and graywater applications.
McElroy designs and manufactures machines that fuse thermoplastic pipe together to create permanent, leak-free connections. The RedPipe® project was a unique opportunity for McElroy to not only be one of the first users of red® in the U.S., but to test their latest socket fusion machine products designed specifically for polypropylene pipe in one of their own office buildings.
Fusion occurs by heating two pipe ends to a designated temperature, then pressing them together with sufficient force, causing the pipe and fitting to become one solid piece with no leak path. The resulting fusion produces a joint that is as strong, or stronger than the pipe itself.
“We want to promote the technology and there’s no better way to promote its use than to become a user,” said Chris Greggs, Senior Account Manager with McElroy. “We wanted to gain some firsthand experience in the installation because there may be an opportunity for new product innovations.”
McElroy trained nine people from APS Fire of Broken Arrow, Okla., on the Spider™ 125 and Spider 125 with Universal Clamping which were used to socket fuse the 1-in. to 2 ½-in. red® used in the installation.
WHEN A SPIDER OVERHEAD IS GOOD
The Spider 125 tools are lightweight and compact and are designed to operate in indoor spaces that are often extremely tight. Socket fusions can be performed overhead or sideways, making it easier on the operator to overcome the challenges of installing pipe in such close quarters.
For Adam Bolin, Foreman for APS Fire, it was his first experience using polypropylene pipe and heat fusion equipment.
“It’s kind of a cool opportunity,” Bolin said. “It’s pretty easy though. I like it. It’s clean. It’s really light and easy to work with. The machines are easy and straight forward.”
There’s another reason installers like polypropylene. It’s lightweight. Installations are quicker and less strenuous because it weighs 75-80% less than metal pipe, yet provides more strength and dependability than many other thermoplastics.
red’s® flexibility (relative to metal pipe) also provided an advantage since this retrofit job required installation in the existing ceiling grid.
“It was easier to be installed through the grid because carbon steel or ‘black pipe’ does not bend,” said Scott Reeder, a polypropylene account manager at McElroy, and former facilities manager.
AN UNINTERRUPTED WORK DAY
Less disruption to the workplace was another benefit. Since red® is connected by heat fusion, they didn’t have noisy threading machines onsite that are used in traditional metal connections. Also, fusing PP-R doesn’t involve any significant odors or require a flame/hot work permit. More than 40 people work in the building and were able to continue their duties at their same work stations each day throughout the project.
Installers also didn’t have to deal with messy glues and sealants to join the pipe.
“Since it was an existing work space, we wanted to keep the mess to a minimum,” Reeder said. “When you install carbon steel pipe you have to cut and thread pipe which can cause a mess inside the building because you have to use cutting oil when threading pipe.”
Polypropylene pressure pipe has FM approval in the FM 1635 class (No. 3036285) and features many of the same advantages as other aquatherm systems.
Other advantages of aquatherm pipe are its eco-friendly characteristics. It will not react with most chemicals, it is recyclable and requires less manufacturing processes and energy than metals, and does not give off any VOCs during installation or use.
PEACE OF MIND
aquatherm red® is offered in pipe diameters ranging from ¾-in. to 4-in. and can be utilized in a range of light-hazard commercial and residential applications. The pipe and fittings carry a 60-year rating as well as aquatherm’s 10-year multimillion dollar warranty (underwritten by Zurich Insurance) covering materials, labor, property damage, and loss of use of the facility.
The system has been performing well since its successful launch last summer.
“The addition of a state-of-the-art fire protection system installed with the best tools and pipe on the market is a great asset to our building and a great comfort knowing that our lives and property will be protected for years to come,” Reeder said. “We did it right.”
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