How Long Do Fire Extinguishers Last? When To Replace A Fire Extinguisher

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on August 3rd, 2022

Perhaps you’ve just placed fire extinguishers in your building, or you’re unsure how old your current canisters are. This may have you thinking, “How long does a fire extinguisher last, and can it be extended?”

You’ve undoubtedly noticed that your fire extinguishers don’t have any expiration dates printed on them. Manufacturers cannot guarantee a certain lifespan since it depends on whether you do required maintenance and whether or not someone tampers with the canister.

red fire extinguisher on green wall

Regardless of these specifics, you may be wondering if your current extinguishers would pass a safety assessment. Here’s how you can tell.

How long does a fire extinguisher last?

You may anticipate a new carbon dioxide, pressurized water, or wet chemical extinguisher to last at least five years. The minimum lifetime for dry chemical extinguishers is 12 years.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) demands hydrostatic testing at these intervals, which exposes the cylinder to high pressure (typically 500 psi) to guarantee appropriate shell integrity. If the extinguisher stands up, it can be refilled and used for another five to twelve years before the next hydrostatic test is necessary.

NOTE: Non-rechargeable, stored pressure extinguishers should be replaced every 12 years.

How to extend the life of a fire extinguisher

You may expect your fire extinguishers to endure for decades if you keep up with the hydrostatic testing and the maintenance standards established in NFPA 10. What you must do to extend the life of a fire extinguisher is as follows:

Inspect all types of fire extinguishers every month. Check that they are properly placed, have readable labeling, are free of tampering, and have a full charge.

Once a year, have expert fire extinguisher checks performed.

Depending on the kind, hydrostatically test your extinguishers every five to twelve years.

Rechargeable dry chemical fire extinguishers must be serviced every six years.

How can you tell if a fire extinguisher is still working?

You can perform a few things once a month to ensure that your fire extinguisher is properly effective.

Most fire extinguishers have a pressure gauge that displays the pressure level in the interior contents. If the gauge needle drops too low (outside the green zone on the gauge), it is time to replace your extinguisher.

Similarly, most devices contain an inspection tag or sticker that lists the extinguisher’s maintenance and servicing history. Extinguishers that have not been maintained in a while should be evaluated and replaced.

If your extinguisher lacks a pressure gauge or an inspection tag or label, it should be repaired and replaced since it is practically hard to know if it is still operating correctly.

Finally, any symptoms of damage or loose bits indicate that your fire extinguisher is no longer functional.

Do fire extinguishers have an expiration date?

Many fire extinguishers lack a specified date threshold that indicates when the gadget has reached its expiration date. A fire extinguisher’s life might vary depending on how well it has been maintained and cared for.

Even the best-maintained fire extinguishers will not last forever. It’s critical to know when the extinguisher was created and the manufacturer’s replacement suggestion.

The contents of a fire extinguisher, like the extinguisher itself, do not usually expire. Extinguishing agents are typically loaded with water or a chemical substance under pressure from an excellent gas. While these components do not expire, the fire extinguisher can become depressurized over time, causing the extinguisher to become useless due to a loss of pressure.

Certain types of fire extinguishers are no longer in use. If you still have one of these, it may have “expired.” When technology advances to the point that rules and standards change, fire extinguishers become outdated. The NFPA-10 standard specifies which types of extinguishers are considered outdated and should be retired.

Can you use an expired fire extinguisher?

Better quality extinguishers will last longer, and appropriate maintenance will help guarantee that they perform to their maximum capacity. As a general rule, you should replace your extinguisher every 10 years.

The production date stamp on the canister’s body may be used to determine the age of your extinguisher. Some extinguishers may be refilled and refurbished to run longer than 10 years. However, this might be more expensive than purchasing a new one.

Obsolete Fire Extinguishers Come in a Variety of Styles:

  • Vaporizing Liquids with Soda Acid Chemical Foam (Carbon Tetrachloride)
  • Water from a cartridge
  • Stream powered by a cartridge
  • Shell made of copper or brass (excluding pump tanks). Soft solder or rivets is used to connect the pieces.
  • Extinguishers for carbon dioxide with metal horns
  • AFFF is a solid charge type (paper cartridge)
  • Before 1971, pressurized water extinguishers were made.
  • Any extinguisher that must be flipped to function
  • Any stored pressure extinguisher built before 1955
  • Any extinguisher with a fire rating of 4B, 6B, 8B, 12B, or 16B.
  • Extinguishers for stored-pressure water with fiberglass shells (pre-1976)
  • Before October 1984, a stored-pressure dry chemical extinguisher was manufactured.

