Buying a Fire Extinguisher

fire extinguisher

Fire extinguishers are sturdy metal cylinders filled with water or a smothering material, compressed by high pressure. A lever on the handle depresses a valve that releases the fire-fighting agent. The needle on the pressure gauge, which sits in a green area when full, moves to a red section when the extinguisher needs recharging or has been used up. The National Fire Prevention Association recommends replacing home-use nonrechargeable fire extinguishers 12 years after their date of manufacture.

Different types of fires require different extinguishers, so the letters on the label indicate what type(s) of fire they are rated for. Class A extinguishers put out ordinary combustibles like paper, wood, cloth and trash; Class B extinguishers handle flammable liquids (excluding oil and cooking grease) and combustible gasses such as gasoline, propane and butane; and Class C extinguishers tackle electrical fires that can also affect equipment such as appliances and transformers. Look for models marked with a hose or nozzle and a geometric symbol to identify which fires they can tackle.

If you’re shopping for a home extinguisher, opt for the largest one that fits your space. The larger models are easier to maneuver and performed better in our tests. But a heavy extinguisher can be difficult to lift and hold, so consider buying a smaller model that’s still easy to maneuver if your budget is tight.

Some fire extinguishers come with mounting brackets to make it easy to mount them on a wall. Manufacturers typically recommend that you mount them 3.5 to 5 feet off the ground so they’re out of reach for children.

A fire extinguisher should have a tamper seal on the pin and handle to show that it hasn’t been opened and used. It’s a good idea to check the tamper seal during your monthly inspection for signs that it’s been tampered with.

If the tamper seal shows any signs of damage, that’s an indication that it has been tampered with and should be replaced. If the handle and tamper seal are damaged, or the gauge isn’t in the green zone, it’s time to replace your fire extinguisher.

A rechargeable extinguisher will cost more than a disposable one, but it’s less expensive in the long run since you can use it several times before needing to refill it. Also, the more you use it, the more likely you are to be able to use it successfully in an emergency.

Once you’ve bought your fire extinguisher, follow these simple steps to keep it in good working order. When you’re ready to use it, pull the handle pin and release the locking mechanism; aim low, toward the base of the fire and squeeze the trigger. Be sure to test it before putting it into service by spraying it around your room and looking for the green-colored areas on the pressure gauge. It’s also a good idea to have your fire extinguisher tested by a professional firefighting expert. He or she will look for signs of use, such as a worn handle grip or missing lock horn and may perform a hydrostatic test, in which the cylinder is stripped down to its components and then filled with water at a certain pressure for a period of time.

Comments Off on Buying a Fire Extinguisher