Fire Pump Testing and NFPA 25 – Automatic Starting is the Priority

Over the course of this year, we have encountered several disabled fire pumps due to burnt up or failed fire pump controller components.  This can happen for various reasons — age, misuse, lightning, power surges, etc.  But, for one particular installation, what troubled me the most was that for months at a time, no one knew there was a problem at all.  To the outside observer, everything seemed to be working fine. You press the ‘start’ button and the pump runs.  But it wasn’t until a simulation of a pressure drop was performed that the problem revealed itself:  the automatic start circuitry was damaged.  The pump would start manually, but not automatically.  Several “monthly tests” did not reveal the problem because no one thought to test the equipment automatically.

NFPA 25 – the Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems provides an excellent guide as to what equipment needs to be tested, and how frequently.  And very often, the property or building owner hires the right person — licensed and qualified — to run the fire pump through its proper test.  But if you are not careful, it is easy for someone to simply press a start button to test the operation of a fire pump, and in so doing forget or neglect to test the automatic starting of the fire pump. Continue reading

Home Fire Safety Tips & Tools


The American Red Cross recently announced a national campaign that aims to reduce deaths and injuries from fires in the home. The goal is to reduce these numbers by over 25% in the next five years, and this is an absolutely plausible goal as our society grows smarter about fire safety. Technological advances such as hard wired smoke detectors, home sprinkler systems, and updated fire codes and standards all provide us with a much better chance to survive a fire compared to previous generations. That being said, there still are steps we should all take to further our personal fire prevention repertoire, and some of our favorite fire prevention tips and tools are outlined below. Continue reading

Centrifugal Pump Priming

UL/FM fire pumps require what is commonly called a “flooded suction,” or a positive suction pressure prior to starting.  The concept is that the water supply source must arrive at the pump impeller on its own, without the aid of the pump.  This will guarantee that the pump is properly primed and ready for operation.   With many centrifugal pumps, as little as 3% air in the casing can be enough to prevent the proper operation of the pump.  So it is important to maintain a positive pressure on the pump prior to starting.

Once started and running, a centrifugal pump can operate with a vacuum, with its negative suction pressure, on the suction side of the pump, but prior to starting there could be air present in the pump casing to prevent proper operation. Continue reading

New Sprinkler Legislation Passes in New York

It would make sense that if you are renting or leasing a home, or at least thinking about doing so, you know whether or not the building you are looking at has a fire sprinkler system. This was not true in New York until this month, when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that will require new leases to detail, in BOLD print, whether or not the tenant will be protected by a fire sprinkler system. Continue reading

Preventing Workplace Fire Hazards


According to the State Compensation Insurance Fund of California, there are between 70,000 and 80,000 serious workplace fires every year. The good news is there are simple steps that you can take to help limit the risk of these fires, and our blog today features some of the best ways to reduce the risk of fire at your place of business.

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How Often Should You Test Your Fire Pump?

If you are a building owner or facilities manager and you have a sprinkler system being supplied by a fire pump, it is your legal responsibility to maintain your equipment and keep it in proper working order.  If you don’t have the expertise or time to do this, you need to hire someone qualified who can.  But putting legal responsibility aside — it is a good thing to do anyway, considering the undeniable importance of the equipment.  In the disastrous and unfortunate event of a fire, your sprinkler system can save property and lives — assuming, of course, that it is in working order! Continue reading

Fire Pump Testing Part II – Hose Valve Manifold vs Flow Meter

This blog is the finale of our two-part series, where we continue discussing the testing of fire pumps, and we now switch our focus to the use of a flow meter device. In our second half of the series we’ll dive into the advantages and disadvantages to using flow meters instead of the hose manifold method, which was discussed in part one of our series.

