The simple answer to that is yes, fire extinguishers expire. When a fire occurs, a fire extinguisher could be the only thing protecting your business or home (NFPA regulations do not include homes). At that time, you want to be sure that the fire extinguisher you have works. However, your fire extinguisher will only work well if it has not reached its date of expiration. Like every other thing you know, a fire extinguisher can expire. Unfortunately, not everyone knows this. When left unused for far too long, the extinguisher tends to lose its ability to extinguish fires. In this article, you will learn how long it takes for an extinguisher to expire. You will also see how you can care for your extinguisher, so it works when needed.
How Long Will it Take for my Fire Extinguisher to Expire?
It's a little difficult to tell when your extinguisher will expire. That's because, unlike regular products, the manufacturers do not write the expiration date on the body of the extinguisher. As a result, there are general rules as to how long you should use your extinguisher. The length of use, however, depends on the type of fire extinguisher.
Generally speaking, extinguishers with dry chemicals have a service period of 6 to 12 years. Others like pressurized carbon dioxide and wet chemical types have a service period of 5 years.
To be clear, your fire extinguisher does not stop working totally after these periods. But for safety reasons, the National Fire Protection Association recommends that you take the extinguisher for hydrostatic tests. That way, you can confirm the integrity of the shell of the extinguisher.
When Should I Replace my Fire Extinguisher?
When it comes to replacing a fire extinguisher, maintenance plays a significant role. As you use the device, dust, rust, damage, and other issues may impede the extinguisher's ability to work well.
This is why hydrostatic tests are important at regular intervals. The idea behind the test is to check the integrity of the shell. The operator only checks the shell because, in reality, the contents of a fire extinguisher never expire. While they don't, the container could lose some of its pressure over time. The pressure drop might, in turn, make the extinguisher unusable.
Therefore, the first and most reliable way to tell if you should replace your extinguisher is by checking the pressure gauge, then by having a hydrostatic test done. Any extinguisher that fails the test is simply unfit for use. If your extinguisher passes the test, you can have it charged again for use. Depending on the type, your extinguisher can last another 5 to 12 years after refill before you need to test it again. The twist here is, you cannot charge fire extinguishers of all kinds. You are to discard some extinguishers after using them for 12 years or more.
Generally speaking, you should consider changing your extinguisher when you notice the following:
- Your Pressure gauge is not in the operating range.
- It has been dented, damaged, or has severe rusting.
- Your extinguisher fails the hydrostatic test.
- Check the body of the extinguisher for a service schedule tag. If the last service date is longer than a year, you need to call in a professional to examine the extinguisher.
- The extinguisher has become obsolete. That is, its model and technology are no longer in use. Extinguishers in this category are no longer useful. According to the NFPA guidelines, the following are some extinguishers that fall in that category:
- All extinguishers manufactured before 1955
- All pressurized water extinguishers manufactured before 1971
- All wet chemical extinguishers manufactured before 1976
- All dry chemical extinguishers manufactured before 1984
How to Care for Your Extinguisher
You already know that improper usage plays some role in how long your extinguisher lasts. What we didn't mention, however, is how you can care for the extinguisher so it lasts longer. The following are some helpful tips that can help you achieve that.
- It would be best if you observed maintenance inspections on your extinguisher at least once a year.
- You must have internal maintenance of your extinguisher every six years.
- Keep your extinguisher indoors. By protecting your extinguisher from the sun, rain, and dust, you are extending its life. If it outside, protect it with a cover or a fire extinguisher cabinet.
- Routinely check the cylinder for signs of damage or malfunction like dents, rust, missing pin, etc.
Need a New Extinguisher or a Recharge?
Whether you need a new fire extinguisher or you need your current one recharged or inspected, the fire extinguisher professionals at Koorsen Fire & Security can help you. Our team of experts are ready to help with the highest quality products, training, and service to meet all of your fire extinguisher needs. Give them a call today.