Automatic smoke vents are a kind of ventilation apparatus that, when installed in a building help in the protection against the smoke that accumulates in a building due to fire. Apart from letting off the smoke, they also let off heat produced during the fire. It has become a statutory obligation that the structures, which are put up nowadays, must have these vents, so as to minimise the fire hazard, especially in buildings that accommodate a large number of people.
The main purpose of having a vent installed in a building is to decrease the internal temperature. Very high internal temperatures may make the roof weaker, increasing the chance of it caving in, and in the process, it will hurt many people. The vent will help to keep the room, sturdy until people can be evacuated from the building. Also, the vent will help to let off the excess smoke in the building, thus enabling those inside to see a bit more clearly so that they can get out to safety more easily and so that firefighters can put out the fire quicker.
A vent will also help to save the building from damage as a result of heat and the change in air pressure. This is a welcome relief for both the owners of the building and others that hold liability for the building, such as the insurance companies. The residents of the building will also be saved from huge losses since their property will also not be harmed in the process.
There are two major forms of automatic smoke vents, namely the dropout vent and the mechanical vent. The mechanical vent requires to be operated by a mechanism, such as an electrical system or a set of springs. On the other hand, the dropout vent, as the name suggests, is automated such that when needed, it will drop out on its own and begin functioning. It is made of plastic, thus the change in temperature leads to shrinkage thus making the vent drop.
What’s the controversy? Well, one of the major concerns about having the automatic smoke vents is their efficiency rating. Just like any other man-made feature, they are bound to malfunction. Depending on the location of the vent, it might fail to open, thus be unable to let off the excess smoke in the building. One of the reasons for this is that most are controlled by temperature, and the temperature in one section of the building will not necessarily match the temperature in another section of the building.
Another factor that may be affecting the functionality of a vent is the cooling effect of indoor fire sprinklers. They might keep the temperatures within the room cool, thus inhibiting the vents from dropping, and thus smoke will accumulate within.
Since most buildings require that all buildings have one of these vents installed in them, as a building owner, you are better off having them installed. Due to their efficacy, you might just end up saving property and most importantly, lives during the instance of a fire.