Fire extinguishers help keep our spaces a little safer. However, there have been cases of them doing the opposite of that and exploding. What causes this? How do we prevent this?
These are important questions that we will be answering today. On top of that, we’ll take a look at fire extinguisher expiry and the spray.
If you’re interested in learning about fire extinguisher safety, stick around. We’ll go through everything you need to know about exploding devices, and so much more.
Can A Fire Extinguisher Explode?
Yes, fire extinguishers can explode. This has been known to happen, though it isn’t exceptionally common.
There are a number of reasons why one of these devices might explode, which we will go through in the sections below.
Before we take a look at why one of these extinguishers might explode, let’s find out what happens when it does.
What Happens When a Fire Extinguisher Explodes?
If one of these devices were to explode, you can expect to hear a very loud bang. Parts of the device are likely to fly in all directions, which is incredibly dangerous, too.
This is a rare occurrence, and instead of an explosion, a leak is more likely. If this is the case, you might hear a hiss coming from the device.
This will let you know that the gasses inside the device are seeping out, rendering it useless.
What Might Cause An Extinguisher To Explode?
A fire extinguisher could explode for a number of reasons. Some might be obvious, while others aren’t.
It’s important to note that the brand and model of your fire extinguisher will play a big part in this. Some devices may be more hardy than others.
Overcharging or overfilling is one of the primary causes of fire extinguishers exploding. If there’s too much in the canister, it won’t be able to contain it.
You can tell how charged your fire extinguisher is by looking at the pressure gauge. If the pressure gauge is giving a number that’s too high, it’s overcharged.
The pressure inside the canister will be too much, leading to an explosion occurring.
It’s important to make sure that the fire extinguisher isn’t overcharged, as this could cause an explosion at any time.
This is why it’s crucial that you get your canisters refilled professionally rather than trying to do it yourself.
It’s incredibly easy for overcharging to happen, especially if you aren’t experienced with the device.
Leave refilling and checks to the professionals. They know what they’re doing, and they have all the training necessary.
Not only that, but they have the specialized tools needed for these things, too.
Dropping a fire extinguisher is another possible way for the device to explode.
While you might think that they are pretty sturdy, you’d be surprised by how delicate they can be when handled incorrectly.
However, for the vast majority of extinguishers, they would have to be dropped from a considerable height for this to happen.
Most of these devices should be perfectly fine if they are dropped from up to a few feet.
After all, they are typically made to last many years. If one of these devices did explode after being dropped, it is very likely that there was another issue involved as well.
Fire extinguishers that have been tampered with might explode on impact, but this is rare.
This ties in with the point above. Damage of any kind can make the fire extinguisher unsafe to work with and put it at risk of exploding.
Even being knocked from the wall stand, or being bumped into, can cause an explosion if there is prior damage.
This is why frequently checking for any signs of damage, tampering, or wear is critical.
At the first sign of any kind of damage, an extinguisher should be removed and disposed of safely. If it isn't, it could cause more harm than good.
Finally, it’s worth noting that other types of impact can result in a fire extinguisher exploding. Throwing the device, or having it fall from a vehicle, could cause an explosion.
Once again, this is more likely to happen if the extinguisher is faulty or damaged, but not impossible.
Your Fire Extinguisher Might Also Explode If…
It’s Exposed To Heat
Despite the fact that fire extinguishers are meant to be used against flames, the heat can still get the better of them.
While it’s unlikely that exposure to heat will cause a fire extinguisher to explode, it isn’t impossible.
Leaving a fire extinguisher next to intense heat, like beside ovens or fireplaces, could cause the safety valve to become damaged.
This could cause the extinguisher to malfunction or even explode.
Remember – even minor damage can result in a fire extinguisher having to be discarded.
As such, storing the device properly not only ensures safety, but also saves money. This damage from heat itself probably won’t cause any kind of explosion.
However, referring to the points mentioned earlier, they can lead to explosions when other factors are involved.
Because of this, it’s never recommended that you store your fire extinguisher next to any kind of heat source.
This includes things like fireplaces, stoves, and power generators. Instead, find a cooler place that is out of the way.
It’s Exposed To Cold Temperatures
Again, a fire extinguisher being exposed to very cold temperatures is unlikely to directly cause an explosion.
However, the device will become damaged from the low temperatures, and parts of it can crack. This can lead to chemical leaks and, of course, an explosion if other factors come into play.
If an extinguisher becomes damaged, it must be discarded after being safely emptied. A malfunctioning or otherwise damaged device can be extremely dangerous.
Fire Extinguisher Expiry
Do They Expire?
For those who are wondering – yes! Fire extinguishers do eventually expire. However, the exact science and dates behind their expiry is still a confusing matter.
