Last Monday, we introduced our Mythblaster Monday series that explores common myths that people have about home fire sprinklers, to illustrate their many benefits and provide resources to advocate for their use. We began by debunking the idea that smoke alarms alone are sufficient protection from a home fire. This week, we turn to a myth that has often floated to the top of the discussion and is used erroneously by opponents to the lifesaving technology. Home is where the heart is, where we feel safest, and these days, where many spend most of their time. But as will see, protecting it does not mean sinking the ship.
Myth: Home Fire Sprinkler installation is too expensive.
Truth: Average fire sprinklers cost $1.35 per square foot of sprinklered space in new construction
The $1.35 per square foot average cost includes design, installation, permits, and more. Like plumbing or electrical systems, home fire sprinklers are paid over the life of a mortgage, adding to their affordability. Local ordinances can cause this figure to vary slightly, but that is a far cry from what a home structure fire might cause in property loss. In 2018, the NFPA reported $6.5 billion in property loss from fire in 1- and 2-family homes. In an Arizona study, over a 15-year period the average loss per sprinklered fire incident was $2,166, while unsprinklered homes had an average loss of over $45,000.
One a wider scale, a recent study performed in California echoed results from an earlier Maryland report, which found no evidence that sprinkler requirements impacted housing supply or cost. The introduction of new materials has also had a positive effect on the cost of sprinkler installations, and once home fire sprinklers are installed they have been found to decrease water usage by 50 to 91 percent, resulting in savings on the water bill.
In short, financial concerns should not deter people from pursuing the life and property protections that home fire sprinklers can provide. Matt Klaus, NFPA Director of Technical Services, briefly discusses these concerns in the video above, and home fire sprinkler advocates in Las Vegas provide a useful case study for how to achieve a sprinkler ordinance even when faced with vocal opponents. A detailed breakdown of home fire sprinkler costs can be found here. For more information, check out the Fire Sprinkler Initiative and Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition websites.