You are the home hero. The heroic homestead defender. You ensure civility, a mowed lawn, and avoid dryer fires. You also have a home fire extinguisher or are considering buying one. Cheers to you. So, let me help make your life easier by telling you how long that fire extinguisher will protect you in your home.
There are many answers. The shortest one is, if you maintain your extinguisher and monthly check it – it can last your entire lifetime. At least per the National Fire Protection Agency or NFPA 10 Manual for portable fire extinguishers.
Home Fire Extinguisher Basics
Location Helps with Maintenance
You will want quick and easy access to your fire extinguisher(s) in case of a fire. The best place to install a home fire extinguisher (or too if you have a larger home) is in the kitchen or the garage.
Use the bracket provided with your extinguisher. If you bought the extinguisher refurbished (perfectly legal, safe, and less expensive) you can also buy a mounting bracket. These are specific to your brand and model of extinguisher. The fire equipment company you are purchasing the equipment from will sell them.
If you are placing the extinguisher in an easily accessible place, you will see it more. This will remind you to do the next step: a monthly fire extinguisher inspection.
Inspecting Your Fire Extinguisher for Functionality
The fire marshal requires businesses to record monthly fire extinguisher inspections. Homeowners are not. However, performing four quick steps will save you money and a working extinguisher.
- Lift the extinguisher. Why?
- Ensures it is filled with extinguishing agent
- Ensures the extinguisher is in the proper location
- Inspect the hose. Why?
- Could be clogged with spiders (or other debris)
- Could be damaged
- May have been removed
- Look at the pressure gauge. Why?
- If will tell you if your fire extinguisher is charged
- It will help you determine if your extinguisher needs replacing or maintenance
- Look it over. Why?
- Directions should be facing forward
- For obvious reasons (like using it)
- Check for corrosion, dents, or scratches
- These will affect the integrity of the cylinder storing the extinguishing agent
- They may also indicate your extinguisher needs maintenance or to be condemned if no longer serviceable
Locate a Good Company
If you want your fire extinguisher to last, you will need a good fire extinguisher company. I would check ratings online and call at least three companies for pricing. Most fire equipment dealers will not be able to send a service call to a residential location. You will need one that you can walk into (at least in Florida) and have your equipment serviced or “swapped out.”
A good company will ask you what kind of extinguisher you have, give you pricing, and be able to answer your questions about the extinguisher and the maintenance they are performing.
A good fire extinguisher company will not take advantage of you. But knowledge is power. Most home fire extinguishers are stored-pressure, multi-purpose fire extinguishers. They have some type of steel cylinder that stores the extinguishing agent: monoammonium phosphate.
The NFPA 10 manual requires a licensed company to service this type of fire extinguisher at 6-year intervals. Locate the extinguisher’s manufacture date. It is located on the bottom of most extinguishers – stamped into the metal cylinder. If not, check the manufacturer label. This is another place you may see this year. This will help you schedule service.
If your fire extinguisher is from 1984 or before, you will need to condemn it. If it was manufactured afterward, you are probably okay. Although, you can go to the fire extinguisher manufacturer’s website to check for any recalls that may affect your product.
If at any time you use your extinguisher. Even a little bit, it will need to see a fire equipment dealer and be recharged for its next use.
Your fire equipment dealer will need to perform an internal examination of the equipment, remove the extinguishing agent, replace any worn or broken parts, and recharge the fire extinguisher for you.
The fire equipment dealer does this and also uses a special water pressure test before refilling the extinguisher. It is called hydrostatic testing. In layperson’s terms it means to use water to pressurize the steel cylinder and ensure its structural integrity. If the cylinder holds the pressure for a certain amount of time – it has “passed” the test and can be refilled.
Teach Your Family These Tips
A tool is only as useful as the person wielding it. Take a few minutes every year to teach and reteach your family members or roommates. There is no point in having a fire extinguisher that will last forever if it cannot be used in the case of a fire.
Was that not easier than you thought? Thanks for taking care of yourself, your home, and your fire extinguisher – you hero!