The traditional fire hydrant, that innocuous little cast metal tube with a hat, is one of those everyday objects that is so commonplace most people tend to overlook them. For over 100 years this life saving device has changed little in terms of design or functionality, but now an ex-fire fighter hopes to change all that with his next generation Spartan fire hydrant.
According to ex-New York City firefighter/inventor, George Sigelakis, his next generation fire hydrant features a number of design updates that overcome some of the problems that have plagued traditional systems since their inception. In sub-arctic temperatures traditional systems can freeze and break, which in some cases has resulted in loss of life when firefighters couldn't find a working hydrant. The other inherent problem rests in the cast iron composition, which despite impressive longevity characteristics, can leak, freeze and break over time. So the solution according to the former firefighter was to completely reinvent the hydrant.
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Sigelakis spent over 20 years designing and refining various fire hydrant prototypes until he came up with the current Spartan hydrant system. Inside the hydrant, Sigelakis completely reworked the internals so water can’t pool or freeze – one of the main causes of breakage in the traditional systems. And to avoid tampering and unwanted access, the hydrant’s nozzles, outlets, and operating nut were completely enclosed in the housing. To open the system, a specially designed opening tool and wrench are required. The system will actually clamp up tighter should someone attempt to access it illegally.
To address the material weakness of the traditional system, Sigelakis chose to go with a stainless steel, ductile iron mix in his hydrant. Both materials offer the Spartan system a high level of corrosion resistance, which is further enhanced by a special powder coating. That powder coating can be provided in a number of vibrant colors to match residential or commercial aesthetic requirements. Visually, the Sigelock hydrant resembles more of a cartoon-like periscope than it does a piece of serious fire fighting equipment.
Even though the system is designed to last 200 years according to the inventor, the downside to municipalities is the higher than usual cost-per-unit. Running about 20 percent more per hydrant than the typical outlet, the price could prove problematic for city’s working on tighter budgets, however, the projected lack of maintenance when amortized over a couple of centuries should more than cover the initial cash outlay.
The Sigelock system is currently undergoing real-world testing with 150 of the Spartan units in operation in 11 states across the US. The system was actually put to the test during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and passed with flying colors according to the designer.