What Types of Fire Extinguishers Should I Have in My Home?
Attempting to put out a fire using water can be ineffective or even cause more damage – especially if the cause of the fire is grease. A fire extinguisher will better prepare you for a sudden fire in your home.
Types of fire extinguishers
Each type of fire extinguisher contains a different agent used to put out flames.
Class A – for standard combustible materials such as cloth, wood, and paper
Class B – for flammable liquids such as oil, grease, paint, and solvents
Class C – for electrical fires such as electrical panel or wiring
Class D – for flammable metals such as aluminum, magnesium, and sodium
Class K – for cooking appliances and cooking oil
Many fire extinguishers serve multiple purposes, coming under several class brackets. For example, you might see extinguisher models labeled AB, BC, or ABC.
Portable extinguishers vs. non-rechargeable extinguishers
- Non-rechargeable – can only be used once.
- Portable – can be refilled after use.
What Is a standard size fire extinguisher?
There isn't a "one size fits all" for home fire extinguishers. The best size for home use is between 5 and 10 pounds since a home fire extinguisher should be light and easy to handle.
How many fire extinguishers do I need?
Have at least one for each floor of your home (including your basement and attic). Front and rear exits are ideal and in the hallway near the bedrooms. It's also a good idea to keep one in the kitchen, where most home fires begin.
How to use a fire extinguisher
- Pull – the pin, which will break the tamper-proof seal
- Aim – the extinguisher low, with the nozzle at the base of the fire
- Squeeze – the handle to release the extinguishing substance
- Sweep – the nozzle side-to-side and aim at the bottom of the fire until it is out
What is the shelf life of a fire extinguisher?
Most extinguishers have expiration dates and pressure gauges to let you know when it needs to be serviced or replaced. Check your extinguishers every month to ensure they are in working order.
What to check:
Look for any cracks or splits in the nozzle, hose, gauge, or metal, which could indicate the extinguisher pressure has dropped and it might not work
If the safety pin is missing, someone may have used the extinguisher
If the handle or hose is loose — or any part of the inside of the device is moving — have it professionally serviced or replaced
If the expiration tag is missing or you can't read the label, get it serviced or replaced
If the extinguisher canister is dented or rusted, replace it
Consider also having a fire blanket, which is lighter and easier to use than an extinguisher
Fire extinguishers are an effective way to subdue a home fire. However, it would help if you prioritized getting all household members to safety before attempting to put out a house fire. If you cannot control the fire using your extinguisher, get out, and contact emergency personnel.
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"Choosing and Using Fire Extinguishers," https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/extinguishers.html.
Brian O'Connor, "Fire Extinguisher Types," https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Publications-and-media/Blogs-Landing-Page/NFPA-Today/Blog-Posts/2021/07/16/Fire-Extinguisher-Types, (July 16, 2021).
"Fire Extinguishers for Home," https://www.kidde.com/home-safety/en/us/fire-safety/fire-extinguishers-for-home.