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Signals Its Time to Replace a Fire Extinguisher

Signals Its Time to Replace a Fire Extinguisher

Having fully-functional fire extinguishers strategically located throughout your home or business is a crucial component of any fire preparedness plan. However, over time all fire extinguishers will reach the end of their effective lifespan and need replacement. Knowing the warning signs that indicate your extinguishers should be taken out of service is key to staying adequately protected.

This guide covers the typical lifespans of different extinguisher types, visual and functional signs of wear, proper disposal methods for expired units, and tips for installing new replacement extinguishers.

Follow these best practices to ensure your fire extinguishers are always ready when you need them most.

Typical Lifespans of Fire Extinguisher Types

The expected lifespan of a fire extinguisher depends on the type and design:

  • Disposable/Non-Rechargeable Units: These economical extinguishers contain dry chemical agents and are designed for one-time emergency use. They should be replaced after 12 years due to agent deterioration.
  • Rechargeable Units: More heavy-duty units made of durable metal exteriors. Use liquid, foam, wet chemical or dry chemical agents. Require hydrostatic testing every 5-12 years. Have a lifespan of 10-25 years with proper maintenance.
  • CO2 Extinguishers: Contain liquefied carbon dioxide gas as the extinguishing agent. Functional lifespan is typically 15-25 years with hydrostatic testing every 5 years before needing replacement.
  • Class D Extinguishers: Specialized units for combustible metal fires. Similar lifespan to rechargeable models when properly maintained and tested.

Warning Signs That Replacement is Needed

While quality fire extinguishers can last for years if properly cared for, watch for these signs of age-related malfunction:

  • Low Pressure Gauge Reading: The pressure gauge indicates if the extinguisher can properly discharge its agent. Any reading below the green zone may indicate a loss of pressure.
  • Damaged Hose/Nozzle: Cracks, blockages or rips in the discharge hose or nozzle will prevent the agent from dispersing effectively.
  • Dents/Rust/Cracks: For metal shell extinguishers, external damage compromises integrity and indicates replacement. Cracks in plastic shells also warrant replacement.
  • Missing Seals/Pins: Tamper-evident seals and safety pins should never be removed except during an emergency use of the extinguisher.
  • Expired Inspection Tag: The color-coded inspection tag shows the last professional maintenance date. If expired, the extinguisher needs servicing.
  • Significant Weight Loss: For liquid agent models, unexplained weight loss over time likely indicates a leak necessitating replacement.
  • Recall Notices: Consumer safety recalls are occasionally issued for extinguishers found to have reliability or design defects. Always be aware of any relevant recalls.
  • Failure to Discharge Properly: Any extinguisher that fails to fully discharge its agent or shows significant loss of pressure after a few seconds of use must be replaced.

Proper Disposal of Expired Fire Extinguishers

With pressurized contents, fire extinguishers require special disposal:

  • Non-Empty Units: It is hazardous and typically illegal to place charged extinguishers in normal trash. Contact your local fire department or hazardous materials disposal site to safely discharge and recycle them.
  • Empty Units: Once verified as fully depressurized, the metal shells and plastic parts can go into standard recycling streams after removing any remaining powder chemical residues.

Speak with Professional

NFPA 10 standards require a professional fire equipment company inspect extinguishers at least annually, recharging and testing them at longer intervals. During their visits, technicians will thoroughly examine your extinguishers, test functionality, refill agents and reinstate tamper seals. This helps identify any units nearing replacement time.

Partnering with professional fire equipment technicians ensures that replacements are installed to codes and all units are routinely checked and tested.