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The Difference Between Wet Barrel and Dry Barrel Fire Hydrants

Wet barrel and dry barrel fire hydrants are both common types of hydrants used around the world when fighting fires. Both hydrants have their own advantages and disadvantages, depending on what your needs are. So before you install a fire hydrant, it’s important to understand the difference between these two types and which one is best for your location.

What is the Difference Between Wet Barrel vs Dry Barrel Fire Hydrant?

Wet barrel fire hydrants are the most common type of hydrant found in residential and urban areas. They feature a water chamber that is filled with water from the public supply as opposed to being connected directly to the source like a dry barrel hydrant. This allows for an immediate flow of water when the hydrant is opened, making it great for fighting fires in those specific areas.

Dry barrel fire hydrants are typically found in rural or agricultural areas due to their need for direct connection with the water source. This means that since they are not submerged in water, they will produce a lower flow rate. The advantage of this type of hydrant is when used in an industrial environment where pollutants may be present, it keeps from contaminating the public water supply. Additionally, because these hydrants aren’t connected to the public supply, no backflow is ever possible which helps maintain better water pressure and prevents unforeseen issues due to the lack of maintenance on many public systems.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Type

While a wet barrel fire hydrant has the advantage of being able to provide an immediate flow of water when opened, it also contains standing water which can lead to freezing and other problems in climates with cold winters. On the other hand, while dry barrel hydrants offer the advantage of not having any standing water, they are typically more expensive than wet barrel hydrants and they may require more maintenance due to their need for regular inspection and flushing.

Wet barrel hydrants are much more common and they tend to be less expensive than dry barrel hydrants. However, wet barrel hydrants require more frequent flushing to prevent limestone build-up and other contaminants from developing in the standing water. It is also important for municipalities with wet barrel hydrants to have a system in place for draining them during cold winter months to prevent freeze-ups or ice jams. Dry barrel fire hydrants generally do not require regular flushing and are much less likely to freeze in cold weather. On the downside, they are usually significantly more expensive than wet barrel fire hydrants and they need to be tested and inspected on a regular basis due to the lack of standing water which helps flush out contaminants.

When to Use a Wet Barrel Fire Hydrant

Wet barrel fire hydrants are often the preferred type when it comes to providing an immediate supply of water in the event of a fire, so they are most common in areas that experience frequent wildfires and other naturally-occurring fires. They can also be beneficial in areas where there is limited access to water or where the cost of dry barrel hydrants is too high.

Wet barrel fire hydrants are designed to store a specific amount of water, usually between 1800 and 4000 litres. This means that they can provide firefighters with an immediate source of water, unlike dry barrel hydrants, which require several minutes to fill up. Wet barrel hydrants are also beneficial in areas that experience extended periods without rainfall or low water pressure in the surrounding area, as the water can be stored for use during times of need. Lastly, wet barrel hydrants are less prone to freezing in cold climates due to the fact that the pipes controlling the hydrant are filled with warm water and/or antifreeze.

When to Use a Dry Barrel Fire Hydrant

A dry barrel fire hydrant is best used in areas that don’t experience frequent fires or that have an extensive and well-maintained piping network. It requires less water pressure to open than a wet barrel hydrant and cost less to install and maintain, making it ideal for facilities that rarely utilize their fire hydrants, such as industrial sites or large campuses. Dry barrel hydrants also tend to last longer due to the lack of exposure to large quantities of water.

The key advantage of using a dry barrel fire hydrant is that it requires significantly less water pressure to operate, allowing firefighters to better control the flow and amount of water. The reduced pressure also means fire department personnel can access the hydrant more quickly when fighting a fire because there’s no need to wait for the pressure within the pipes to build up. The fact that this type of hydrant is generally sealed off from any water source also makes it more reliable, as contaminants like mud and sand are unable to enter into its system, reducing the chance of malfunction or blockage.

Installation Difficulties and How to Overcome Them

Installing a dry barrel fire hydrant can be more challenging than installing a wet barrel because it requires additional installation steps. For starters, the municipality’s main must be ran through the top of the valve before the installation can begin. This can create a seal that is difficult to break open and could cause considerable amounts of water to escape in case of an emergency. To avoid any issues, make sure you hire a competent contractor who is familiar with dry barrel fire hydrants to ensure your hydrant is installed correctly.

It’s also important to pay attention to the way you lay out the pipe for your dry barrel fire hydrant. As with any plumbing job, it’s vital that you follow the right instructions and measurements when placing each component. Poor pipework can be a serious issue, especially when not all of the joints are properly sealed. If you overlook this step while installing your dry barrel fire hydrant, water will leak out, compromising the system and potentially leading to dangerous situations. By hiring an experienced professional who is familiar with dry barrel requirements, you’ll make sure your fire fighting supplies stay intact and reliable in an emergency situation.

As you can see, both wet barrel and dry barrel fire hydrants each have their own positives and negatives. In the end, it matters more what your specific needs are in terms of location and application. Be sure to consider all of these factors before deciding which type of fire hydrant is right for you.

Still not sure? Contact your friendly local Complete Fire and Pumps technician to get the skinny on hydrants and hydrant installations..

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