Fire extinguishers are one of those things that you don’t tend to think about until you need one. And when you need one, there’s a good chance that it’s an actual emergency. You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re trying to get a fire under control, reach for your fire extinguisher, try to use it, and then discover that it’s no longer in working order.
As it turns out, fire extinguisher ownership is probably more involved than you thought. Not that it’s like a pet or anything, but it takes more than buying one, stashing under the sink, and then forgetting about it for years. Here’s what to know about the lifespan of a fire extinguisher, and when it’s time to buy a new one.
How long do fire extinguishers last?
Fire extinguishers do expire—even if we don’t think about them as perishable items. The tricky part is that it’s how to tell how old your fire extinguisher actually is. Generally, they’re expected to last for between five and 15 years, but it’s hard to know where it currently is in its life cycle.
Even if you happen to remember when you bought it, you still (probably) don’t know how long it was sitting on the shelf at the store before you brought it home. Here are some other ways to help you determine if you should invest in a new one, or get the one your current have serviced:
Check the pressure gauge
Apparently, this is something you should be doing monthly. Luckily, it’s easy: just check the gauge, and if the needle is in the green area, then you’re good to go. If it lands anywhere else, it’s time to get it serviced or just replace it.
Some older models of fire extinguishers don’t come with a pressure gauge. That’s probably a good indication in itself that it’s probably time to replace it. Otherwise, you can take it to place that specializes in servicing fire extinguishers to have it checked (and probably serviced). To find one, Google “fire extinguisher services” and see what’s in your area.
Other things to check
- The handle is loose or damaged
- The nozzle is cracked, ripped, broken or blocked with debris
- The pressure is too low
- The locking pin is missing or unsealed
- The device has been used
- The inspection sticker or hang tag, with a record of checkups and maintenance, is missing
While getting an old fire extinguisher serviced might be cheaper than buying a new one, don’t forget to factor in other costs, like the time it would take you to get to and from the fire extinguisher service shop, transportation costs, etc.
If you do end up getting a new one, be sure to make a note (maybe multiple notes) indicating the date you purchased it, to take some of the guesswork out of the whole process next time.