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Frequently Asked Questions About Halon

Posted on: February 17, 2011

If you’ve ever shopped around for a fire suppression system for your building, you’ve probably heard about Halon, widely hailed as the best fire extinguishing system in the world. But what is a Halon fire suppression system? Is it safe? Why isn’t it more commonly used? At Confires Fire Protection Services, we want to make sure you have the full story about all of your fire suppression systems.


What is Halon?

Halon is the most effective form of fire suppression ever discovered. While most fire suppression systems work by eliminating either one part of a fire (the ignition source, the fuel or the oxygen), Halon goes further to break the chain reaction of a fire, stopping the fuel, ignition and oxygen by chemically reacting with them. Both Halon 1211 (a liquid agent) and Halon 1301 (a gaseous agent) leave no residue and are safe for short-term human exposure – but prolonged exposure should be avoided.  One of the primary reasons behind Halon fire suppression systems is that the Halon does not effectively destroy everything it comes into contact with.  So if you have a room with lots of servers or computers, the last thing you want is for a water-based fire sprinkler system to kick on.  When the water based system kicks on – all of your computers, all of your sensitive electronics and all of your information can be ruined.

Is Halon Bad for the Environment?

Unfortunately, yes. Halon is a potent CFC, meaning it depletes the ozone layer when it is released. However, this does not mean that it is illegal to use. While the production of new Halon was outlawed in 1994 under the Clean Air Act, there is still no way to safely dispose of the existing supplies of the extinguishant, meaning that the use of recycled Halon fire suppression systems and Halon fire extinguishers is still accepted and encouraged. In fact, the FAA requires the use of Halon on all commercial airlines.

Where is Halon Most Commonly Used?

Because Halon is such an unparalleled fire extinguishing material, and because it is electrically non-conductive, it is commonly found in vital areas of military applications, including ships, aircraft and tanks. It is also found in computer and communications rooms in the electronics industry and, as mentioned above, on all commercial aircraft. Some people also use Halon fire extinguishers for personal use, in their homes, cars, boats, RVs, etc.

How Do You Maintain a Halon Fire Extinguisher?

Halon fire extinguishers are actually much easier to own than conventional dry chemical fire extinguishers, requiring less yearly maintenance. Since Halon 1211 is a liquid, it is not subject to the “caking” that often occurs after a while with dry chemical fire extinguishers. You should have your Halon fire extinguisher inspected yearly. During a Halon fire extinguisher inspection, the pressure gauge will be checked to ensure adequate pressure, the nozzle will be checked to make sure there are no obstructions and the cylinder will be weighed to make sure it meets the manufacturer’s weight requirements. Halon fire extinguishers require the same six year maintenance and 12 year hydro test that other fire extinguishers require.

If you have any questions about Halon fire extinguisher for fire suppression system suppression and testing, or if you want to know more about Halon in general, call Confires Fire Protection Services today!

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