Best Fire Extinguishers SafeWise Buyer's Guide

2017's Top Fire Extinguishers

Fire is the sixth leading cause of unintentional, injury-related deaths for people of all ages.1 A smoke detector and fire safety plan can help keep you and your loved ones safe. However, if you want to stop a fire before it spreads, you’ll need a fire extinguisher—and you’ll need to know how to use it.

Fire extinguishers may seem intimidating, but we’ve put together a comprehensive fire extinguisher safety guide to help you find the best products and learn how to operate them properly.

Types of Fire Extinguishers

To understand the types of fire extinguishers, you need to first understand the common types of fires. Household fires fall under three classifications, depending on the type of fuel burning: A, B, and C.

  • Class A: Solid combustibles that are not metals, like wood, paper, cloth, plastics, rubber.
  • Class B: Flammable liquids like gasoline, oil, grease, and paints.
  • Class C: Electrical equipment, like appliances and outlets.

Household extinguishers fight specific types of fires. It’s important to know the type of fire that has started before you use a fire extinguisher on it; different extinguishers use different chemical fueling agents to fight fires and are effective only on specific types of fuel. If you use the wrong type of extinguisher, you can actually make a fire worse.

  • Air-Pressurized Water Extinguishers (APW):
    APW extinguishers use pressurized water to fight Class A fires only. These extinguishers are generally about 2 feet tall and 25 pounds when full and will have a pressure gauge. Do not use water on Class B or C fires, as they may cause the fire to spread or increase the possibility of electrical shock.
  • Foam:
    Foam extinguishers are effective against Class A and B fires. They are not recommended for Class C, but are safer than APW extinguishers if accidentally used on a live electrical device. These foam fire extinguishers are generally marked with a blue band and can vary widely in size.
  • Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers (CO2):
    Carbon Dioxide extinguishers use non-flammable CO2 gas to fight Class B and C fires. They are not generally effective against Class A fires. These extinguishers do not a have a pressure gauge and can range from 5 to 100 pounds.
  • Dry Chemical Extinguishers (DC):
    Dry Chemical extinguishers may be labeled ABC or BC to indicate which types of fires they can be used on. They are generally filled with monoammonium phosphate and are pressurized using nitrogen. They range from 5 to 20 pounds and have a pressure gauge.

Most residential fire extinguishers use dry chemicals and are classified ABC to effectively combat all three common household fire types. Rechargeable extinguishers are heavier, but they are sturdier and can be refilled and reused. Disposable extinguishers with plastic valves are lighter and cheaper than rechargeable extinguishers, but they have a shorter shelf life and can be used only once. Cover all your bases and get an ABC fire extinguisher so you’ll be prepared for anything.

Top Fire Extinguishers

Model

Price

Class

Pros

Cons

Amerex B441 Rechargeable 10-lb Extinguisher

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Class

ABC

Pros

Fights All Fires

Rechargeable

Discharge Time

Wall Mount

Cons

Expensive

Heavy

Amerex B500 Rechargeable 5-lb Extinguisher

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Class

ABC

Pros

Fights All Fires

Lighter

Discharge Time

Wall Mount

Cons

Expensive

Kidde Pro 210 Rechargeable Extinguisher

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Class

ABC

Pros

Fights All Fires

Affordable

Light

Rechargeable

Cons

N/A

Kidde FA110 Multi-Purpose Disposable Extinguisher

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Class

ABC

Pros

#1 Best-Seller

Affordable

Fights All Fires

Light

Cons

Not Rechargeable

Fire Gone Disposable Aerosol Extinguisher

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Class

ABC

Pros

Affordable

Two-Pack

Fights All Fires

Easy To Use

Biodegradable

Cons

Not Rechargeable

First Alert Disposable Aerosol Spray

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Class

ABC

Pros

Affordable

Two-Pack

Fights All Fires

Biodegradable

Easy To Use

Cons

Not Rechargeable

Williams-Pyro Disposable Stovetop Firestop Extinguisher

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Class

C

Pros

For Kitchen Fires

Affordable

Two-Pack

Cons

Not For All Fires

Not Rechargeable

First Alert Disposable Auto Extinguisher

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Class

BC

Pros

Affordable

Compact

Cons

Not For All Fires

Not Rechargeable

*SafeWise has conducted impartial research to recommend products. This is not a guarantee. Each individual’s unique needs should be considered when deciding on chosen products.

How to Properly Use a Fire Extinguisher

While the specifics may vary depending on the model you own, most fire extinguishers operate the same basic way. Stand 6 to 8 feet away from the fire and remember to PASS:

  1. Pull: Pull the pin at the top to break the tamper seal.
  2. Aim: Aim the extinguisher low, pointing the nozzle at the base of the fire. Do not aim at the flames themselves.
  3. Squeeze: Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent.
  4. Sweep: Sweep the extinguisher from side to side, remaining at the base of the fire, until it appears to be out.

Keep an eye on the area to make sure the fire does not reignite, and repeat the steps as necessary. If the fire grows larger than the extinguisher can handle at any time, immediately evacuate the building and call 911.

Recommended Storage and Maintenance For Fire Extinguishers

The National Fire Protection Agency recommends a fire extinguisher be installed on every floor of your home and that it be inspected annually. The U.S. Department of Agriculture takes that counsel even further, recommending that homeowners install separate fire extinguishers in their kitchen, garage, basement, and car, too. These should be installed in plain view, within easy reach of adults—though out of reach of children—and near an escape route.

It’s important to regularly inspect your fire extinguisher. Check your owner’s manual for specific recommendations for your extinguisher model, but in general, follow these guidelines for regular maintenance:

  • Check the pressure regularly to ensure it is at the recommended level. The needle should be in the green zone. Replace or recharge any extinguishers if the needle is in the red zone.
  • Assess Freshness. Make sure the pin and tamper seal are intact.
  • Monitor For Damage. Check for dents, leaks, rust, or other signs of wear.
  • Shake It. If you have a dry chemical extinguisher, many manufactures recommend shaking it monthly so the powder does not settle.
  • Test Your Pressure. Get your extinguisher pressure tested every few years by a professional, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation.
  • Recharge extinguishers after they have been used, no matter how much (or how little) they were used.
  • Discard disposable extinguishers after use. Your local fire department may offer this service, or you can find a professional recharging company in your area.

Fire Safety Tips

An average house fire can double in size every minute, so those first few seconds are critical.2 Residential extinguishers won’t quench a major fire, but they can control small ones that commonly break out in homes. If a fire starts in your home, follow these steps before you attempt to extinguish it on your own:

  • Make sure everyone else has left or is leaving the building.
  • Have someone call 911 and notify the fire department immediately.
  • Position yourself with an unobstructed exit at your back, in case you need to escape quickly.
  • Examine the fire and make sure it is confined and not spreading to a larger area.
  • Know how to use your fire extinguisher—there isn’t time to learn in the moment
  • If the fire is too large to put out with a home fire extinguisher, your priority should be to get everyone out and call 911 immediately.
  • Do not attempt to extinguish a large fire on your own, no matter what extinguisher you have on hand. Remember, you are under no obligation to fight a fire yourself.
  • If the fire grows beyond what the extinguisher can handle, if the air becomes unsafe to breathe, or if you no longer feel comfortable fighting the fire, evacuate the area immediately.

The cost to purchase and maintain a fire extinguisher is small compared to the cost of even minor smoke damage—not to mention the sense of security you’ll gain by having an extinguisher nearby just in case of emergency. Find the best extinguisher for you, learn how to use it, and stay safe. In the meantime, you can also install top-of-the-line smoke detectors in your home for an early warning system that can save your life in a fire.

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