When it comes to choosing the right types of fire hydrants for your needs, it can be challenging to navigate the market to find the right one to meet your needs. Types of fire hydrants cost anywhere from $1,000-$2,000 with additional fees for installation, replacement, parts, and labor, which puts immense pressure on choosing the right one the first time.

But, if you have a building that needs protection from potential fires, it’s required that spacing between each hydrant not exceed 500-feet and all hydrants must be within 250-feet of a building. You’re also required to properly maintain the fire hydrant type to ensure they’re easy to locate in the event of a fire.

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Details About Types of Fire Hydrants

Do you know how to properly protect your building and occupants in the event of a fire? Do you know what types of fire hydrants you need and why?

Is your head spinning yet? We’ve compiled this helpful guide to the different types of fire hydrants on the market so you can make sure your building is covered in the event of an emergency. Read on to understand how these fire hydrants types units work, the different types of fire hydrants are available in the United States and why, and also a handy guide for colors, servicing, and much more!

How Does a Fire Hydrant Work?

Chances are, you’ve seen fire hydrants your whole life. If you’re shopping for one for the first time, you’re likely starting to notice them even more often, maybe also seeing different shapes, colors, and locations. But do you know how they work?

The part of the hydrant you see is an add-on to the main water pipe, sitting on top of a riser. The water flows directly from this main pipe and has a connection point for fire hoses to attach to, and nut or bolt that turns on the flow. There is no way to adjust the flow of water from a pump as it’s either open or closed.

Hydrants, also known as ground pipe fittings, fire plugs, fire pumps, or johnny pumps, can pump out anywhere from 500-1500 gallons per minute (GPM) depending on the use and the population density. Their design varies by country of origin, but the most common fire hydrant types in the United States are:

  • Wet Barrel Hydrants: These are located in parts of the country where freezing temperatures are uncommon. In these fire hydrant type, water fills the entire hydrant at all times. These are cheaper to construct and easier to maintain.
  • Dry Barrel Hydrants: In regions where freezing temperatures ARE common, this fire hydrant type of hydrant has a valve that keeps water below the frost line.

The different colors of the body of a hydrant serve a purpose. The most common are fire hydrants types:

  • White = Public systems hydrant
  • Yellow = Public water main
  • Red = Special operations ONLY
  • Violet = Non-potable supply

All fire hydrants should be regularly inspected by professionals with a pressure gauge to ensure the flow rate, function, and pipe pressure are at adequate levels.

The Different Types of Fire Hydrants

To keep your buildings safe, you legally have to have access to fire hydrants. Firefighters need to be able to quickly locate the types of fire hydrants and operate them without having to worry about plant overgrowth or broken pieces. When a building is on fire, every moment counts, so professionals should be able to fasten their hose to the hydrant quickly to put out a fire.

Wet Barrel Hydrants

This types of fire hydrants are the most common and when properly maintained, can last over 100 years! All the pieces that make this style work are above ground, so the risk of debris entering your hydrant is low, and all parts are easy to maintain regularly. All valves and nozzles are easily accessed and work independently.

While convenient, these are more likely to become damaged if the temperature drops below freezing since the hydrant always holds water. However, these are the best option for those who live in the southern states.

Dry Barrel Hydrants

Unlike the wet barrel hydrant, this style has a main valve that exists in the base of the hydrant. The water supply is kept entirely underground, below the frost line. No water remains in hydrant when it isn’t used, which puts you at a lower risk of experiencing damage should the temperature fall below freezing.

Within the dry barrel option, there are:

  • Slide-gate: The main valve moves vertically with a threaded system. When you rotate the stem, the internal gate moves. A wedging gate also moves against the valve at the base of the hydrant.
  • Toggle: The main valve moves horizontally inside the hydrant base. The vertical stem contains both right and left-handed trash, allowing the valve to move. Rotating the stem causes the toggle arms to move the valve.
  • Compression: When the nut is rotated, the stem moves up and down, opening or closing the valve, respectively.

Each alternative works differently, but they all keep the water below the frost line.

Why Are Some Hydrants Multiple Colors?

Previously we reviewed the most common types of fire hydrants colors found on the body of hydrants, but there are more specifics to consider here. Have you ever noticed some hydrants that are more than one color? The cap color can indicate the water pressure available, which is a useful indicator for firefighters.

Depending on your area, this could vary, but generally, the cap colors are:

  • Blue = Heavier pressure
  • Red = Softer pressure
  • Other Colors = Indicates that the pressure falls somewhere in the middle

In a highly-populated area, a higher flow is required. If you aren’t sure what type of pressure you have, consult professionals to check for you.

Body-color on a hydrant should be recognizable from a distance so firefighters can easily spot the unit when needed and know the type of water available.

Why Should You Install a Fire Hydrant?

If you have fire extinguishers and internal sprinkler systems you may feel that a fire hydrant isn’t needed. However, there are a few additional reasons to install a fire hydrant:

  1. A hydrant is the most effective way to douse a fully developed fire. Extinguishers and sprinklers can put out small, manageable fires, but when the fire grows too quickly, these tools lose their effectiveness. A hydrant can dispense water at high speed and pressure, making it the most effective tool for developed fires.
  2. A hydrant gives firefighters a readily available water source, allowing them a constant flow directly from the pump.
  3. Hydrants are a water source for other utility workers like sewage cleaning services, street sweepers, etc.
  4. Hydrants allow a way to effectively monitor water levels for chlorination and help deter leaks since they are a direct source of underground water systems.

How to Choose the Right Hydrant

Whether you’re new to hydrant shopping of if you’ve got existing units, the right fire hydrants supplier can make a big difference.

  • Maintenance: Your supplier should have options to inspect, install, and repair your fire hydrant. The process should be seamless since they will know your unit specifically and have different teams that specialize in any required maintenance.
  • Inspections: Technicians should work to save you money and time by repairing rather than replacing your unit. Your check should include flow tests, measuring flow pressure, operability, reliability, and properly inspecting and lubricating caps and fittings to work when needed.
  • Installation: The part of the fire hydrant you see is only the start of the unit. Installation should include all underground connections, so you have a completely functional fire hydrant.
  • Repair: If you have existing hydrants, make sure that your supplier understands your unit and how to ensure proper water pressure. Leaks, valve repairs, and adequate color-coding should be maintained to avoid costly damage.
  • Emergency Servicing: Your fire hydrant is an essential tool to keep your building and occupants safe. If your hydrant is damaged, make sure you have access to emergency servicing as needed.

Getting Started with Fire Hydrants

When it comes to selecting the right fire hydrant for your needs from different types of fire hydrants, it’s essential to do your research and understand the requirements for your size building and your water source. Consulting expert guidance can help you make the right choice and avoid costly missteps.

Having sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers are a crucial first step to avoid fire damage, but in the event of a major fire, access to the fire hydrant type can save your building! By having the right tools available, properly maintaining them, and working with professionals, you will have a unit that is installed correctly and will work for years to come.

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