Water Flow Indicator

Last updated: July 16, 2019

What Does Water Flow Indicator Mean?

A water flow indicator is a device used to specify the direction and rate of flow of water through a system. They are commonly used within sprinkler systems as a means of triggering local fire alarms and/or alerting the local firefighting department of a probable fire. When the presence of smoke or heat activates the sprinkler, the movement of water flow through the sprinkler is used to trigger the alarm.

Water flow indicators may be electro-mechanical (as described above) and thus involve the transmission of electrical signals to an alerting or monitoring source, or they may be wholly mechanical. Mechanical water flow indicators are frequently used to provide visual evidence of water flow, and they allow inspectors to assess potential problems related to the flow of water through a pipe-and-valve system.

Safeopedia Explains Water Flow Indicator

The use of water flow indicators allows for fire protection systems to efficiently link the activation of a fire alarm to the activation of a suppression system (e.g., a sprinkler). This ensures that a sprinkler does not need redundant fire detection capabilities and allows the activation of the sprinkler and alarm system to be integrated into a single causal chain, thus reducing the chance of a failure within the system.

The use of a water flow indicator as an alarm trigger means that, in the case of a false sprinkler activation, an alarm will still sound. In this case, fire protection personnel must perform due diligence regarding the cause of the alarm, and they must assess whether there is a problem with the sprinkler system that needs to be fixed so the system complies with relevant fire protection codes.

In centrally controlled fire protection systems, water flow indicators can be used to monitor the flow of water throughout various parts of the system and provide a means of remotely assessing whether the controls are working as expected. Some types of indicators (those that monitor the rate of flow) may also be able to provide derived measurements of the water pressure of the system, allowing for the efficient identification of problems caused by excess or insufficient pressure. The most common water flow indicators used in sprinkler systems use a “paddle” that acts as a switch activated or turned on by the flow of water.

Flow indicators, for water or another substance, are commonly used as a means of monitoring whether a safety valve is working correctly. In these systems, activation of the flow meter indicates that a substance has breached the safety valve, which means the valve is no longer functioning correctly.


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