A New Way to do the Same Old Thing

The “Floor Control Valve Assembly for Wet Pipe Systems” drawing that appears in the current edition of NFPA 13, Chapter 8, has remained unchanged for as long as most of us can remember. However, even though this drawing has remained unchanged, the “Floor Control Assembly and Inspector’s Test Loop” has gone through a number of evolutionary changes. The “Inspector’s Test Loop” was the first part of the “Floor Control Valve Assembly” to evolve. As drawn, it has 15 pieces and 19 connection points and is designed to allow for that branch to be tested to the flow of one sprinkler and to be drained if needed for maintenance or service.

The TestMaster Valve was the first product designed to replace the test loop with a single product. Although available in limited valve sizes, and not significantly smaller than an assembled test loop, it did reduce the connection points to just two. AGF Manufacturing Inc. was the first to offer a much smaller compact angled ball valve design that accommodated the requirement for valve sizes of 3/4″ to 2″, and orifice sizes of 3/8″ to ESFR.

The pre-assembled manifolds, which are currently offered by a number of manufacturers, presented the next evolutionary option to the installation contractor by providing a section of supply pipe with a gauge, flow switch and as supplied by some manufacturers, an AGF TESTanDRAIN valve already installed. Again, more connection points have been eliminated, and the units are typically smaller than the field assembled equivalent.

However, except for a much cleaner piping design and easier operating ball valves, most of the advantages and conveniences that these product evolutions provided have been realized by the installation contractor, not the inspection, testing, and maintenance contractor for whom the “Floor Control Valve Assembly with Inspector’s Test Loop” is provided. Testing a system still usually requires multiple people, one at the panel and one climbing the building and working the valves.

The next evolutionary step finally takes into consideration the inspection contractor by creating a smarter test and drain valve, the RemoteTEST TESTanDRAIN valve. The inclusion of these valves into the “Floor Control Valve and Inspector’s Test Loop Assemblies”, which are no different from an installation standpoint than a standard TESTanDRAIN valve, allow the Inspection Contractor to single-handedly operate each individual valve from one central location, typically the Fire Control Panel, or an auxiliary panel located nearby.

RemoteTEST, and products like it, allow for better utilization of both time and manpower. Now a two-man crew can be doing two different operations of the inspection simultaneously. As one member of the crew runs the RemoteTEST valves, confirming the water flow alarm devices, the second member of the crew can be doing visible inspection of the system. Upon completion of the testing, the crew will know specific locations that require closer attention, and since the AGF valve maintains the ability to be operated manually, the source of the problem can be quickly identified and the appropriate work order created. Your inspection crew can then be off to their next location, leaving the door open for your maintenance and repair crew.

The next evolutionary step is already on the horizon – PC-Based Fire Alarm Panels like the Viking Electronic Services eLAN. Its virtual panel will allow the inspection, testing, and maintenance contractor to access the system through the web, and with RemoteTEST valves installed, start the system testing prior to sending anyone to the actual site. Now, when your crew arrives they will already have some ideas of the potential problems along with their locations, and be prepared to service the systems and assure their life and property saving capabilities.

Originally printed in the June 2004 edition of Fire Protection Contractor Magazine.