When we picture ancient firefighting techniques, we imagine the long lines of bucket brigades.
Believe it or not, though, the invention of the firefighting water pump dates as far back as ancient Egypt.
These days, firefighting technology is at its peak.
An everyday person can pick up a home fire extinguisher and kill a small blaze with ease.
Unless that is, their fire extinguisher has gone kaput.
How long do fire extinguishers last, and do they expire at all?
The last thing you want is a house fire right after you failed to deal with the fire extinguisher replacement.
In this guide, we discuss these questions and more.
How Long Do Fire Extinguishers Last?
Fire extinguishers, like smoke detectors, have days that are numbered.
Despite this, there’s no expiration date stamped on the side of the tank to make it easy.
Nor will there be a “gone bad” smell or a test button that tells you if it’s working.
To make matters more complicated, the wet chemicals inside the extinguisher don’t lose potency over time.
It’s usually a solution of potassium citrate, potassium carbonate, and potassium acetate.
These chemicals will continue to extinguish fires long after the extinguisher “expires.”
The Culprit: Depressurization
So what gives? The reason an extinguisher will need replacement or maintenance is due to one simple factor: depressurization.
Air leaks very, very slowly over the course of years out of the extinguisher.
So, the contents themselves would continue to fight fires.
Yet if you picked up an expired extinguisher, there would not be enough pressure to expel the contents through the nozzle effectively.
At the moment you need it most, your extinguisher would be as impressive as a popped champagne bottle.
So, instead of an expiration date, there’s a general fire extinguisher replacement timeline.
You should replace (or recharge) an extinguisher once per 10 to 12 years.
Factors That Affect Life Expectancy
Naturally, anything that speeds up the process of depressurization will shorten your extinguisher’s lifespan.
If you notice the following, there could be cause for concern:
- Pressure levels below the valve’s green level
- Dents in the tank
- A cracked valve assembly
- Missing metal locking pin
- Missing or damaged safety seal
- Broken or wobbly handle
- Missing maintenance/check-up tag
Unfortunately, there’s no clear or obvious way to determine how much longer your extinguisher has if it demonstrates these signs.
It could be another six years, or it could be just a few months.
That’s why it’s important to have regular inspections to ensure top-notch fire preparedness.
How to Maximize Extinguisher Lifespan
While there is nothing you can do to make an extinguisher last longer than 10 to 12 years, there are things you can do to maximize that lifespan for as long as safely possible.
Let’s examine some ways to keep your extinguisher functional and ready for when you need it most.
Store It Right
A new fire extinguisher works best when you keep it in the proper orientation and temperature range.
Make sure to store it upright, preferably on a wall bracket where it’s easily accessible.
Some fire extinguishers can rest on their side, but you shouldn’t do this unless you are 100% sure it’s OK.
Ask your fire extinguisher maintenance professional when they come for an inspection.
Check the sticker and documentation for the fire extinguisher.
There should be an acceptable temperature range, often between -40° up to 120°F.
It’s unlikely that your storage temperatures will go beyond those extremes.
Just to be safe, though, make sure your extinguisher remains at room temperature.
A hot Arizona garage could potentially exceed 120°F.
Keep Track of the Manufacturing Date
The easiest way to ensure longevity is to keep track of the manufacturing date.
Assuming your extinguisher is in good condition, mark down that date.
Keep a record of it apart from the sticker.
You can set a reminder on your phone’s calendar to send you a notification when it’s time to replace it.
And, as we’ll soon see when it needs maintenance.
If you don’t remember the date you bought it, or if the sticker is damaged or missing, use context clues.
Does it look old, or are there signs of exterior wear on the paint or sticker?
There’s a very good chance it’s a long-expired tank that has been in your house for generations – i.e., one in desperate need of replacement.
Should the above be the case, then your fire extinguisher is suspect.
Schedule fire extinguisher maintenance ASAP since you can’t trust it.
Your fire safety is in jeopardy until you do so.
Don’t Reuse a Used One
You should only use fire extinguishers for a single fire incident.
Once you discharge it, it’s time to replace or recharge it.
That includes if you only used a small amount of chemical for the fire.
When in doubt, swap it out!
Don’t just assume the best in order to pinch pennies.
Rechargeable fire extinguishers need regular inspections.
Ideally, schedule a maintenance inspection once per year.
Once every six years, you should perform a discharge inspection testing the pressure and contents.
Although you have about 10 to 12 years of use, regular inspections make sure it’s all in good working order.
It can be a bit of a headache but a necessary one.
Would you rather have to deal with the pain and cost of an inspection or of your house burning down?
Of course, you will have to eventually bid adieu to your trusty extinguisher.
Don’t risk things; replace it before its “expiration date” just to play it safe.
The peace of mind will be worth a lot more than the money you spend.
And again, a fire is far worse than shelling out some cash to bulk up your fire preparedness.
Up Your Fire Safety With Certizona
How long do fire extinguishers last?
Approximately 10 to 12 years, but that’s only a rough estimate that doesn’t account for other factors.
Store your extinguisher properly, give it regular inspections, and don’t hesitate to recharge or replace it when the time comes.
Certizona Fire & Safety makes sure you are ready and compliant for fires and so much more. Start by requesting a quote here.
Still in search of fire extinguisher inspectors near me? Certizona Fire & Safety is here to serve you with high-quality fire protection and safety equipment services! Customer satisfaction is our top priority. Call (623) 227-2092 or request an online quote today!