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Types of Fire Sprinkler Heads

types of fire sprinkler heads

The first sprinkler system ever used was in 1812, a surprisingly long time ago, and the first automatic sprinkler system was in 1872. These achievements radically changed fire safety, and today almost every building has a sprinkler system.

Sprinkler systems today use automatic sprinkler heads, and there is a fair amount of variation between them. Differentiating these heads is important because each handles a different situation.

Continue reading to learn the different types of fire sprinkler heads and how they work. 

How Sprinkler Heads Work

Sprinkler heads are attached to piping that is part of a sprinkler system. Inside the pipes is water that a small glass bulb in the center of the head stops up.

The bulb contains a liquid, typically glycerin, and when the bulb is exposed to temperatures between 135 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the liquid expands and shatters the bulb. Without the bulb to stop it up, the pressurized water in the pipes releases from the sprinkler head. 

Every sprinkler head has a deflector that the water ricochets off to create a pattern that allows for wide coverage. This enables the water to reach a much larger area, suppressing more of the fire. 

The Types of Fire Sprinkler Heads 

As stated previously, there are multiple different fire sprinkler heads, and each is suited to a different purpose. The four main types are pendent, concealed, upright, and sidewall heads. 


Pendent sprinkler heads are the most common type. These heads hang down from the water pipe and are easily visible. The water streams downward when the bulb breaks and hits a deflector that spreads the stream into a cone shape.  


Concealed sprinkler heads recess into the ceiling and are covered by caps known as fire sprinkler head covers. When a fire occurs, as the temperature rises the cap will automatically fall off and the sprinkler head will descend. It releases the stream of water in a cone shape similar to a pendent head. 

These types of heads work well for people who do not want the sprinkler head to be visible and would prefer a cleaner-looking aesthetic in their building.

You should never paint over a concealed head cap. It can prevent the cap from falling as it should. 


An upright sprinkler head stands upright on a water pipe and the pressurized water releases upward bouncing against a deflector and creating a circular shape.

These heads are perfect for large open areas with tall or unfinished ceilings. 


A sidewall sprinkler head is attached to the wall with only a partial deflector, creating a semicircle shape. These are typically put in areas where the sprinkler piping only runs vertically in the wall, not overhead. 

These are also ideal for tightly enclosed spaces. 

Fire Safety First

Knowing the different types of fire sprinkler heads is crucial to understanding a building’s protection against a fire. Annual inspections need to be conducted on fire sprinkler systems to ensure they’re in good working order. 

Sometimes new sprinklers need to be installed or existing sprinklers need modification in order to meet NFPA requirements. Knowing what fire sprinkler head types you have will give you a better grasp of their purpose and how to maintain them. It helps you to prevent damages or obstructions from hindering your sprinkler system in the event of a fire.

United Fire has been a leading member of the fire protection industry for over two decades, offering the highest quality work with the highest quality service. If you need inspections, maintenance, or installations regarding your fire sprinkler system, check out the sprinkler services United has available for you.







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