Quality and Service Since 1936

Generally Speaking

News and Information about General Air Products Fire Protection and Industrial Equipment

  • Why is My Nitrogen Generator Running So Often?

    We've recently received a few calls from the field about the air compressors on nitrogen generators running much longer and more frequently than they were prior to putting nitrogen on the system. These calls are often triggered by a low air alarm, or a concerned facility manager who’s been listening to their system run more than its at rest.

    There are several reasons for this, some inherent to the function of a nitrogen generator, while others are indications of more serious issues with the fire sprinkler system and its compatibility with the use of a nitrogen generator. How much your air compressor runs is often a telling signal of whether your system is a good fit for a nitrogen generator.

    Nitrogen Generators on Fire Sprinkler Systems Have Lower CFM due to the filtration required by multiple prefilters as well as the nitrogen membrane.

    Why So Often?

    A nitrogen generator is best looked at as an air compressor with a few filters on it. As compressed air flows through the pre-filters and the nitrogen membrane (the largest, most expensive filter in any nitrogen generator), oxygen molecules escape while nitrogen molecules are allowed to pass.  The nitrogen membrane discharges that oxygen to produce a gas that is 98% nitrogen for use in the dry pipe sprinkler system. This high level of filtration makes the air compressor work harder to provide the flow required to maintain system pressure, while the membrane also acts as a bottleneck for the compressed air, and as a result restricts the flow of the 98% nitrogen gas allowed to leave it.

    For example, our standard 2 horsepower oil-less air compressor has a flow of 14.9 CFM. When we use that compressor to generate nitrogen, the flow of the air after the membrane set for 98% nitrogen is reduced to 0.6 CFM.

    The high level of filtration of Nitrogen Generators greatly reduces the flow rate provided by the air compressor. The high level of filtration in membrane Nitrogen Generators greatly reduces the flow rate provided by the air compressor.

    When the flow on that 2HP fire protection air compressor installed on a nitrogen generator is reduced to 0.6 CFM, it becomes about 4% as efficient at pressurizing the system than standard compressed air. The nitrogen membrane is the main reason for the drop, but there are effects from the pre-filters on any membrane nitrogen generator as well. A nitrogen membrane is very sensitive to particulates, and needs to be protected by several particulate and condensate pre-filters. All of this filtration adds up to a system highly effective for mitigating corrosion, but not so efficient for your air compressor. This is one of the trade-offs of switching to nitrogen. Remember, it is important to define the scope of your corrosion issue before investing in nitrogen to be sure that new issues you introduce with the use of a nitrogen generator are still in line with the ROI you anticipate.

    What Does the Added Stress on the Air Compressor Mean for My System Maintenance and Operation?

    • A system with a nitrogen generator installed will need more frequent air compressor replacements throughout the life of the system.
    • A system with a nitrogen generator installed will need closer monitoring and careful maintenance, more so than what was being done when the dry system was being maintained with the air compressor alone, to ensure its run time is in line with expectations.
    • The end user or building owner may see increased energy costs as a result of the nitrogen generator needing to run for longer than a standard compressor.
    • Installing a nitrogen generator makes the system much more sensitive to leak rates. An N2 Generator will slow the rate of pin-hole leaks due to corrosion, but all dry pipe sprinkler systems leak for various other reasons unrelated to corrosion. Those leaks will continue to grow as the system ages and this will cause the compressor on the nitrogen generator to run more and more.

    What Can I Do to Reduce the Run-Time of My Nitrogen Generator?

    • Measure your dry pipe sprinkler system’s leak rate before the generator install, and ensure the nitrogen generator is sized accordingly. Many existing sprinkler systems operate with leak rates well above NFPA’s existing system allowable rate of 3 PSI in 2 hours. Knowing what your nitrogen generator will need to keep up with will help ensure its long-term success.
    • Replace as much leaky pipe and leaky components as possible before installing a nitrogen generator on any existing system. Bring the leak rate down as low as possible.
    • Do regular checks for air (nitrogen) leaks in your sprinkler system.
    • Nitrogen generators are much more sensitive pieces of equipment than a standard fire protection air compressor. Make sure to frequently check the filters on your nitrogen generator, especially if it is in a dirty environment. Clogged intakes and saturated filters will kill a nitrogen generator in a very short amount of time.
    • Every sprinkler system is unique – so make sure your nitrogen generator is sized for your system, and allows for growth in your system’s leak rate over time.
    A comparison of the flow rate (CFM) of a standard 2 HP air compressor, a Dry Air Pac ™, and a Membrane Nitrogen Generator A comparison of the flow rate (CFM) of a standard 2 HP air compressor, a Dry Air Pac ™, and a Nitrogen Generator.

