Fire Extinguisher Service
Two million fires are stopped by fire extinguishers each year, and 95% of fires are extinguished fully by portable fire extinguishers, according to a 34-year study by the National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors (NAFED).
But just having an extinguisher is not enough. For extinguishers to work correctly and save lives, you must keep them in working condition.
Types of Fire Extinguisher Chemical Agents
Your fire extinguisher falls into one of these chemical agent classifications:
- Class A. Used for ordinary combustibles
- Class B. Used for flammable liquids
- Class C. Used for electrical fires
- Class D. Used for combustible metals
- Class K. Used for cooking oils
Recommended Fire Extinguisher Tests and Inspections
Fire extinguishers require someone to inspect, replace, or service your extinguisher regularly. The following are the types of inspections and services that are important. The frequency and schedule depend on the type of fire extinguisher you have and the chemical agent inside that puts out a fire.
These testing guidelines were set by OSHA. They are mandated by law for businesses and recommended for homeowners.
- Monthly Inspections
- Annual Inspections
- Hydrostatic Testing
- Fire Extinguisher Recharge
- Tear Down Service
Many state fire codes and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) require fire extinguishers to have monthly inspections and annual fire extinguisher service. Read the fire extinguisher instructions as instructions vary depending on the type of extinguisher and canister you have.
Someone needs to complete a monthly visual inspection to check for the following:
- The needle on the extinguisher pressure gauge is in the green area
- Obvious signs of damage, including corrosion, rust, leaks, and dents
- Nozzles and hoses for cracks, tears, holes, and punctures
- Nothing is obstructing the view of or easy access to the extinguisher
- The pull pin is present, and the tamper seal is intact
- Date of last professional inspection -- schedule now if close to the time for a new one
- The extinguisher is in the dedicated household location
Anyone in your home can complete this inspection, and it only takes a couple of minutes. Do be sure that whoever inspects it dates and initials the tag so you can keep up with the inspections better.
2. Annual Inspections
Once a year, a certified professional from a licensed fire protection company needs to complete a more in-depth exam. If your extinguisher passes, the inspector will apply a new, dated inspection sticker. These are good for one year.
If your extinguisher fails, you must have it recharged, refilled, or replaced. Before you pay for recharging, refilling, or replacement, though, check your manufacturer's limited warranty as it might cover the issue.
Fire Extinguisher Inspection Cost
The fire extinguisher inspection cost varies, but you can expect to pay around $40.
3. Hydrostatic Testing
Hydrostatic testing is a pressure test that checks critical components (hose assembly, cylinder, shell, etc.) for structural flaws and leaks by pressurizing them with liquid.
A hydrostatic test should be done by a licensed fire extinguisher servicer every five to 12 years, depending on the type of chemical agent and fire extinguisher you have.
These are the hydrostatic test schedules recommended by OSHA for different types of extinguishers.
|Type of Fire Extinguisher||Test Schedule (years)|
||Must be removed from service|
Hose assemblies must also be hydrostatically tested with the extinguisher if it has a shutoff nozzle where the chemical agent discharges. Cartridge operated water and antifreeze, and soda acid (stainless steel shell) extinguishers are now obsolete.
Hydrostatic Testing Costs
Hydrostatic testing costs vary by extinguishing agent type and cylinder size. For example, a 20lb ABC Dry Chemical extinguisher costs about $40 to $55. Ann extinguisher designed for Class D Metal Fires could cost around $160 per cylinder.
4. Fire Extinguisher Recharge Testing
Fire extinguisher recharging means that you refill a fire extinguisher with its extinguishing agent and then pressurize the tank's air. The most common times for recharging are immediately after using the unit or environmental factors that could cause depressurization.
- Recharging includes the following steps:
- Depressurize the canister.
- Remove the fire extinguisher discharge valve, take it apart and clean it.
- Check inside and outside of the canister for any signs of damage.
- Reinstall the valve.
- Refill with the correct fire extinguishing agent.
- Re-pressurize the contents to full charge.
- Test for leaks.
- Reinstall the hose or nozzle.
- Check for an accurate weight.
- Add a recharge tag.
For best results, you should get your fire extinguisher recharged by a certified professional. Doing so ensures that it gets rightly charged.
How Often to Recharge a Fire Extinguisher
Your fire extinguisher service schedule depends on the type of extinguisher you have, and its integral varies by type of extinguisher. For example, an ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher requires visual inspection and recharging six years after its manufactured date and a hydrostatic test 12 years after its manufactured date.
If you have never recharged your extinguisher, note that the NFPA requires a recharge every ten years.
Your rechargeable extinguisher needs to be recharged before its scheduled recharge date if used, discharged, and is still in good condition. If you only used it for a tiny fire and it still has pressure, recharge it to meet the NFPA 10 and local fire codes.
