DO NOT USE A RETAIL AIR COMPRESSOR FOR A FIRE PROTECTION APPLICATION.
The air compressors that we manufacture at General Air Products are specifically designed to meet the code set out by NFPA and therefore the demands of a fire protection application. The air compressors that many contractors buy "off-the-shelf" at a home supply store or appliance store are designed for hobbyists, handy men and light auto or air tool work. Retail air compressors and fire protection air compressors are two similar but not identical pieces of equipment designed to work properly in two completely different applications.
Think about it this way - Would you use the light bulb from the lamp in your living room as a headlight in your car?
The "Why not" is obvious - each was designed for specific applications and should not be interchanged. Again, this is no different from retail and fire protection air compressors.
But why is it so common to see retail air compressors in the field? (For a terrifying example of an off-the-shelf air compressor installed in a dry pipe sprinkler application click here.)
The main reason fire protection contractors install retail compressors is money. There is no denying it - you will save a few dollars by purchasing a cheap retail air compressor. That is the one and only advantage. Though even that isn't really an advantage when you consider that installing a retail compressor in a dry pipe system jeopardizes the integrity of the entire system, the thousands of dollars invested and the millions of dollars worth of inventory or structure that is supposed to be protected, all to save a few dollars on the compressor - it just doesn't make sense.
We don't simply rely on the light bulb comparison to make this case. Below are several concrete, technical statements that back up our assertion:
- Retail air compressors are not industrial duty and therefore not reliable in a fire protection application.
- Fire protection air compressors are built to provide maximum air delivery.
- Retail air compressors are built for high pressure / low flow usage.
- Retail air compressors are not designed to preform to the parameters set by NFPA 13
- At General Air we add only the highest quality controls and components to make our compressors work correctly with a dry pipe system. When contractors use a retail compressor they are using whatever components are close at hand.
- Before each compressor leaves General Air Products it is tested to ensure it runs at standard dry pipe system conditions - obviously this is impossible for retail compressors as they are not designed for fire protection applications.
- The liability for the function or malfunction of a retail compressor in a dry pipe system is entirely on the installer.
- There is no one at a retail air compressor outlet that can help you with installing and running an air compressor on a fire protection system. When you purchase from your local fire protection equipment distributor to buy a compressor that is designed for the task unlimited access to fire protection air compressor experts is only a phone call away (800-345-8207 in case you need it now).
One last point to drive this all home. Maybe the cold hard facts didn't do it for you. Maybe you took the light bulb comparison as a good do-it-yourself car repair tip. Then maybe one day you will find yourself walking around a home supply store looking to buy an air compressor that you plan to install in a fire sprinkler system. On that day please do this one thing before you go to the cashier - look for the riser in that store and see what type of air compressor is attached to the sprinkler system. You will find a General Air Products fire protection air compressor.
Those stores know the difference between a fire protection compressor and a retail compressor. Even though they sell retail compressors they sure don't have one on their sprinkler system - they have too much to loose to risk that!
So one last time - DO NOT USE A RETAIL AIR COMPRESSOR FOR A FIRE PROTECTION APPLICATION!