In addition to the extinguishers listed above, any fire extinguisher that cannot be serviced by the manufacturer’s maintenance manual or was manufactured by a firm that is no longer in business is deemed outdated and should be withdrawn from service.

Portable fire extinguishers may give years of dependable protection if properly cared for and maintained.

Why Your Portable Fire Extinguishers May Need to Be Replaced

There are several reasons why your extinguishers may need to be upgraded, emphasizing the need to have your fire safety equipment serviced and inspected.

Some of the potential issues with a portable fire extinguisher are as follows:

  • The buildup of dust and grime – If too much dust and dirt accumulate on the extinguisher, the nozzles and gauges might get clogged and malfunction.
  • Rust and moisture – A humid atmosphere can produce early rust, which can cause crucial components to break or lock, causing triggers or nozzles to fail.
  • Vibrations – Excessive vibrations might be caused by areas with heavy machinery or cars. These vibrations can dislodge the fire extinguisher’s critical components, resulting in leaks or breakdowns.
  • Bumping or falling – If an extinguisher is not securely installed, it may fall and cause damage to the tank or any seals on the tank. Furthermore, some vital components may be destroyed if machinery or tools collide with or strike the fire extinguisher.
  • Age – A fire extinguisher’s charge may deplete with time, nozzles or hoses may become dysfunctional, and the device may be ineffective in a fire. This is especially crucial when purchasing a new property since you typically have no way of knowing how old the fire safety equipment is. Extinguishers generally have a lifespan of 5 to 15 years.
  • Poor quality – If you buy an extinguisher that is not built of quality materials or approved by NFPA Standards, you risk owning faulty equipment that will not perform effectively in an emergency.
  • Pressure gauge – The needle on the pressure gauge should always be pointed to the green region. This is a fast technique to evaluate your extinguishers. There is no assurance that the extinguisher will work effectively or at all if it is not in the green.

When should a fire extinguisher be replaced?

If a fire extinguisher fails a hydrostatic test, it should be discarded. Non-rechargeable fire extinguishers also have a shelf life of 12 years, so you should replace them after that period. Furthermore, the 2007 version of NFPA 10 requires the disposal of dry chemical extinguishers before October 1984.

If none of these scenarios apply to you, the next step is to inspect your fire extinguishers for signs of wear and tear. The following issues necessitate servicing or replacement:

  • A faulty or leaking seal inhibits the canister from retaining a charge.
  • A blocked, fractured, or torn nozzle or hose, might cause the extinguisher to malfunction if you use it.
  • Tampering evidence, such as an open or missing safety pin or damage to the outside shell.
  • A shaky or damaged handle might make using the extinguisher problematic.
  • A missing inspection sticker makes it hard to determine when the previous service was performed.
  • Rust or humidity from a humid environment might cause the trigger or nozzle to fail.
  • Loose components may occur if the extinguisher is put in an area where heavy machinery or vehicles cause significant vibrations.
  • A canister that has been bumped or dropped may result in a broken seal or problems with other vital components.

Why Is It Necessary to Replace Fire Extinguishers with Missing Inspection Tags?

The inspection tag for fire extinguishers includes vital information. It is a record of every inspection and its condition, as well as its maintenance history. If your fire extinguisher has a missing tag, it must be replaced. Even if you obtain a new tag, you have no idea who examined the extinguisher, when it was inspected, or what was documented.

What if the extinguisher has a history of losing pressure? You wouldn’t know the history to know if you needed to replace a fire extinguisher or if it was fine. Though it may appear to be a small consideration, the fire extinguisher tag will assist you in ensuring that each extinguisher protects your building’s inhabitants and that your fire protection is code compliant.

Which is more cost-effective, fire extinguisher recharging or replacement?

Replacing the entire device is sometimes less expensive than recharging it, especially with tiny canisters. Investigate your price alternatives to see what is best for your budget. While recharging fire extinguishers may be less expensive, you must also consider your company’s safety and the possible damages if your fire extinguisher fails during a fire. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

If your extinguisher has an uncracked or dented exterior, the hoses are in good condition, and the inspection tag is intact, refilling it may be the most cost-effective option.

