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How Long Does a Fire Extinguisher Last?

Posted on: February 15, 2018

Perhaps you recently installed fire extinguishers in your building, or maybe you have no idea how old your existing canisters are. This might have you wondering: how long does a fire extinguisher last, and can you extend its lifespan?

Upon examining your fire extinguishers, you have probably noticed that they have no expiration dates printed on them. Manufacturers can’t guarantee a specific lifespan because this depends on whether you keep up with recommended maintenance and if anyone tampers with the canister. Regardless of these details, you may be wondering whether your existing extinguishers could pass a safety inspection. Here’s how to tell.

Lifespan of a Fire Extinguisher

When you purchase a new carbon dioxide, pressurized water, or wet chemical extinguisher, you can expect it to last at least five years. For dry chemical extinguishers, the minimum lifespan is 12 years.

It’s at these intervals that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires hydrostatic testing, which subjects the cylinder to high pressure (usually 500 psi) to ensure adequate shell integrity. If the extinguisher holds up, it can be recharged and put back into service for another five to 12 years until the next hydrostatic test is required.

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

Extending the Lifespan of a Fire Extinguisher

As long as you keep up with required hydrostatic testing and the maintenance requirements outlined in NFPA 10, you can expect your fire extinguishers to last for decades. Here’s what you must do to extend the lifespan of a fire extinguisher:

  • Perform monthly inspections on all types of fire extinguishers. Make sure they are installed in the proper locations, feature legible labels, have no signs of tampering, and possess a full charge.
  • Schedule professional fire extinguisher inspections once a year.
  • Hydrostatically test your extinguishers every five or 12 years, depending on the type.
  • Perform required six-year maintenance on rechargeable dry chemical fire extinguishers.

How to Tell When to Replace a Fire Extinguisher

Obviously, you should dispose of a fire extinguisher if it fails a hydrostatic test. Non-rechargeable fire extinguishers also have a shelf life of 12 years, so you should replace it after this much time has elapsed. Additionally, the 2007 edition of NFPA 10 calls for the disposal of dry chemical extinguishers manufactured before October 1984.

If none of these circumstances apply to you, the next step is to check your fire extinguishers for signs of damage. The following problems warrant service or replacement:

  • A broken or leaky seal that prevents the canister from holding a charge.
  • A clogged, cracked, or ripped nozzle or hose, which could cause a malfunction if you attempt to use the extinguisher.
  • Signs of tampering, including an unsealed or missing safety pin or damage to the outer shell.
  • A wobbly or broken handle, which could make the extinguisher difficult to use.
  • A missing inspection tag, making it impossible to tell when the last service took place.
  • Rust or condensation from a humid environment, which could cause the trigger or nozzle to malfunction.
  • Loose components, which could occur if the extinguisher is installed in an area with excessive vibrations from heavy machinery or vehicles.
  • A bumped or dropped canister that may result in a broken seal or issues with other critical components.

Disposing of a Damaged Fire Extinguisher

Many of the problems outlined above can be repaired, allowing you to rely on the extinguisher for many more years. But sometimes the damage is irreversible, meaning it’s time to retire the cylinder for good. If a knowledgeable fire protection company recommends disposing of an extinguisher, here’s how to do so safely:

  • If the extinguisher is fully or partly charged, call a local fire protection company and ask if you can drop it off. If no such service is available, take the cylinder to a hazardous waste disposal facility.
  • If the extinguisher is empty, depress the lever to ensure no residual pressure remains. Then, remove the head to make it clear that the cylinder is empty. Call your local steel recycling center to ask about dropping off the empty extinguisher.

Schedule Fire Extinguisher Service in the Mid-South

Whether you have a question about an old fire extinguisher or it’s time for your next annual inspection, State Systems, Inc. can help. We are an experienced fire protection company with knowledge of NFPA rules and regulations regarding fire extinguishers. We can address your concerns and provide the solutions you need to make your business code compliant.

To schedule fire extinguisher testing, inspections, or replacement in Tennessee, Arkansas, or Mississippi, please contact State Systems online or call us at 866-308-5701 today.

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