The 2 Types of Home Fire Sprinkler Systems (Explained)

As a homeowner, there are many benefits to having a fire suppression sprinkler system installed. From increasing your chance of survival to reducing the cost of your house insurance, home sprinkler systems are a worthwhile investment. When deciding on a home sprinkler system, it helps to know the details of the two main types.

The two main types of sprinkler systems are standalone and multipurpose. A standalone system is separate from the water supply to other plumbing fixtures in the home whereas, a multipurpose sprinkler system shares the piping and water supply of the home’s other plumbing fixtures.

While home fire suppression systems are usually recommended by safety specialists and home insurers, you may still be on the fence about deciding if it is the best choice for your home. Aside from the safety aspect, the cost of installation, maintenance, and annual testing might sway your decision.

Are Home Fire Sprinkler Systems Worth It?

In short, yes, home fire sprinkler systems are a worthwhile investment. Not only does it increase the safety of your home but it grants you peace of mind that if a fire should occur, it is more likely to be successfully suppressed.

Typically, fire sprinkler systems can suppress a fire within two minutes. This shortened time a fire can spread means less damage is incurred to your property (up to nine times less). This can save you thousands of dollars and time spent with insurance to replace your belongings keeping in mind that some of your items may hold sentimental value that can never be replaced.

Because having a home fire sprinkler system lessens the severity of damage to your home and belongings it can save you money on home insurance with some insurers discounting rates by 5% – 15%. Aside from saving you money on insurance, it can ultimately increase the resale value of your home as an appealing feature to many home buyers.

Most importantly, a home fire sprinkler system can increase your chances of surviving a fire from 50% to 97%. This fact alone instills the value of a sprinkler system, considering that the National Fire Protection Association reported an average of 358, 000 house fires each year.

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Home Fire Sprinkler System?

According to the National Fire Sprinkler Association, the cost of installing a home fire sprinkler system in a new home is about $1.00-$2.00 per square foot. If the sprinkler system is being retrofitted into an already existing home, the cost will be about $2.00-$7.00 per square foot. While those are the general costs, there are a few factors that can determine the cost of installing your home fire sprinkler system.


If you are located in California for example, you might find an installer charging less than $1.00 for a home sprinkler fitting but in New York, rates can sit well over $2.00.

Piping Materials Used

Depending on where in your house the piping is fitted, different regulations can require different pipe materials to be used. CPVC and PEX piping tend to be cheaper, at about $30.00 per 100 feet, than metal options such as black steel or copper which run at approximately $285.00 per 100 feet due to the value of copper as a global commodity.

Local Water Supply and In-Home Water Pressure

As outlined in the video below, you will see that there is a desirable water pressure for optimal in-home fire sprinkler function. If the supply or water pressure is too low, it is likely that your home will also need to be fitted with a water tank and pump. The cost of this can range from $500.00 upward on top of the fire sprinkler system installation.

Other Costs

There may be an additional expense if the installers also include smoke detectors, along with annual inspection and maintenance costs. It is important to upkeep regular maintenance on your fire sprinkler system so that it can function fully as intended.

Standalone vs. Multipurpose Home Fire Sprinkler Systems

The two main types of sprinkler systems are either standalone or multipurpose systems determined by how the piping is connected. Check out the video below for a basic description. There are pros and cons to both options but an expert will be able to best assess what your home needs.

What is a Standalone Fire Sprinkler System?

Standalone home fire sprinkler systems, as the name suggests, use a piping system that is independent of the piping that provides water to other plumbing fixtures in the home. A standalone sprinkler can share the same water source as the rest of the home’s plumbing fixtures or it can be installed with its own dedicated water tank.

Because a standalone system requires more parts to install, various types of piping, extra safety components, and maintenance, it can be a costlier option however, this is outweighed by its ability to ensure even water pressure distribution for all sprinklers to work well throughout the house. This option is also best for retrofitting a home sprinkler system.

What is a Multipurpose Fire Sprinkler System?

Multipurpose home fire sprinkler systems are integrated with the same piping and source of water that services all other plumbing fixtures in your home. This option is attractive because installation is quicker, easier, and requires fewer parts which equates to a lower installation cost.

The added benefit of a multipurpose sprinkler system is that it is more reliable and easy to maintain because it is hooked up to piping that services the rest of the home. It is easy to detect a fault in the system if faulty symptoms show up in any other plumbing fixtures.

Conversely, a multipurpose fire sprinkler system would be harder to retrofit into an already existing home and would need to meet very specific water pressure and pipe measurements to work effectively.

Four Different Types of Home Fire Sprinkler Heads

Along with various fitting styles based on piping and water source, home fire sprinklers also come with four different head options. Which sprinkler head option is best, depends on the architecture of the home and where the sprinkler head will be placed to allow for effective water dispersion.