If you’re unsure if your extinguisher needs to be replaced or recharged, it’s generally preferable to replace it and have the peace of mind that you have a brand-new, functional fire extinguisher. Give yourself a piece of mind by ensuring that it is in functioning order.

How to tell if the fire extinguisher is damaged

Fire extinguishers, like other equipment, can become faulty if kept for an extended period; they are strongly recommended to undergo periodic examinations in all places to verify that they are still operating properly.

Among the potential fire extinguisher issues are:

  • The seal on the fire extinguisher’s neck might deteriorate or break, allowing pressurized air to escape and lowering internal pressure. The retardant chemicals will then lose force, which may fail to push out adequately during usage. Simply replacing the seal is a simple remedy.
  • The fire extinguisher’s powder base may sink to the bottom of the canister and get compacted. To avoid this, shake your fire extinguisher lightly twice a year.

You should also look for the following symptoms of damage on your fire extinguisher:

  • The hose or nozzle has a crack.
  • The handle is broken, missing, or unsteady.
  • Unsealed or missing pin
  • corroded or dented cylinder
  • Inadequate inspection tag

Getting rid of a broken fire extinguisher

Many of the issues mentioned above are repairable, allowing you to use the extinguisher for many more years. However, occasionally the damage is irreparable, indicating that the cylinder must be retired for good. If a skilled fire prevention firm advises you to dispose of an extinguisher, follow these steps to do it safely:

If the extinguisher is completely or partially charged, contact a local fire department and see if you may drop it off. The cylinder should be sent to a hazardous waste disposal site if such a service is unavailable.

If the extinguisher is empty, depress the lever to check that there is no residual pressure. Then, take off the head to show that the cylinder is empty. Inquire with your local steel recycling facility about dropping off the empty extinguisher.

How do you get rid of old fire extinguishers?

This can be a difficult question for facility and property managers and owners. A fire extinguisher must be fixed or replaced as quickly as feasible if it is discovered to be damaged, malfunctioning, or broken.

When replacing fire extinguishers, the old unit should be disposed of so that the environmental impact is minimized. How long does it take a fire extinguisher to work?

Assume you recently acquired a historic, older building. If the fitted extinguishers have not been updated, they may contain a carcinogen known as carbon tetrachloride. This necessitates even greater caution while recycling and disposing of the item.

Even if your extinguishers are quite fresh, you should contact your local fire department or a fire extinguisher servicing firm to dispose of them appropriately. You may also verify with your local environmental protection authority to ensure that recycling and garbage disposal regulations are followed.

Do fire extinguishers need to be serviced on a periodical basis?

In summary, maintenance checks should be conducted once a year by a fire safety professional who is equipped with the necessary instruments and training to discover any flaws in the fire extinguisher.

Furthermore, fire safety professionals can fix or replace any extinguisher components that failed inspection. In addition to an annual inspection, it is advised that internal fire extinguisher maintenance be performed every five or six years, depending on the kind. During this examination, a Keystone pre-engineered expert confirms that all of the extinguisher’s contents are correctly pressurized and will discharge properly.

Is a 20-year-old fire extinguisher still serviceable?

You’d be wise to prioritize your safety and ask these questions because the answers might mean the difference between effectively reacting to an emergency and getting caught shorthanded.

Fire extinguishers have a lifespan of five to fifteen years. However, they all eventually expire and become useless, regardless of the fire-fighting ingredient they contain. Household fire extinguishers lose their charge over time since they are often packed with dry chemicals (carbon dioxide or halon).

Those with pressurized gas can progressively lose their contents as their seals deteriorate, and those with ammonium phosphate can freeze over time, leaving the entire device inoperable.

The good news is that certain units can be properly recharged, even if they are nearing or, in some circumstances, have beyond their original charge expiration date. Continue reading to learn how to determine the age and efficacy of your fire extinguisher and how to extend its life, have it serviced, and properly dispose of it if required.

When has a fire extinguisher been used, even if just briefly?

Depending on the brand and kind, a fire extinguisher can be used several times. After using the fire extinguisher, even for a short period, it should be recharged or refilled.

Once the pin is pulled, and the trigger is squeezed, the canister may lose pressure, rendering the extinguisher ineffective in future emergencies.

Household fire extinguishers should be examined and perhaps refilled every six to twelve years, regardless of whether they’ve ever been used. This may be done at a firehouse or a qualified fire apparatus dealer.


Editorial Staff

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