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When choosing your fire suppression system, one important thing to keep in mind is the aftermath of a discharge. While stopping the fire quickly is important, you also want to consider the impact of the fire suppression system you choose. After all, cleanup from a fire suppression event can be a long and arduous task if you choose a system that isn’t suited to your environment.

For that reason, many people turn to clean agents for their fire suppression needs. We’re taking a look at clean agent systems, and in particular, CO2 systems, to help you understand the ins and outs of this type of clean agent. We’ll also look at some alternative clean agents for fire suppression and their advantages and disadvantages.

What is a clean agent system?

Clean agent systems are non-corrosive, non-conductive, and leave no residue. These systems suppress fire with no harmful residue. They can use different clean agents such as inert gases or chemical agents to disrupt the fire triangle, which consists of the fuel source, heat, and oxygen. Clean agents work by either reducing the heat or oxygen element required to sustain a fire.

Clean agent systems can be a bit counterintuitive. After all, isn’t water safe for people and the environment? While it seems like water mist systems would be clean agents, they actually are not. In fact, water mist fire suppression systems typically include antifreeze or other corrosive additives to the water to make sure the system functions properly. For example, if a water mist system is installed in the engine compartment of container handling equipment, the antifreeze will ultimately end up coating the inside of the engine and lead to corroding parts and engine damage.

What is in a clean agent fire extinguisher?

Different clean agent system types use one of the following clean agent gases in their systems. These gases are:

  • CO2 (also known as carbon dioxide)
  • 3M™ Novec™ 1230 clean agent (FK-5-1-12)
  • FM-200™ clean agent (HFC-227ea)

Each clean agent has its own pros and cons.

Is CO2 a clean agent?

While the NFPA does not recognize CO2 as a clean agent, CO2 does have the properties of a clean agent. However, it can be rather dangerous for people in fire-fighting concentrations. The way that CO2 works is by tackling the “oxygen” part of the fire triangle—it releases a dense blanket of carbon dioxide that displaces the oxygen from the hazard area so that combustion cannot be sustained. While this is very effective at suppressing a fire, and leaves no cleanup, the downside is that humans need oxygen to live.

In fact, concentrations of more than 10% carbon dioxide may cause convulsions, coma, and death. CO2 levels of more than 30% lead to the loss of consciousness in seconds. Generally, CO2 fire suppression systems flood the protected space with a minimum of 34% design concentration of CO2. Because of the toxicity, CO2 systems should not be used in normally occupied spaces like an office or computer room. However, it can be cautiously used for fire suppression in normally unoccupied areas like a cable tunnel or dust collector.

What are clean agent alternatives to CO2?

Two clean agent alternatives to CO2 are FM-200™ and 3M™ Novec 1230™. These agents both work by addressing the “heat” part of the fire triangle. Since these agents are not removing any oxygen, they are safe to use in occupied areas as they don’t pose any issues for humans when used at the appropriate design concentrations. Like CO2 systems, these agents also leave no residue and can be used in sensitive areas like electrical rooms or around machinery.

While neither of these two clean agents are as toxic as CO2, they do have some small downsides. FM-200™ has a slightly higher Global Warming Potential due to the use of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), which is not as eco-friendly as the other clean agents. 3M™Novec 1230™ may cause mild eye irritation and because it is not as common as CO2, it can be expensive and time-consuming to refill the canisters after a fire suppression event.

FM-200™ and 3M™ Novec 1230™ are two clean agent options that suppress fire quickly, without residue, and with minimal risk to the humans who come into contact with it, making them great alternatives to CO2 systems in occupied spaces.

Protect your most precious assets with a clean agent system

Your workers are the most important part of your business, and we’re here to help you keep them safe in addition to the equipment and physical assets you need to protect. With our clean agent fire suppression systems, you don’t need to worry about harm to equipment, employees, or the environment. No matter what unique needs you have, we can help you select the perfect clean agent system for your space.

Contact a suppression specialist today.


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