How to Choose the Right Clean Agent Fire Suppression System

A fire is something that can start anywhere and destroy everything! Not only does it pose a serious threat to the lives of those in the vicinity, it also results in substantial damage to assets and property. While we have a number of ways to extinguish or suppress a fire, sometimes it also happens that the material used for extinguishing a fire ends up causing harm to the occupants or surrounding property!

Consider the condition of electronic equipment in a room where water sprinklers are used to douse a fire, or the effect of CO2 extinguishers being released in a room full of people, cutting off their supply of oxygen! It is clear that the fire suppression system selected for a particular area needs to be tailored to suit its requirements.

Considering the options available today in terms of fire suppression systems, those based on clean agent fire suppression systems are highly popular, since they have a wide range of applications and are safe as well as sustainable.

Fundamentals of Clean Agent FSS

Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems use a clean agent- electrically non-conductive, volatile, or gaseous fire extinguishing agent leaving no residue- to extinguish fires. Clean agent fire suppression systems use inert gases or chemicals, stored in containers and discharged upon fire detection. Hence, their deployment does not cause any damage to the surroundings or important assets.

Also, since these clean agents are substantially more environment-friendly, they are considered as a sustainable choice as compared to most other options. There are three basic types of clean agent fire suppression systems:

FM 200

In FM 200 clean agent fire suppression systems, the agent is kept as a liquefied compressed gas in cylinders. Once the system is activated, it turns into a gaseous state that reaches the fire and absorbs the heat, thus extinguishing it. The agent is relatively safe for the health of the occupants, and is frequently found in computer rooms. However, FM 200 systems have the highest ozone depletion ratings out of the three types of clean agents. FM-200 is effective for fighting Class A, B, and C fires.

Inert Gas

Inert gas clean agent fire suppression systems utilize a combination of inert gases to reduce oxygen in the surroundings. They need more amount of the agent substance to suppress fires; hence they take up more space. These systems are highly pressurized and located a bit further away from the area, while also taking longer to activate. Inert gas clean agent systems include INERGEN as well as CO2.

1. CO2

A carbon dioxide system uses a high concentration of CO2 gas to reduce the oxygen and extinguish the fire. It’s highly effective, but poses health risks to humans at some levels, and so this system is usually used for unoccupied spaces like electrical rooms, and flammable liquid storage areas.


INERGEN clean agent systems utilize a mixture of nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide to fight fires in an environment-friendly way. INERGEN reduces the oxygen content in a room to a level where it is insufficient for combustion but still allows the occupants to breathe. INERGEN has no global warming potential, making it safe to use for the environment. Usually it is employed in occupied spaces, historical archives, museums, and art galleries.

3. Novec 1230

3M Novec 1230 is the most eco-friendly chemical clean agent available. It extinguishes fires with minimal collateral damage and cleanup, and has a zero ozone-depleting potential and global warming potential of just one. These systems contain the agent as a non-toxic, colorless liquid which turns into a gaseous state when discharged, suppressing fire by removing the heat. It is considered safest to use in human occupied areas, as well as in facilities with sensitive electronic equipment like data processing centers, race cars, and industrial facilities.

Parameters of Selection for Clean Agent FSS

Safety for Occupants

One of the most important factors is the safety of the occupants. Clean agents must not affect the health of occupants adversely.

While FM 200, INERGEN, and Novec 1230 systems are quite safe for the occupants, CO2 systems can cause harm to their health. CO2 systems reduce the oxygen levels in the vicinity of the fire. The range of concentrations for extinguishing fuel fires with CO2 is between 34 and 72% v/v, which results in oxygen concentrations between 15.7 and 8.1%. Thus, the occupants may have difficulty in breathing, dizziness and even a threat to their life at high concentrations of CO2.


This factor relates to the effect that the deployed clean agents have on the environmental aspects, such as the ozone layer or climate change. Clean agents are known for being very environment-friendly, adding to their appeal; but how do they fare against one another on this parameter?

For instance, INERGEN has zero Global Warming Potential (GWP), making it one of the safest materials for the environment. Similarly, Novec 1230 fluid has zero Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP), as well as a minimal Global Warming Potential of 1. Hence it is one of the most environment-friendly options available. CO2 also does not have an effect on the environment at the concentrations in which it is used for the fire suppression system.

