An OS&Y valve is the type of valve required by code for NYC water main service lines that provide fire protection. When installing a new water main for fire protection it is vitally important to use the correct main control valve inside the building. Even on a water main repair of an existing line for fire protection the main control valve should be checked that it is code compliant. But it goes much farther than that, in that an OS&Y valve provides unique protection that a typical gate valve or ball type valve cannot provide.
What is an OS&Y valve?
Technically OS&Y stands for ‘Outside Screw and Yoke’. That means that when the handle is turned it directly raises and lowers the gate of the valve by interacting directly with the stem of the valve. The handle and the stem are both threaded so they interact together. The stem of the valve itself raises and lowers visibly outside the body of the valve, while the handle remains in a fixed position. As the stem rises the gate inside the body of the valve rises in unison letting water flow through the body of the valve.
The fact that it is always perfectly clear whether an OS and Y valve is open or closed seems to add to it’s longevity. The stem being visible, clearly being either raised or lowered, takes much of the guesswork out of operating the valve. Therefore, excessive force is less likely to be used in operating the valve. In addition, because they are UL rated, they seem to be better constructed than many other typical water valves.
Why is an OS&Y valve so important?
Because a fire sprinkler main is dedicated for fire protection and not for any domestic use, you cannot test in the usual fashion if the water is on or not. In other words flushing a toilet or turning on a sink will not let you know if the fire sprinkler system is active. One quick look at an OS&Y valve with the stem raised out of the body of the valve and you will know that the water is on. On a typical gate type valve a visual inspection cannot determine whether the valve is open or closed.
The NYC plumbing code and OS&Y valves
- All main control valves for fire protection must be ‘Outer Stem & Yoke’ type valves.
- All valves must be UL Listed (UL stands for Underwriter Laboratories, which is a global independent science company).
- Must be locked in the open position to ensure fire protection is active.
- Must be the same size as the water service line. The valve size cannot be either larger or smaller than the service line size.
If an OS&Y valve leaks or the handle will not move
On every OS&Y valve there is a packing nut, or packing screws. The purpose of these is to hold the packing material of the valve tightly in place so there are no leaks. Sometimes the packing nuts can be too tight or too loose.
If the valve handle on an OS&Y valve will not move, the packing may be too tight. Do not use brute force to make the handle move. Simply loosen the packing nut or packing screws a couple of turns. The handle should then move freely. Afterwards remember to tighten pack the packing.
Frequently if a leak appears on an OS&Y valve it is because the packing is too loose. Simply tightening the packing nuts of screws will stop the leak. This can be easily accomplished using any common wrench, and does not require a skilled plumber.
How does a fire sprinkler head operate?
courtesy of wikipedia
Each closed-head sprinkler is held closed by either a heat-sensitive glass bulb or a two-part metal link held together with fusible alloy such as Wood’s metaland other alloys with similar compositions. The glass bulb or link applies pressure to a pip cap which acts as a plug which prevents water from flowing until the ambient temperature around the sprinkler reaches the design activation temperature of the individual sprinkler. Because each sprinkler activates independently when the predetermined heat level is reached, the number of sprinklers that operate is limited to only those near the fire, thereby maximizing the available water pressure over the point of fire origin.
The bulb breaks as a result of the thermal expansion of the liquid inside the bulb. The time it takes before a bulb breaks is dependent on the temperature. Below the design temperature, it does not break, and above the design temperature, it takes less time for higher temperatures. The response time is expressed as a response time index (RTI), which typically has values between 35 and 250, where a low value indicates a fast response. Under standard testing procedures (135 °C air at a velocity of 2.5 m/s), a 68 °C sprinkler bulb will break within 7 to 33 seconds, depending on the RTI. The RTI can also be specified in imperial units, where 1 ft is equivalent to 0.55. The sensitivity of a sprinkler can be negatively affected if the thermal element has been painted.