Click here for a printable version of this article.

April 2002: FM200 vs. Inergen

Halon was the extinguishing agent of choice used up until the early 1990's. It provided a high level of property protection with very little secondary damage. The Montreal Protocol changed all this. The Montreal Protocol was an international agreement signed by 175 nations in 1987 to eliminate the production and use of manufactured ozone-depleting substances. Industrialized nations phased out Halon in 1994, but developing countries have until January 2002 to comply.

A foundation of the NFPA and the UN Environment Program have released a guidebook to help developing nations comply with the Montreal Protocol. The book, Standards and Codes of Practice to Eliminate Dependency on Halons: Handbook of Good Practices in the Halon Sector, will be distributed in 132 developing nations. Free copies of this book can be obtained by contacting UNEP DTIE at +33-44-37-14-59, or the Fire Protection Research Foundation at (617) 984-7283.

FM 200, a halocarbon, and Inergen, an inert gas, emerged as the leading replacements once Halon was phased out in the United States in 1994. Similar to Halon, they both extinguish fires by interrupting the flaming process chemically and reducing the fire oxygen's content. However, they do not extinguish fires as quickly as Halon but they are more environmentally friendly. They contain no chlorofluorocarbons so they do not harm the ozone layer. Deciding which to use can be difficult as there are pros and cons to both FM200 and Inergen.

FM 200 is less expensive than Inergen but it is costly to replace FM 200 if the system discharges accidentally. Ansul Incorporated, the sole producer of Inergen in the United States, will replace Inergen free of charge if the system discharges in error.

FM 200 requires much less room for storage than Inergen. In addition, much smaller quantities of FM 200 are required to do the same job as Inergen. However, Inergen can cover a much larger area and can protect multiple hazards.

Environmental Issues
Both FM 200 and Inergen are clean agents, but FM 200 is made of all man-made substances while Inergen is a non-chemical agent and contains naturally occurring substances. FM 200 has a medium to high global warming potential but Inergen requires more steel to make the high-pressured steel cylinders for its storage. Therefore Inergen requires more energy for its manufacture, storage and transportation.

In summary a clean agent system, whether it be FM 200 or Inergen is by far the best way to protect critical equipment and irreplaceable items. Please contact Risk Logic for more information on choosing the correct fire protection system.