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Student-designed device could soon be protecting homes from fires

Student-designed device could ...
FACE, the Fire Activated Canister Extinguisher, is currently on Kickstarter
FACE, the Fire Activated Canister Extinguisher, is currently on Kickstarter
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FACE, the Fire Activated Canister Extinguisher, is currently on Kickstarter
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FACE, the Fire Activated Canister Extinguisher, is currently on Kickstarter

Most of us can't afford homes with fire-extinguishing sprinklers built into the ceiling … and that's where FACE is designed to come in. It's a self-contained, heat-activated fire suppression device that's mounted in the user's home, wherever it's most likely to be needed.

Its name an acronym for Fire Activated Canister Extinguisher, FACE was invented by San Francisco high school student Arul Mathur. He tells us that he was inspired to create it after moving from New Jersey to California, where he discovered firsthand just how much of a threat fires pose to people's dwellings.

"I heard about the hundreds of thousands of people who evacuated their homes every year to flee from wildfires, but I never thought that I could be one of those people," he says. "Finally, in the summer of 2019, a wildfire threatened to force my family to evacuate our home. At that moment, it became personal. I knew that I needed to do something about it."

The resulting device takes the form of a wall-mounted metal canister with an air valve on top, an air pressure gauge on the side, and a sprinkler head on the bottom. It's filled with a mixture of water and an environmentally friendly fire retardant by the name of Cold Fire.

Users initially pressurize the canister by pumping it up through its valve, utilizing either a manual air pump or an electric compressor. They then periodically check the pressure on its gauge, topping it up to about 50 psi (3.4 bar) if necessary. Other than that, it pretty much just sits around until a fire occurs nearby.

When that happens, the heat from the flames causes a glycerine-filled bulb in the sprinkler head to burst. This allows the pressurized water/retardant mix to shoot out the bottom of the canister and deflect off the sprinkler itself, spraying 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 m) in all directions. The device doesn't have to be connected to the home's water supply or electrical system, plus it can be refilled after each discharge using a kit – and unlike a handheld fire extinguisher, it does its job even if no one is home to operate it.

Along with its use inside the home, Mathur has also suggested that multiple FACE devices could be placed at regular intervals along the fences of houses in wildfire-prone regions. "I reasoned that by owning self-activating fire suppression, individuals no longer had to be reliant on the fire department to save their homes," he explains. "Firefighters could focus on containing the fire, while we, as residents, could control the fate of our property."

Should you be interested, FACE is presently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. Assuming it reaches production, a pledge of US$99 will get you one. The planned retail price is $120, although the price per unit will be less if multiple devices are purchased.

It's demonstrated in the following video.

FACE fire suppression system

Sources: Kickstarter, FACE

9 comments
9 comments
clay
Seems like a good idea. It is basically just a mini version of the fire suppression systems we built into aircraft hangars. Clever.

I highly recommend they offer a wifi/BLE module that can alert an app send a text or something... so as to inform the owner of the triggered action.
Worzel
So, the wild fire passes through, the whole house is consumed, except for, maybe, the kitchen where this device was installed?
The real problem, is that many US homes have bitumen tiles on the roof, and flammable siding, all just waiting to burst into flames when they reach flash point!
In a past case, the only house that survived a wild fire intact, was block built, with fired clay tile roofing.
If you build what amounts to a fire stack, just waiting to be ignited, in an area where a wild fire can occur, then why be surprised if it burns?
michael_dowling
Yes,it is a good idea. However,I can't see how it would be useful to protect property from wildfires,as it would be easily overwhelmed by a large fire,as the retardant would quickly be used up. For use inside a structure,it would be the next best thing to a water sprinkler system. I like clay's suggestion of using it with some kind of wifi alert system.
Rakkasan
Think I can build that from a propane can and a sprinkler head.
idearat
I'm bothered by the video that shows the device over a stove. Grease fires and water are a no-no.
Jeff7
Agree with Idearat - a bit more research into a fire suppressant suitable for fat fires and it would be a winner. (The cheap fire extinguishers sold in big box hardware stores actually aren’t rated for grease or fat fires so it’s not quite as straight forward as it appears).
Trylon
"Most of us can't afford homes with fire-extinguishing sprinklers built into the ceiling..."

Low-pressure residential sprinklers really aren't that expensive. Some sources say they're less expensive per square foot of protected area than new carpeting. FACE might be useful in a kitchen, but in terms of protecting a whole house, you would need a lot of units, so the savings against sprinklers would be minimal at best, and actually more expensive in a worst case.

As for wildfire protection, sorry to say this is nearly useless. Arul should have asked fire protection experts, who would have told him that airborne embers are the biggest cause of home ignition in wildfires, and they would blow right over Arul's "wall" of protection around a property, which would have only limited effect on direct flame anyway.
a.l.
A self-contained fire-suppression device will certainly has its uses indoors, but outdoors it’s utterly useless. Wildfires burn over such an extensive area that extinguishing flames within a radius of five feet from the wall of a structure is pointless, both because there’s so much burning outside that perimeter that will continue to burn, but also because the total radiant heat from a wildfire is typically so great that it will ignite critical areas of a structure without the fire’s flames ever coming into contact with it, or flying embers entering a house via broken glass windows or under eaves.

Anyone buying multiples of these things for outdoor protection will be throwing away his of her money, and at $120 per unit, it’ll be a lot of money.
ljaques
I like the new ones which track the fire and aim at it. (seen in CES video)