Dust Collector Fire and Explosion Prevention

Thoughts on selecting a fire suppression or spark detection system for a dust collector bag. June 15, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I was advised that I should consider a fire suppression system for my inside three bag dust collector. An infrared heat/spark detection device that detects heat/spark, say from a broken piece of carbide that once sensed immediately sprays water to suppress threat. Can anyone share experience or point me in the right direction.

Forum Responses
(Dust Collection and Safety Equipment Forum)
From contributor U:
Would the suppression amount to a sprinkler system that would wet the entire shop, or target a specific area? Water damage can be pretty expensive also when it is a shop environment. Sounds like overkill to me, but if you have the money and it will bring you piece of mind, go for it. I would be the first to say I have been fortunate, but grounding my system and keeping my shop as clean as possible has worked for me so far.

From Contributor O:
Local Fire officials love things like fire suppression systems, sprinkler systems, five acre ponds and such, but they don't run your business - you do. Take some time to learn how many shops of your size actually have fires started by steel sparks in the dust collection system (carbide will not spark, if I recall correctly). Then see what the costs are for suppression systems. Then talk to your fire insurance carrier. Then weigh all the costs against the benefits. It will become clear pretty quick. Be sure to factor in good housekeeping, common sense, plenty of fire extinguishers, frequent inspection by insurance people and fire fighters. There were two fire suppression firms working the shows ten years ago. Their systems were extremely expensive and mostly for huge factory type environments. False alarms were not uncommon, expensive and - alarming. I have not seen or heard from either one for years.

From Contributor Y:
Fire suppression systems are reactive not proactive. Once you have a dust explosion, which is all but unheard of in an enclosed small turbulent space like a DC, the act is over before any system could react. The most you could ever see is probably a smoldering type fire but again it would be difficult for a piece of carried to get to the bag in a state hot enough to cause a problem. In fifteen years as a professional firefighter I've never heard of a dust collector fire from dust explosion or hot materials introduced into the system. The only ones we see are from metal shavings oxidizing and becoming exothermic.

From Contributor J:
Fire suppression systems are reactive - not proactive. What you need is a Spark Detection System. We use GreCon and we are happy with it. It also contributes to a nice discount on insurance premiums. Spark Detection Systems eliminate the ignition source out of the explosion pentagon. It sprays only as much as needed without any interruption to production. I would advise you to check NFPA 654 and 664 - both standards elaborate on this topic and Spark Detection Systems.