    Corrosion mitigation tip: It is often not feasible to fix known air leaks in a system due to their location in the building, the associated cost to the building owner, or in sensitive applications such as freezer rooms. As a result, many contractors have been turning to Dry Air, which offers both corrosion mitigating advantages to the piping network and has a CFM that more closely resembles a standard air compressor. Dry Air is much less susceptible to system leak rates over time, will not run as long as a nitrogen generator to keep the system up to pressure, and is a less expensive alternative to nitrogen generators as corrosion mitigating technology.

     
    Is your nitrogen generator not keeping up with your system? Concerned about the life of your air compressor? Give us a call at 1-800-345-8207 for advice on the best dry pipe sprinkler system filling technology for your application! Whether it's compressed air, Dry Air, or Nitrogen, we want to see you fit for the right piece of equipment.

    Image showing General Air Products' complete lineup of Fire Sprinkler Filling Solutions, including Compressed Air, Dry Air, and Nitrogen Generators. General Air Products manufactures the most complete line of fire sprinkler filling solutions in the industry.
  • Dry Air Proven to Mitigate Corrosion in Dry and Pre-Action Sprinkler Systems: An Alternative to Nitrogen Generators

    We put Dry Air to the test to find out just how much it can help deter corrosion in dry pipe and pre-action fire sprinkler systems.

    For decades, Dry Air has been used to fill dry pipe and pre-action fire sprinkler systems in special circumstances that necessitated the removal of moisture from standard compressed air entering the system – most commonly, freezer rooms. Specifically, our Dry Air Pac™ has been FM Approved and used for its prevention of ice plugs in freezer rooms and cold storage applications for almost 30 years.

    Dry Air Prevents corrosion in dry and pre-action fire sprinkler systems. Inside of a 13 year-old galvanized pipe sample (magnified) showing no evidence of corrosion when supervised by a General Air Products Dry Air Pac™.

    While freezer rooms and coolers are concerned with moisture removal to eliminate ice plugs, the rest of the dry pipe sprinkler industry’s primary concern has recently shifted toward corrosion prevention and mitigation. In response, the use of a number of corrosion mitigation methods, including nitrogen generators, has grown substantially. As a result, a number of high-end applications and long-standing structures are beginning to see the benefit of investing in protecting their pipes from corrosion.

    Here's the catch: not every dry pipe or pre-action fire sprinkler system is best served by a nitrogen generator. A number of factors limiting their effectiveness, efficiency and ROI include the life span of the building, the required maintenance cost, system leakage, and up-front cost of the nitrogen generator itself. This begs the question: is there an alternative for preventing corrosion in dry and pre-action fire sprinkler systems?

    Turns out, Dry Air Does Help Mitigate Corrosion

    General Air Products recently collected pipe samples straight from the field in sites around the country using our Dry Air Pacs – air compressor / air dryer packages - that are FM Approved for fire sprinkler systems. Those pipe samples were sent to a 3rd party metallurgical testing laboratory in Maryland to be investigated for signs of corrosion:

    Pipe Samples collected by General Air Products to test Dry Air for corrosion mitigating effected in fire sprinkler systems. Galvanized pipe sample, shown as collected.

    The results from the lab (Table 1) concluded that 3 of the 4 pipe samples, ranging from 3 – 13 years old, showed no signs of corrosion with the use of Dry Air as the supervisory gas. Where corrosion had occurred, was in exposed pipe on a salt water pier. Even then, the lab estimated the life expectancy of the pipe at 60 – 70 years until the occurrence of the first pinhole leak. By reducing the dew point in the fire sprinkler system to the standard -40°F that the Dry Air Pac™ is rated to provide, corrosion has been effectively mitigated in the piping network.

    Results form a 3rd party lab testing for corrosoin in pipe samples supervised by a General Air Products Dry Air Pac™. Table 1: Results form a 3rd party lab testing for corrosoin in pipe samples supervised by a General Air Products Dry Air Pac™.
    Pipe Samples collected by General Air Products to test Dry Air for corrosion mitigating effected in fire sprinkler systems. Inside of a 13-year old pipe sample, shown in as-split condition, showing a smooth surface and no evidence of corrosion having been supervised by Dry Air.

