FK-5-1-12 extinguishes fires by removing heat. All fires need heat, oxygen, and a fuel source to continue to burn. By removing any of these three elements, you can extinguish the fire. Other fire suppression agents, such as carbon dioxide, remove oxygen. But because the fluid removes heat instead of oxygen, it is safer to use in occupied spaces as it does not pose a suffocation risk for people.
3M Novec 1230 fluid is the brand name for the chemical compound (CF3CF2C(O)CF(CF3)2), also known as FK-5-1-12, manufactured by 3M. 3M’s patent on Novec™ 1230 Fire Protection Fluid (FK-5-1-12) expired on July 31, 2020, allowing other manufacturers to start producing FK-5-1-12. Other supplies of FK-5-1-12 may have slight variations in chemical performance due to their own manufacturing process but they still remain non-harmful to people and leave no residue to clean up.
Relative to most fire suppression chemicals, FK-5-1-12 fluid is not dangerous. Unlike carbon dioxide, the agent is considered safe to use in occupied spaces. That means if the agent is released inside of a room with people in it, there is no suffocation risk or other serious health impacts. Toxicity studies show that FK-5-1-12 fluid does not irritate the skin but may cause mild eye irritation. It is not a carcinogen, according to the Ames test.
FK-5-1-12 is significantly cheaper than FM-200TM, another leading clean agent for fire suppression. At Firetrace, FK-5-1-12 is purchased as part of a fire suppression system. Fire suppression systems with this clean agent cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the scale of the project.
FK-5-1-12 manufacturers have the opportunity to gain 3rd party approvals that validate their efficacy, just like fire suppression system manufacturers. Many have both an FM approval and UL listing that detail the efficacy of their chemical. For Class A and B fires, there are FK-5-1-12 suppliers that have identical performance to 3M’s Novec fire protection fluid. For Class C fires, there are FK-5-1-12 suppliers that have <1% performance difference when compared to 3M’s Novec fire protection fluid.
If a fire suppression system has an FM approval or UL listing, the FK-5-1-12 they are using must also have an FM approval or UL listing, so you can be confident in the solution you are being provided.
FK-5-1-12 and FM-200TM are different chemical compounds. FK-5-1-12 is a fluoroketone, while FM-200TM is a heptafluoropropane (HFC). Although both substances are clean agents and share similar properties, FK-5-1-12 is widely regarded as more environmentally friendly due to its lower Global Warming Potential (GWP). Additionally, the fluid is stored as a liquid, while FM-200TM is stored as a gas. However, they are both discharged as gases when a fire suppression system activates. Most importantly, both chemical compounds are safe to use in occupied spaces and are effective at suppressing class A, B, and C fires.