There are a number of factors that come into play when discussing a fire extinguisher expiring. These factors are as follows:
- The type of fire extinguisher you have
- Whether your fire extinguisher is disposable or rechargeable
- The manufacturer date the extinguisher was made
- The manufacturer's recommendation for when it should be replaced
- How much maintenance the fire extinguisher has had during its time
It’s generally thought that a well-maintained fire extinguisher should last up to 20 years. On average, you can expect your fire extinguisher to last between 10 and 12 years.
This means any fire extinguishers older than that in your home or workspace should be examined and possibly replaced.
Generally, it isn’t recommended to have a fire extinguisher that’s over 12 years old, as there’s a greater possibility of damage or faults.
If you have a disposable fire extinguisher, they should be replaced every 12 years. This recommendation is in line with the National Fire Protection Association.
On top of that, fire extinguishers should be refilled every 10 years, max. Ideally, they should be refilled and checked every 6 years.
This refilling and maintenance should be done by reputable sources, like your local fire department. Otherwise, you run the risk of the job being done incorrectly.
Can You Use An Expired Fire Extinguisher?
You should never use a fire extinguisher that has expired. There’s a very good chance that an expired device will not work as it should, and it could be dangerous.
If you were to use the device in a fire scenario, you likely wouldn’t be able to put the fire out. If you did, it would likely require a lot more work than an up-to-date fire extinguisher would.
To avoid using a fire extinguisher that is out of date, it should always be checked and maintained.
Regular maintenance is crucial, as this will also ensure that the device has not expired.
Are There Any Obsolete Fire Extinguishers?
Unfortunately, with ever improving technology, some fire extinguishers are now seen as obsolete. This means that they should not be used anymore, under any circumstances.
These fire extinguishers might be lacking in modern technology which allows them to be safer or more efficient.
They also might use different chemicals or mechanisms which are no longer seen to be up to standard.
Below is a list of obsolete fire extinguishers. If you have one of these, they should never be used:
- Chemical foam extinguishers
- Stored-pressure dry chemical extinguisher (pre-October 1984)
- Copper or brass shell joined by soft solder or rivets extinguishers
- Extinguishers with 4B, 6B, 8B, 12B, and 16B fire ratings
- Stored-pressure extinguishers made before 1955
- Fire extinguishers that need to be inverted to operate
- Carbon tetrachloride (vaporizing liquids) extinguishers
- Extinguishers with a paper cartridge (solid charge type AFFF)
- Pressurized water extinguishers made before 1971
- Stored-pressure water extinguishers with fiberglass shells (pre-1976)
- Carbon dioxide extinguishers with metal horns
- Soda acid extinguishers
- Cartridge operated loaded systems
Additionally, any fire extinguisher that can no longer be serviced in line with the user manual should not be used.
The same goes for any extinguishers that come from companies that are no longer in business.
Fire Extinguisher Spray
Fire extinguisher spray is another key aspect to understand about these devices. The spray can vary depending on the type of extinguisher you have.
The size and type of fire the device is made to deal with can have an impact on the spray. Let’s take a look at some information you should know about fire extinguisher spray.
How Long Does The Spray Last?
When you begin spraying a 10lbs to 20lbs fire extinguisher, the spray can last between 10 seconds to 25 seconds. This can vary if the fire extinguisher is smaller.
A fire extinguisher that weighs between 2lbs and 5lbs will likely have spray that could last between 8 seconds to 20 seconds. It all depends on the size of the fire extinguisher that is being used.
Because of the variation, there are no set rules. However, as long as you have a general idea of how long the spray will last when you’re using the product, you should be fine.
Making The Most Of The Spray
There are two important things you can do to make the most of your fire extinguisher spray. As strange as it sounds, this spray can get damaged!
To avoid this, you should: always check the pressure of the canister and store the device properly.
When considering the pressure of the fire extinguisher, you should check it regularly by looking at the pressure gauge.
When the pressure gauge is too low, this means that you will not be able to spray the fire extinguisher.
This can be dangerous in the event of a fire as you won’t have anything to help put out the fire. Regularly check the pressure to avoid it dropping.
So, while fire extinguishers can explode, it isn’t a very common occurrence. It’s important to store them properly, and not subject them to unnecessary heat or even cold temperatures.
While there have been cases of fire extinguishers exploding from simple things like dropping them, or them falling, this isn’t common.
This kind of damage is only likely to occur if the product is already worn, or it has been tampered with in some way.
Fire extinguishers can expire, and they should be replaced roughly every 12 years. They should be checked regularly, and refilled when needed.
Any kind of damage to a fire extinguisher means that it should not be used, as it could be dangerous.
The spray of fire extinguishers will typically last anywhere from 8 to 25 seconds. However, this time will vary depending on the type of fire extinguisher, and the product’s brand.
The smaller it is, the shorter it should spray for. As long as the product is kept in good condition, it should do its job, and last for many years.