Fire safety and prevention is a top priority for both home and business owners. But how do you know if your fire extinguisher is working and when it’s time to get a replacement? You may be wondering if fire extinguishers even can be refilled.
In short, yes! It’s possible to refill fire extinguishers if they’re rechargeable. Find out below how to perform routine fire extinguisher maintenance and keep your property ready in the event of an emergency.
When Should I Refill My Fire Extinguisher?
This biggest question you may have is when is it time to refill your fire extinguisher? Most fire extinguishers with metal valves are refillable, but those made of plastic usually aren’t. Several characteristics can help you determine which type of fire extinguisher you have.
Disposable Fire Extinguishers
- One-time use
- Plastic head
- Non-rechargeable label
- The pressure gauge reads empty or full
- Maximum 12-year lifespan
Refillable Fire Extinguishers
- Use multiple times
- It has a metal head
- Rechargeable label
- The pressure gauge has a green area and reads undercharged or overcharged
- Recharge at least every six years
Always avoid testing a fire extinguisher by using it. Even a short discharge can cause the fire extinguisher to leak, lose pressure, and become unusable.
How Do I Keep My Fire Extinguisher Working Properly?
Refillable or rechargeable fire extinguishers for home use and businesses require a routine inspection from a skilled professional. Never attempt to refill a fire extinguisher by yourself. You’ll know that it’s time to recharge your fire extinguisher if any of the following are true.
- The safety seal is broken or missing
- Six years have passed since the manufacturing date
- The fire extinguisher was used
- Visible cracks or other damage occurs
- The pressure needle is outside the green zone
Even if you’ve never used your fire extinguisher, monthly and annual maintenance is necessary to ensure it’s safe and ready to use.
Monthly Visual Inspection
A visual inspection each month can reveal any immediate issues. This type of maintenance is essential for fire equipment for a commercial building and should include the following checks.
- Access to the fire extinguisher is unblocked
- The fire extinguisher is visibly located
- The pressure gauge reading is within an operational range
- Weight is appropriate
If you see any evident problems during this check, you’ll need a trained professional to perform more thorough maintenance procedures. The codes and standards for each fire protection system are available at the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA).
Trained fire safety experts can conduct maintenance checks, internal inspections, hydrostatic tests, and recharge fire extinguishers when necessary. An annual review will involve removing the safety seal and testing for proper use. Depending on the condition and type of fire extinguisher, other tests may be necessary.
- Internal Inspection – A trained professional will take the fire extinguisher apart to clean and inspect the individual components. Typically performed every one to six years.
- Hydrostatic Test – This type of maintenance ensures the compressed extinguishing agent can spray adequately. Typically performed every 5 to 12 years.
When in doubt, check the manufacturer’s guidelines to determine when refilling and inspections should occur.
Who Refills Fire Extinguishers?
Some fire departments offer a refill service for fire extinguishers. However, not all fire departments provide this option due to liability and price concerns. Alternatively, a certified fire protection company can perform these periodic checks. These service providers will ensure that your fire extinguishers are in full compliance with NFPA regulations.
Can I Use a Fire Extinguisher Multiple Times?
Refillable fire extinguishers can be used more than once after they are recharged. Typically, reusable fire extinguishers can be used multiple times for up to 10 years before you have to replace them. Even after light use, fire extinguishers need trained professionals’ attention before they’re ready for a second use.
What Can I Do With Expired Fire Extinguishers?
It would be best if you never used an expired fire extinguisher. If you have fire extinguishers that are inoperable or empty and non-rechargeable, it’s essential to know how to dispose of them properly. One option is to ask your local firehouse. They may have an on-site option or recommend a hazardous waste disposal facility. Before throwing away empty fire extinguishers, relieve any remaining pressure using the lever and remove the head.
Are Old Fire Extinguishers Dangerous?
Expired, broken, and damaged fire extinguishers can pose a safety hazard to anyone using them. The chemicals inside could potentially explode if mishandled, causing injury or death.
However, there are some instances when a fire extinguisher may still be functional after ten years. A complete hydrostatic test will be necessary to avoid potential issues.
There’s no room for error when it comes to fire protection for your home or place of business. Taking the proper preventative measures could potentially save lives and prevent unexpected injuries from malfunctioning fire extinguishers.
Have questions about refilling your fire extinguisher? Contact the professionals at APFE Corp. to learn more.