It should be noted that although the head types can vary, there are still some similarities in their function such as their assembly to keep water in, heat-sensitive water release activators, deflectors to evenly disperse water, and the metal frame holding it all together. All sprinkler heads can come in different sizes and profile options to suit your space.

Four Types of Fire Sprinkler System Heads

1. Pendent Fire Sprinkler Head

pendant fire sprinkler system

This is the most common type of fire sprinkler head and can be recognized as the sprinklers that hang straight down from the water pipe. It is effective at spraying water over a wide area although it can be less aesthetically pleasing. If the obtrusive look of the pendent fire sprinkler type is bothersome, it can be installed flush to the ceiling though it should never be covered entirely.

2. Upright Fire Sprinkler Head

This type of sprinkler head looks similar to a pendant sprinkler but points upward from the pipe. Because of its upward position, it is less likely to collect debris such as dust or ice. The aesthetic of this sprinkler head makes it ideal for large open ceilings that can be found in industrial style décor.

3. Sidewall Fire Sprinkler Head

sidewall fire sprinkler system

Sidewall fire sprinkler heads are mounted on their side on the wall rather than from the ceiling. The deflector on this type of sprinkler head will also match its function with a half-moon or rectangular shape as opposed to a round shape.

These are ideal for tight, narrow spaces like hallways or where a ceiling water pipe is not available. Installation of a sidewall sprinkler requires a level ceiling above it along with the right distance from it. Note, that sprinkler heads should never be painted over so as not to inhibit their function.

4. Concealed Fire Sprinkler Head

concealed sprinkler head for homes

Concealed fire sprinkler heads are installed with a recessed design and a cover to keep the sprinkler system out of sight. This style is ideal when aesthetics need to be maintained with customizable head styles and covers to match their surroundings.

Customization should be done with the installer to ensure optimal function. While the style of the concealed sprinkler is appealing, it should not be forgotten that safety is its primary function.

Home Fire Sprinkler FAQs

Can You Paint a Home Fire Sprinkler Head?

No, a fire sprinkler head should never be painted under any circumstance. Fire sprinkler heads, head covers, and escutcheons are designed to work synchronously and any tampering can inhibit the safety function of the sprinkler system. If you would like to alter the aesthetics of your sprinkler system, consult with a professional installer.

Is It Illegal to DIY a Home Sprinkler System?

While you can install a home fire sprinkler system yourself, the National Fire Protection Association strongly discourages anyone from doing so without proper training. If you choose to install a home sprinkler system yourself, you will need the proper safety equipment, along with following any municipal housing regulations and permits.

Is There Any Regular Maintenance Required for Home Sprinkler Systems?

While it is recommended that the entire fire sprinkler system is professionally inspected annually, gauges and water pipes should be checked monthly for function along with any possible buildup of debris on the sprinkler head such as dust or ice which could inhibit its function. Every five years, an inspection of the internal piping is recommended.

Can You Have Exterior Home Fire Sprinklers Installed?

Yes, exterior home fire sprinklers can be installed especially in geographic regions where there are wildfire concerns and to inhibit the spread of fire to surrounding properties. Exterior fire sprinklers work by wetting the exterior of the home and its surroundings to protect against ignition. It should be noted that lawn sprinklers and roof water systems should not be used in place of exterior fire sprinkler systems.

Are Sprinklers Required in New Home Construction?

Even though the National Fire Protection Association has determined that home property loss from fires is around $6.1 billion and annual deaths over 2000, it is not mandatory for all new homes to be built with sprinkler systems. Certain places like Scottsdale, Arizona have mandated home fire sprinkler systems in all homes built after 1986 and saw a reduction of property damage and negation of deaths due to home fires compared to homes without sprinkler systems. The topic of mandatory home fire sprinkler systems is still up for debate at a state and national level with no clear decision reached yet.

Do Home Fire Sprinkler Systems Cause More Damage than Fire?

There is a myth held that home fire sprinkler systems cause more damage to the home than fire itself however this is untrue.  A sprinkler head typically releases 25 gallons of water per minute whereas a firehose dispenses up to 250 gallons of water per minute.

A home sprinkler system dispenses water in a targeted manner due to its heat-activated design causing sprinklers to release water only in rooms where a fire has broken out. Firefighters typically spray water broadly over the house which can result in more water damage.

Unfortunately, this myth has deterred many homeowners from installing a fire sprinkler system but nowadays, people are learning about the great benefits and safety features of having a built-in fire sprinkler system.

Final Thoughts

With homes being made of more flammable materials and the time to escape a fire being lower than a few decades ago, the safety and peace of mind that come with installing a home fire sprinkler system speaks for itself. In the long run, it can save you money, increase the value of your home, and most importantly, keep you and your loved ones safe. If you are still unsure if it is the right option for your home, call a professional installer for an assessment.