The use of flow metering devices in fire pump installations has been gaining popularity over the years. Flow meters are devices installed in a water pipe that, if installed properly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, will provide a visual reading of water flowing at any given moment. By holding a set flow by use of a downstream throttling valve, a large gauge will illustrate the specific flow. Many people prefer to use flow meters in a return loop from the discharge of a fire pump back to the suction of the fire pump. By doing so, they are recirculating all of the water and allow for measurement of water flow all in one place — the mechanical room. While it is possible to use flow meters in any location desired, for the purpose of this article we will address flow meter installations in the common recirculating return loop. Continue reading

Fire Pump Testing – Hose Valve Manifold vs Flow Meter

This week we embark on a two-part segment where we’ll cover fire pump testing, comparing the advantages and disadvantages of two different methods of testing water flow during a fire pump test: external water flow through a hose valve manifold on the exterior of a building, versus a flow meter recirculating loop within the mechanical room.  In our first segment, we will examine the common, traditional method of testing fire pumps through use of a hose valve test manifold. Continue reading

Aurora Jockey Pumps Offer Fast Lead Times

Jockey pumps are not officially “listed” equipment in the fire pump world, but if you suddenly discover your jockey pump is not performing, you can quickly find yourself with a much bigger problem.  That is because with the jockey pump not working, there is nothing available to keep your sprinkler system piping pressurized.  A small drop in pressure from a small leak, and now your fire pump will start and likely alert the fire department.   You are left with a choice – keep the fire pump off, or get a new jockey pump – FAST.A broken jockey pump likely alerts the local fire department!

We have been stocking smaller jockey pump models for years with great success.  But larger jockey pumps present a stocking challenge.   Who wants to wait 2 to 3 weeks to replace their pump?

We have some great news!  Aurora now allows us to offer a fast lead time with their Quick Ship Program for the PVM Series jockey pumps.* As long as your approved order is placed before Noon Central Standard Time, your jockey pump will ship the following day!  Inquire today on the specific jockey pump models available.

  • *A maximum order of 3 PVM pumps and motors
  • *The pump model and specific motor need to be in the program (contact us for a brochure to see the list!)
  • *Only EPDM pumps and premium efficient motors qualify

You shouldn’t have to wait long for something so vital to your businesses fire protection system, which is why we offer this for our customers looking for Aurora jockey pumps. If you have any questions on this program or anything else fire pump sales and service related, we’re here to help!

How are Engines and Motors Sized for Fire Pumps?

Another question we get pretty frequently here at Steven Brown & Associates, Inc. is how are engines and motors sized for fire pumps? In order to determine the sizing of motors and engines for Aurora fire pumps, we refer to the guidelines put forth by the U.L., as well as in Factory Mutual’s Approval Standard for Split-Case Fire Pumps, and finally the NFPA 20 (2013) 4.7.6.

These standards ensure that the engines and motors supplied with Aurora pumps are designed to operate on any point of the fire pump curve without exceeding the motor nameplate service factor, or engine HP rating. Many of our customers have assumed that motors are sized only to 150% of nameplate capacity, but the reality is that it’s not uncommon for these fire pumps to operate well beyond 150% of rated capacity. This can happen if there is an open hydrant or broken pipe downstream, for example.  The confusion is understandable, as many sections of NFPA 20 talk about 150% capacity as a point used to calculate maximum water velocities (such as Table 4.26), and NFPA 25 requires yearly testing only out to 150% of rated capacity. So it becomes very easy to assume that motors and engines are sized for the same point.

While fire pumps may be sized across the entire range of their performance curve and not just up to 150% of rated capacity, they are allowed to utilize a 1.15 motor service factor upon starting.  So, for example, if the maximum brake horsepower required (BHPr) is 114 HP for a given fire pump rating, you are allowed to utilize a 100 HP motor with a 1.15 motor service factor (100 x 1.15 = 115). For budgetary reasons, this is common practice and permissible by both U.L. and Factory Mutual.

Outside of covering for BHPr across an entire performance curve, there are some exceptions to motor and engine sizing in some specific circumstances. For example, if your fire pump installation is installed at a high elevation above sea level, or in a room with a high expected air temperature, then you may require a larger motor or engine to account for those factors (see NFPA 20 (2013) and, as well as for motors).

Another exception would be in the case of motors used with variable speed drives. To ensure reliable performance, motors intended for use in a variable speed application would not be allowed to use any motor service factor at all. So, while you are still sizing the motor to handle performance across the entire performance curve you are not allowed to utilize the motor 1.15 service factor in accomplishing this.

If you’d like to learn more, or have additional questions about fire pump parts or fire pump service, feel free to reply to this post, call us at the contact number below, or use our service or info request page.