If your canister continually loses pressure after you have recharged it, you should replace it.
How to Know if a Fire Extinguisher is Rechargeable
There are two basic types of extinguishers: disposable fire extinguishers and rechargeable fire extinguishers. Each should have a label that tells if it is disposable or rechargeable. There are a couple of other differences you might notice.
- A disposable one has a plastic discharge head, and its gauge only says empty or full.
- A rechargeable extinguisher typically has a metal head and needs to be correctly charged. A rechargeable one has an easy to read color-coded gauge that also tells whether it is undercharged or overcharged.
Fire Extinguisher Recharge Cost
The cost to recharge portable fire extinguishers depends on weight and your location. Some areas have prices as low as $15, while others are higher. The following are some averages.
- 5 lbs. $40-$60
- 10 lbs. $80-$100
- 20 lbs. $150 to over $200
Call around to your local fire station or fire extinguisher service centers for local prices on recharging your fire extinguisher.
Where Can I Get a Fire Extinguisher Recharged
Some local fire departments recharge a fire extinguisher at low or no cost, making them your first call. If they do not, they typically have information on who can. You can also do an internet search for "local fire protection companies," "fire extinguisher refill station," "fire extinguisher service near me," or "fire extinguisher servicing."
5. Fire Extinguisher Tear Down Service
The NFPA 10 Code and manufacturers' guidelines recommend a full internal fire extinguisher recertification and recharge every six to twelve years, regardless of use. Even if you have never used it, it can leak and lose pressure.
For this inspection and recharge process, a trained professional completely breaks down the extinguisher and checks it thoroughly for damage and any other issues. They remove its chemical agents, such as foam or CO2, replace worn parts, and refill and re-pressurize it. They will recertify and retag it for you.
The schedule for a tear down service depends on the type of fire extinguisher you have. Check your manufacturer's instructions.
Fire Extinguisher Refills
If your fire extinguisher has no damage, you can refill it at any time. If you have used your extinguisher, you must recharge it.
Should I Replace or Service My Extinguisher?
Whether you need to recharge an extinguisher or replace it depends on several factors, including your current extinguisher's age, condition, and type.
After 12 years, all fire extinguishers should be replaced, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
You can recharge a rechargeable fire extinguisher until it gets damaged or up to 12 years.
Once it is damaged, replace it; you cannot repair a damaged fire extinguisher. It is damaged if:
- Slow and consistent pressure loss
- The pin on its handle is broken or missing
- The handle is unstable
- The inspection tag is missing
- Visible corrosion or rust
- The hose or nozzle is cracked, ripped, clogged, or damaged
How Often Should You Replace a Fire Extinguisher?
While you can often recharge your extinguisher many times instead of replacing it, there are other times when replacing it is necessary. Fire extinguishers typically last anywhere from five to 15 years. Those with corrosion-resistant properties will typically last longer.
If you maintain your extinguisher correctly, you can likely get the full amount of time.
Some signs indicate when it is time to replace the extinguisher before the expiration date. These signs include the following:
- A hose that is cracked, ripped, or blocked with debris.
- The pull pin and tamper seal are missing or broken.
- Extinguishers come with a metal pull pin with a safety mechanism that helps to prevent accidental discharge. Check that the safety feature is also still intact.
- The handle feels loose when you touch it.
- You do not see an inspection tag.
Some people inherit a fire extinguisher when they buy a home. Be sure to check for any expiration dates on the canister if this is so.
If you do not know the manufacture date and there is no inspection tag visible, take it to a fire extinguisher repair service for an exam. If it is an older model and does not have a fire extinguisher gauge, you will likely have to replace it.
Other Fire Safety Tips
On top of having a fire extinguisher and other fire safety equipment on your property, additional fire safety tips help prevent and minimize fire losses.
Where you place your fire extinguishers is essential. You will want them in places where fires most easily occur, the kitchen, near fireplaces and chimneys, and near heating units. You should also place one in each bedroom, the garage, and other outdoor structures, like sheds. Every household member should know where they are and how to use them.
Create a fire safety plan, discuss it with your family, and practice regularly. Explain the importance of getting out of the home to a safe area.
A working fire extinguisher is your first line of defense, but if the fire has spread too wide or to the ceiling, get out of the house. By that point, it is too risky to stay in the home. Know when it is time to go.
Fire insurance cannot prevent fires, but it can help you cover any damage or loss you face due to a fire. If your area experiences wildfires and brush fires, you should be sure to get wildfire insurance coverage. Those in California have access to the California FAIR Plan for financial protection.
Some companies provide discounts for home safety features, such as sprinklers, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers. Be sure to ask your insurance agent.
I hope that helps!
At your service,