Fighting flames with fire extinguisher balls is nothing new. Such fire suppressants have been around for years. In fact, back in the 19th century, glass balls filled with fire suppressant liquids were frequently used to put out fires.
Over the years, the design slowly fell out of fashion. But that wasn’t the end of fire extinguisher balls –the idea is making a complete comeback in the industry!
Today, more advanced and effective fire extinguisher balls are readily gaining popularity worldwide as they are easy to use, quick-performing, and highly effective. Read on to learn everything you need to know about fire extinguisher balls and how to use them.
What Is a Fire Extinguisher Ball?
A fire extinguisher ball is an advanced, self-activating fire safety and response tool that provides multipurpose fire protection. When thrown or rolled in the fire, it bursts spontaneously, putting out the flames in the process. You can use it anywhere, anytime, to put out most types of fires.
An average fire extinguisher ball takes anywhere between 3 to 10 seconds to burst after it comes in contact with heat. Each ball weighs around 1 to 1.5 Kg. It usually comes with an expiration date of around five years and does not require any maintenance.
How Does a Fire Extinguisher Ball Work?
The fire extinguisher balls available today are made using a foam casing enclosed in PVC. An activation strip inserted into the outer casing holds the fire suppressants. The ball is typically filled with a dry-powder fire extinguishing agent, such as mono ammonium phosphate.
The activation strip reacts without human interaction when exposed to heat for more than a few seconds. Once triggered, the casing bursts open, dispersing a cloud of the fire extinguishing agent in the surroundings. As the ball bursts, it produces a loud warning bang to alert those nearby of the fire incident.
Keep in mind that while the basic idea is the same, different fire extinguisher balls may function in a slightly different way.
How to Use a Fire Extinguisher Ball
Fire extinguisher balls are multipurpose, versatile, and easy to use. They provide the following two kinds of fire protection.
- Active Fire Protection: A fire extinguisher ball can be thrown or rolled directly into an active flame. You can throw it in any direction. Most products currently available in the market can put out a fire in a radius of about 4 to 5 meters.
- Passive Fire Protection: Fire extinguisher balls trigger automatically. This makes them one of the most effective passive fire protection tools. Simply place your fire extinguisher balls in hotspots, such as the circuit breaker box, gas tank, and other flammable objects or surfaces. In an incident of a fire, it will activate and burst without the need for human intervention.
Is a Fire Extinguisher Ball Better Than a Standard Fire Extinguisher?
This is one of the most common questions that many homeowners and businesses consider when investing in a safety system. Here, it is important to understand that any fire extinguishing tool’s effectiveness depends on a number of factors, including the type, size, and place of fire.
For example, fire extinguisher balls may work great for putting out relatively large fires spread over at least a few meters. However, it can be a nightmare to put out, let’s say, a small kitchen fire on the stove using a fire extinguisher ball. In such cases, a standard fire extinguisher may be a better choice because it allows the user to ‘aim’ at the fire.
On the other hand, fire extinguisher balls are much more lightweight and compact than fire extinguishers. Prior training isn’t required. Anyone can use them, including children and the elderly who may find it hard to operate a standard fire extinguisher. They also allow for passive protection, which is not possible with a regular fire extinguisher.
What Types of Fires Are Fire Extinguisher Balls Designed For?
The effectiveness of fire extinguisher balls is backed by research. You can use fire extinguisher balls to tackle most types of fires, including the following.
- Class A: Fires that involve solid materials.
- Class B: Fires that involve liquids.
- Class C: Fires that involve gases.
- Class E: Fire involving electrical appliances, circuits, etc.
- Class K: Kitchen fires.
It is generally recommended to avoid using fire extinguisher balls for Class B fires actively. However, you can mount them in Class B high-risk areas for passive protection.
Also, keep in mind that fire extinguisher balls are not the best option for putting out the Class D fire type, which entails fires involving metals, such as aluminum, mobile phones, computers, etc.
Are Fire Extinguisher Balls Dangerous?
Fire extinguisher balls are deemed safe for use. The dry-powdered chemical used in the ball is nontoxic and nonhazardous, making fire extinguisher balls one of the safest products in the market to battle the flames. Furthermore, the fire suppressants are environmentally friendly. In fact, the powdered chemical is eco-friendly and can be safely used as a fertilizer. The plastic core and outer layer are also mostly recyclable.
The Bottom Line
Fire extinguisher balls are an adequate safety and fire extinguisher tool. They are lightweight, flexible, and pretty straightforward to use. They are also long-lasting and high-performing.
However, the biggest advantage of keeping fire extinguisher balls at hand is that you can toss them into the fire while maintaining a safe distance. Plus, they provide even if you are not around to take action!
All in all, it won’t be a stretch to say that fire extinguisher balls are transforming the way we tackle fire breakout today. Nevertheless, they are not intended as a replacement for standard fire prevention tools or systems. The better approach is to use them in conjunction with the traditional fire extinguisher to be prepared for all kinds of fires and ensure maximum safety.
Header image By Phongpatra – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.