Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems- An Overview

35 Indians die in fire accidents every day, according to reports by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). In 2018 alone, 12,748 people died as a result of different types of fires. This clearly shows the importance of arranging for fire safety systems in our homes, workplaces, seafaring vessels and other facilities. 

However, there are a number of fire extinguishing and suppression systems in the market. So how do you determine the best one for your purposes? How do you differentiate between the various systems? And why should you be aware about the distinctive and highly popular ‘clean agent fire suppression systems’? 

Let’s find out!

Fire Extinguishing and Suppression Systems

Fire extinguishing systems have been in common use over the last two centuries to put out fires. While water sprinklers are the most commonly used extinguishers, fire suppression systems are also used to contain fires, through substances that inhibit combustion via their properties. Usually, a fire suppression system has built-in components that detect fires through heat, smoke, and other warning signs. Upon detection, an alarm system alerts you and commences steps to suppress the fire. The majority of systems then automatically release an external substance to suppress the fire.

There are essentially 2 ways to inhibit a fire: eliminating the heat (cooling) or reducing the supply of oxygen around the fire. Almost all fire extinguishing and suppression systems work in one of these ways. So what are the various types of Fire Suppression Systems?

Types of Fire Suppression Systems

There are a number of systems used to suppress or extinguish fires. The most common solutions include:

Water Sprinklers/Water and Foam

Water sprinklers are ubiquitously used to extinguish fire, as a cheap and reliable solution. Water cools down the fire and helps douse it; however, it usually is not effective for Class B (flammable liquid causes) and Class C (electrical causes) fires. Also, if the building or facility has a large number of electrical or electronic components, they may get badly damaged due to the water.

Water and foam combination extinguishes fire by allowing water to remove the heat component of a fire, while foam cuts off oxygen from the fire. This should only be used on Class A fires (dry combustibles- wood, paper, cloth, trash, plastics).

Chemical Extinguisher

Dry Chemical

The Dry Chemical extinguisher removes the chemical reaction of a fire by separating the oxygen and fuel elements that cause the fire. A multi-purpose Dry Chemical extinguisher is widely used as it is effective on Class A, B, and C fires.

Wet Chemical

The Wet Chemical extinguisher similarly suppresses a fire by removing heat and preventing barriers between oxygen and fuel so a fire cannot be re-ignited.

Wet Chemicals are Class K (cooking oils, greases) Extinguishers. This system is a must-have if you are in the commercial cooking industry. Some Wet Chemical systems can be used on Class A fires as well.


Carbon dioxide was one of the first materials used in cylinders to put out fires. Carbon dioxide is also sometimes included in a list of Clean Agents, as it does not leave any residue after being discharged. Also, used in only necessary quantities it does not significantly affect the environment.

Unfortunately, however, in closed spaces it can be very injurious to human health. As it depletes the oxygen around the fire for extinguishing it, the occupants may experience breathing difficulties from prolonged exposure to it. Exposures to very high CO2 concentrations will lead to unconsciousness, convulsions, and even death. Hence, it is advisable to use CO2 based suppression systems only in open areas or areas without occupants.

Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems

One of the most popular fire suppression systems is a clean agent fire suppression system. A clean agent is an electrically non-conductive, volatile, or gaseous fire extinguishing agent that leaves no residue upon evaporation. Clean agent fire suppression systems use inert gases or chemicals stored in containers, and discharged upon fire detection.

These agents are called ‘clean’ because not only do they leave no residue, but are also substantially more environment-friendly than all other options. Let us take a detailed look at these, shall we?

How Do Clean Agents Work?

A fire usually breaks out when three elements are present: heat, oxygen, and a fuel source. If any of these elements is not present or gets cut off, the fire will be extinguished or suppressed. Clean agents thus eliminate either the heat or the oxygen to suppress the fire, without any discharge or residue that will harm assets or environment.

Common Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems

There are a number of types of Clean Agent FSS, but three main types of clean agents are usually used in these systems.


 FM-200 is a non-toxic, colorless gas using heat adsorption to extinguish fires. This substance removes the heat element from a fire, making sure that occupants and assets are safe while leaving no residue.


Ansul INERGEN utilizes three different inert gases — nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide. It lowers the oxygen content in a room to a level that is insufficient for combustion, while still allowing the occupants to breathe. Thus, it remains safe for the environment as well as for people.

3M Novec 1230

Novec 1230 is a colorless, non-toxic agent frequently used in applications with sensitive electronic equipment. Novec 1230 safely suppresses fires without interrupting critical, high-value assets. Being completely safe for the people and the environment, with a fast action and dispersal, this is one of the most widely used systems in the world.

Benefits of Clean Agent FSS over Conventional FSS


If you look at fire suppression agents in general, a number of them are harmful to the environment. Some chemical-based agents may have toxic properties that may harm the people or the atmosphere, while others could end up contributing to ozone layer depletion.

Here, clean agents can make a difference, as they have Zero Ozone Depletion potential and do not affect the environment adversely. At the same time, they are also not toxic or corrosive in any way, thus protecting any occupants and assets present. Due to their short atmospheric lifetimes, they also disperse as soon as the fire is extinguished and do not pollute the environment.


Clean agents are non-toxic and non-corrosive, meaning they do not harm the occupants in any way. Unlike the conventional CO2 suppression systems, they do not affect the health of the occupants upon prolonged exposure, instead dispersing quickly. This makes them the safest agents for environments where people are present.

No Associated Damage

Clean agent fire suppression systems do not contain water or powders. Hence, there is no possibility of damage to any surroundings, assets or possessions. This is particularly useful in facilities like warehouses, data centers, industrial and commercial estates containing important cargo, or electrical and electronic technology. Thus, you can safely use clean agents in applications with sensitive technology, electronics, and high-value assets.

No Cleanup Required

Clean agents do not leave any residue behind. Once they are deployed or discharged, they simply disperse within a few seconds, once the fire is successfully suppressed. Hence, there is no cleanup required afterwards, and you can return the facility to repair and activity sooner.

Fast Action

Clean agent fire suppression systems actuate within seconds. As they are very effective at extinguishing fires in a few seconds, most of the fire damage is usually confined to a small area of the facility. Hence, with no cleanup and minimal damage, you can easily get the business or facility back in operation.


As you can see, Clean Agent fire suppression systems are sustainable, ensuring the safety of people and planet, as well as precious economic assets. This makes them very applicable to a number of buildings and facilities where both people and sensitive equipment are present. Commercial offices, industrial facilities, data centers, storage warehouses, and other buildings and spaces can benefit from using clean agent systems.

In matters of safety, it is always better to be fully informed in order to make the best choice for your life, the assets, and the environment around you. Interested in knowing more about clean agent fire suppression systems? Check out our range of fire safety systems, or contact us at firesafety@shmgroup.com for a chat!

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