Recharging Your Fire Extinguishers: All You Need to Know
It’s easy to take your fire extinguisher for granted, but many people don’t realize the cylinders require maintenance. In far too many instances, extinguishers are incapable of putting out a fire because they are not fully charged—even if they have never been used before. To prevent this scenario, every business owner should understand more about recharging fire extinguishers. Here’s everything you need to know.
When Should Fire Extinguishers Be Recharged?
Obviously, if you fully discharge a fire extinguisher when battling a blaze, you need to recharge it before you can use it again. But this isn’t the only instance when fire extinguishers need to be serviced. Here are some commonly forgotten times to schedule a recharge:
- Immediately after use, no matter how little is discharged: Even if you discharge an extinguisher accidentally for a mere second or two, this decreases the internal pressure enough that you should have it recharged. Topping off the cylinder ensures you have its full extinguishing power if you ever need to use it.
- Periodically throughout its life: Tiny leaks can eventually reduce the pressure, making it necessary to recharge the extinguisher. To proactively address these leaks, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) calls for internal inspection and recharging every six to 12 years, depending on the type of extinguisher.
- Any time the pressure gauge is low: Environmental factors or damage to the cylinder may cause depressurization. An inspection ensures the extinguisher is still structurally sound, and recharging puts it back in service.
How to Check the Fire Extinguisher Pressure Gauge
The NFPA requires monthly fire extinguisher inspections, which you can conduct yourself with minimal training. During these inspections, be sure to check the pressure gauge. This circular dial near the handle tells you if the unit is overcharged, undercharged, or just right. If the needle points to the green, this indicates full pressure. A needle in the red means the extinguisher requires attention, either because the pressure is too high or too low.
How Is a Fire Extinguisher Recharged?
Only a qualified fire protection company can recharge your fire extinguisher. Professionals have the necessary tools, training, and experience to perform this task safely and properly. Here’s an overview of how fire extinguishers are recharged:
- The cylinder is depressurized, and all extinguishing agent is removed.
- The discharge valve is detached from the cylinder, and the valve is disassembled and cleaned.
- The technician visually inspects the cylinder internally and externally to check for signs of damage.
- The valve is reassembled and installed back onto the cylinder.
- The cylinder is refilled with an extinguishing agent (carbon dioxide, dry chemical, wet chemical, water, etc.) as specified in the recharging instructions.
- The extinguisher is re-pressurized until the gauge indicates a full charge.
- A leak test is performed to check for any problems.
- The discharge nozzle or hose is reinstalled.
- The extinguisher is weighed to confirm it’s within allowable tolerances.
- A new tamper seal is installed, and a new recharge tag is attached to the cylinder.
Service Your Fire Extinguisher Today
If you don’t remember the last time you had your fire extinguisher serviced, or you notice the gauge has a low-pressure reading, bring the cylinder to State Systems Inc. for inspection. We’ll examine and test the extinguisher, recharge it, and return it to you as good as new. This gives you peace of mind that you’re adequately protected from fire for the next several years.
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