    Many more samples are currently being collected and evaluated to substantiate this finding in the field. The mounting evidence suggesting Dry Air may be an alternative method to nitrogen as a corrosion-inhibiting supervisory gas in dry pipe sprinkler systems is promising.

    If you would like to learn more about the corrosion mitigating effects of Dry Air, check out our latest white paper on the topic. If you have any questions about this research or how Dry Air or Nitrogen gas can help mitigate corrosion, please give us a call at 1-800-345-8207, or shoot us a comment down below!

  • VIDEO: The Importance of Certified Products in Fire Sprinkler Systems

    The International Fire Suppression Alliance highlights the need for fire protection industry professionals to demand product certification by reputable testing laboratories.

    The importance of designing fire sprinkler systems using properly certified products cannot be overstated - it’s why General Air Products carries UL Listings and FM Approvals on products across our Fire Protection lineup, including our air compressors, Dry Air Pacs™, and nitrogen generators.

    This 6-minute video produced by The International Fire Suppression Alliance, a General Air Products partner, details this importance – and brings to light some of the complications and potential dangers that come with using products that have not been properly certified in fire sprinkler systems.

    The International Fire Suppression Alliance (IFSA) is a not-for-profit association created in 1999 "to globally promote the use of effective water-based fire protection systems." To learn more about their mission, please visit their website.

  • Nitrogen Generator For My Fire Sprinkler System, Should I Install One?

    General Air Products fully automated, Nitro-G3 nitrogen generator. Our fully automated, Nitro-G3 Nitrogen Generator.

    Nitrogen Generators are an exceptional piece of technology for fire sprinkler systems… when installed in the right application. Corrosion science tells us that maintaining pipes with 98% nitrogen can increase the life of your pipes. In black iron pipes, nitrogen can increase the life up to 60 years. In galvanized pipes, nitrogen can increase the life up to 100 years. But is a nitrogen generator the right fit for every dry pipe or pre-action sprinkler system? The answer is no.

    Every system is different. The honest answer is that not all sprinkler systems will be best served with a nitrogen generator. More often than not, filling solutions like Compressed Air or Dry Air make more sense. At General Air Products, we just want to see you fit for the right piece of equipment. General Air Products is in the unique position to help you make the best choice - be it compressed air, dry air, or nitrogen.

    So, does a nitrogen generator make the most sense for your fire sprinkler system? Here are a few practical questions you can ask yourself when considering a dry pipe sprinkler filling solution like nitrogen:

    What is the intended lifespan of the building?

    Easy one. Is your building intended to be around for the next 60-100 years? If your answer is a no, does an investment in maintaining 98% nitrogen make the most sense? It may be time to consider other, less expensive alternatives.

    Does the facility have proper fire sprinkler maintenance practices in place for a nitrogen generator?

    This is the most important question here – and with good reason. N2 generators are much more sensitive systems than conventional air compressors and are in no way a substitute for maintenance. If a facility owner or manager neglects their sprinkler system to the point that it’s unusually leaky or problematic – to the point that they are regularly burning through air compressors – the situation will only get worse by adding an N2 generator to the mix. But nitrogen generators are not a miracle cure. Maintaining 98% nitrogen on a dry or pre-action sprinkler system takes regular maintenance on the unit and the sprinkler system as a whole.

    Does the cost of replacing pipe really exceed the cost of investing in and maintaining a nitrogen generator?

    Do the analysis. Run the numbers. How much does replacing pipe due to corrosion really cost your business? But keep in mind, you will have new maintenance expenses to factor in to properly maintain 98% nitrogen. An example of where nitrogen generators do make the most sense is when a facility is forced to shut down production in order to replace pipe due to corrosion (typically MIC-related). This creates additional opportunity cost that may make the investment in a nitrogen generator make sense. If you can relatively easily replace your pipe, with otherwise minimal disruption to your business or the building’s function, seeing the benefit of investing in a nitrogen generator may still be realized, but it may take longer than some might expect.

    General Air Products is here to help.

    The bottom line is there’s not often an easy answer when it comes to deciding to move ahead with the investment in a nitrogen generator. Some of these questions can (and should) lead to more questions. General Air Products is here to help. We’ve been filling dry pipe sprinkler systems for over 60 years with every piece of technology available, and our only goal is to see you fit with the right piece of equipment.

    Complete lineup of General Air Products Fire Sprinkler Filling Solutions, including Compressed Air, Dry Air, and Nitrogen Generators. General Air Products offers the most complete line of fire sprinkler filling solutions in the industry.

    Please feel free to give us a call at 1-800-345-8207 to discuss your application!

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