K-Factor formula for fire sprinklers

When we start any hydraulic calculation for a water based fire protection systems such as fire sprinklers, water mist, hose reel and deluge systems the k-factor formula is one formula which all fire protection engineers must know and understand. It allows us to calculate the discharge flow from any type of nozzle (fire sprinkler, water mist or a deluge nozzle) for which we have a k-factor. We can also calculate the k-factor for any nozzle if we have not been given one, however you must check with the manufacture that this is acceptable.

The k-factor formula is the start of all hydraulic calculation for fire protection systems for both manual and computerized calculations and is also required for the checking of both types.

The discharge from a sprinkler head or nozzle can be calculated from the formula bellow:

q = kp0.5

when q = flow in L/min
k = nozzle discharge coefficient or k-factor for head in Lpm/bar0.5
p = pressure in bar

This formula can be rewritten to give us:

k = q / p0.5 and p = ( q / k )2

Our Hcalc Hydraulic Calculator will allow you to explore the K Factor formula in more detail and will allow you to calculate the flow, pressure or find the k factor for a nozzle or fire sprinkler. You can freely download and use our Hcalc software.

For standard type sprinkler heads the many design standards specify standard k-factors and minimum pressure, which can be used for different Hazard classifications and design densities. For all other types of sprinkler heads the manufactures data sheet should be referred to for the k-factor and minimum head pressure.

K factor for fire sprinkler heads

We also use K-factors for many other applications in fire hydraulics such as flow from a fire hydrant, wet riser outlet, hose reel or foam monitor. In fact the list is almost endless and this is why it is important to be familiar with the above formulas.

Often K-factors are given as an imperial value in gpm/psi½ this value cannot be entered into FHC without first converting to its metric equivalent Lpm/bar½. To convert gpm/psi½ to Lpm/bar½ we need to multiply by 14.4 (Approximate)

Example: A sprinkler head has a discharge coefficient of 4.2 gpm/psi½ what is its metric equivalent valve. 4.2 x 14.4 = 60.48 Lpm/bar½.

We only need to use K-factors to one decimal place so 60.48 becomes 60.5 Lpm/bar½.


Get more Hydraulics calculations articles

If you have enjoyed the Basic Hydraulics calculations articles in this section then you may be interested in becoming a 'Registered User' as this will open up additional articles and tutorials which will be of interest to anyone if fire protection engineering. Articles cover more of the basics hydraulics and advanced hydraulic calculation techniques which are used in fire protection engineering.