However, as compared to the above examples, the FM 200 system has a significantly higher Global Warming Potential. Although it is still less than many other chemical alternatives, it still makes FM 200 system a less favorable option among the Clean Agent FS Systems.

Protection for Assets

One of the primary requirements of Clean Agents is the protection of the surrounding assets. Clean Agents do not leave any residue behind which may need to be cleaned up. Also, their properties have no adverse effect on assets such as sensitive equipment, computers, art pieces, or any cargo. All the clean agents are extremely good for protecting assets and ensuring minimal damage is caused by the fires.

Deployment and Quantity

Among all the clean agent systems, FM 200 and Novec 1230 are the fastest acting, while INERGEN and CO2-based systems are just a little slower since they comprise compressed gas. Similarly, these systems also require slightly more quantity of clean agents to extinguish the fire.

Comparison of Clean Agent FSS on these Parameters

The table below summarizes the performance of the Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems based on the above parameters:

Selection of Clean Agent FSS for different Facilities

The above table gives us a very broad idea of how we can select a clean agent fire suppression system for our buildings and facilities, based on our specific needs.

CO2 systems are cheaper and easily available. Since they do not leave residue or harm the environment, they can be used in a wide range of scenarios. However, since they can cause breathing issues for occupants by reducing the oxygen levels, it is advisable not to use them in confined spaces or indoor facilities with a lot of working personnel. Hence, they are commonly used in engine rooms, generator rooms, power stations, flammable liquid storage rooms, and near large industrial machines, where there are few or no working personnel.

FM 200 systems, INERGEN systems and Novec 1230 systems can be used in all kinds of occupied and unoccupied spaces. They are used in office spaces, industrial workshops, commercial zones, hospitality projects, and more.

FM 200 systems are fast acting, extinguishing a fire within 10 seconds. The main advantage of FM200 fire suppression is that a small amount of the agent is required to suppress a fire. This means fewer cylinders, and therefore less wasted space. Hence, they are less costly as compared to INERGEN and Novec 1230 systems. However, they are also very slightly less environment-friendly. Hence, the more environmentally conscious customers may prefer not to opt for an FM 200 system, while more economically conscious customers may prefer an FM 200 system.

INERGEN system and 3M Novec 1230 systems are the most environment-friendly and safe clean agent systems; hence, they are slightly costlier. However, considering a sustainability as well as effectiveness angle, these systems are the best options for most facilities.

3M Novec 1230 systems are highly non-conductive, and are also required in small quantities. This makes them ideal for use in compact, concentrated occupied spaces with significant electronic assets, such as data centers, electronics-heavy facilities, server rooms, industrial facilities, and race cars. They are also used in the engine rooms of marine vessels- merchant, recreational or naval; as well as in aircrafts!

INERGEN systems have zero residues, zero Ozone Depletion Potential, and cause no damage to any asset. However, they are required in slightly large quantities, meaning more storage space. Hence, they are preferred to be used in large, occupied spaces which require maximum preservation of all surrounding assets, such as historical archives, museums, art galleries, sensitive storage facilities, computer rooms, hospitals and medical facilities.

Consulting Fire Safety Experts

As mentioned earlier, the above are the broad factors that can help determine what sort of clean agent system should be used for various facilities. However, in truth there are many more constraints and parameters that need to be addressed in order to figure out what is the best fit for your particular facility. This is where fire safety experts like SHM Shipcare come in.

What do fire safety experts do? Simply put, they figure out the perfect fit of fire safety systems for any user or facility, through a specific process.

  1. Understanding the factors to consider when establish a specific type of fire protection system for a specific facility
  2. Determine which regional or international codes, standards, and other documents control the choice of fire protection systems, and in what way- codes like the NFPA (USA), International Fire Code (IFC), or the National Building Code (NBC) of India
  3. Figure out the loss tolerance, target scenarios, and apply risk assessment techniques to finalize the fire protection systems

Consulting an expert to suggest the appropriate fixed fire safety system is the best way to get the perfect fire suppression system for your facility. Want to choose the right clean agent fire suppression system for your purpose? Browse through our range of fire safety systems, and contact us at firesafety@shmgroup.com for a consultation!

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