Cartridge-Operated vs. Stored Pressure Fire Extinguishers

Posted January 15, 2020 by Koorsen Fire & Security


The most common fire extinguisher you see inside or outside of buildings is a stored pressure fire extinguisher. However, there’s another type of fire extinguisher, cartridge-operated, that we will discuss in this post. A cartridge-operated extinguisher looks and functions differently than a stored pressure extinguisher. It’s important you understand the differences in these extinguishers so that you can safely and accurately use the fire extinguisher in the event of an emergency.

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Operation of the Extinguishers

A stored pressure extinguisher has the agent and pressure mixed in the same container inside of the extinguisher. A cartridge-operated extinguisher has just powder/agent inside, and there is a separate pressure cartridge that has to be activated to pressurize the extinguisher.

The way these extinguishers are manufactured affects the way they are operated. A stored pressure extinguisher can be operated by using the PASS Method. The cartridge-operated extinguisher has an added step. Since there is a pressure cartridge, you’ll need to activate the cartridge first, which immediately adds pressure to the inside of the extinguisher. Once the cartridge has been activated, you can then aim, squeeze, and sweep to extinguish the flames.

Inspection & Maintenance of the Extinguishers

The inspection and maintenance are different for both extinguishers. A stored pressure fire extinguisher has a quicker inspection process, only taking about ten steps (for most manufacturers). They need an internal examination every six years and a hydrostatic test every twelve years. A cartridge-operated fire extinguisher has a longer inspection process, with about 43 total steps (depending on the manufacturer). There is a hydrostatic test needed every 12 years, but a 6-year internal examination is not required.

Both types of extinguishers should be inspected every month by an appointed individual at your facility. The monthly inspection is done to ensure the extinguishers:

  • Are in their designated locations
  • Are accessible
  • Instruction labels are legible
  • All seals and tamper indicators are sound
  • There are no signs of corrosion, damage, leakage, or clogging

You will need to keep a written record of each manual inspection.

Why Choose a Cartridge-Operated Extinguisher?

This is a common question asked because cartridge-operated extinguishers are extremely unfamiliar to the public. However, cartridge-operated extinguishers do well in facilities with low temperatures or places exposed to adverse conditions. While cartridge-operated extinguishers are more durable, they are also heavier.

They have fewer accidental discharges, but tampering with the agent is possible since the pressure is not stored inside of the extinguisher. Newer cartridge-operated extinguishers include an indicator, so you’re aware when pressure has been activated; however, it is not required. The pressure gauge on a stored-pressure extinguisher is still considered an advantage.

Trust Koorsen with Your Fire Extinguishers

Whether you need maintenance, inspections, or want to confirm you have the correct fire extinguishers in your facility, Koorsen Fire & Security can help. You need a qualified and reliable team to help you manage your fire extinguishers. Give Koorsen a call today to talk to one of their fire extinguisher experts and get all of your questions answered.

Koorsen has been working in the industry since 1946 and has a staff of highly-trained technicians that will ensure your facility and staff are kept safe. We even provide hands-on training for businesses so that everyone is trained in fire safety and the proper use of a fire extinguisher. If you and your team are in need of training or would like a refresher, contact Koorsen today!

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Topics: Fire Protection, Fire Extinguisher

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Disclaimer: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is believed to be reliable, but Koorsen Fire & Security assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this article. It does not constitute professional advice. The user of this article or the product(s) is responsible for verifying the information's accuracy from all available sources, including the product manufacturer. The authority having jurisdiction should be contacted for code interpretations.