How to inspect your home fire extinguisher
Last updated: January 1
A fire extinguisher is something most people don't think about until they need one. While you may be able to use a home fire extinguisher to help you put out a small fire, you may find that it's of little value if it hasn't been kept in operating condition. Below are some helpful tips to help make sure your fire extinguisher is in proper working order.
Types of fire extinguishers
Before you buy or use a fire extinguisher, you should know what types of fires it is made to handle. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) says fire extinguishers are made to combat five types of blazes:
- Class A: Ordinary materials, like cloth, wood or paper
- Class B: Flammable liquids
- Class C: Appliance, electrical
- Class D: Metals
- Class K: Cooking oils
Some fire extinguishers may be made for more than one type of fire, and they will be labeled as such: "ABC" or "BC," for example.
Regular fire extinguisher inspection
Home fire extinguishers should be checked regularly to help make sure they are ready for use, says the USFA. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends reading the instructions that came with each extinguisher so that you are familiar with their parts and how they work.
The USFA suggests including the following steps in your inspection:
1. Ensure easy access
Make sure the extinguisher is visible and easy to retrieve.
2. Check the pressure
Many fire extinguishers have a pressure gauge that indicates whether the device is in the proper operating range. If yours has one, check to make sure that the gauge's needle indicates proper pressure. If the fire extinguisher has a test indicator, press it to make sure the pressure reading is within the correct range.
3. Look for physical damage
Check that the can, hoses and nozzles look to be in working in order. Visible signs of damage, such as dents or rust, may mean it's time to replace the extinguisher.
Documenting your checks on the extinguisher's inspection tag may help you keep track of its maintenance history.
4. Clean the extinguisher
Check the outside of each extinguisher for dust, oil or grease, and clean it as necessary.
The USFA adds that some fire extinguishes may need to be shaken monthly or pressure tested every few years. Also, keep in mind that most fire extinguishers are good for 5 to 15 years, according to BobVila.com. Check the extinguisher's label or a paper tag for the expiration or last maintenance date. If it's 10 or more years ago, you may want to get a new fire extinguisher.
Fire extinguishers are often an overlooked part of a home safety plan. Do your checks, know how to use them (the NFPA states that your local fire department may be able to provide additional resources) and be sure your extinguishers are ready for use — just in case.