There are endless horror stories about people who tried to fight off a fire with a fire extinguisher, only to realize that it had run out of charge. This happens even if the fire extinguisher hasn’t ever been used before.
Whether you’re a homeowner or a business owner, it’s essential to understand that fire extinguishers need regular service and maintenance. In this article, we’ll give you a rundown of everything you need to know about recharging a fire extinguisher.
How Much Does It Cost To Recharge a Fire Extinguisher?
Usually, the cost of recharging a fire extinguisher ranges from $15 to $20. This cost is contingent upon:
- The size of the extinguisher
- The original cost of the extinguisher
You can recharge a fire extinguisher yourself, or you can contact your local fire department and have them recharge it for you. Recharging is generally more budget-friendly than buying a new fire extinguisher altogether, so it’s a good option to have on the side.
How Often Should Fire Extinguishers Be Recharged?
A rule of thumb would be to recharge the fire extinguisher immediately after every use. A fire extinguisher is ‘used’ when discharged to suppress a fire or released on accident.
There are a few things that help you determine the frequency of recharging a fire extinguisher:
- Monthly fire extinguisher inspection
- Weight or fullness of the container
- The pressure gauge reading
How Can You Tell If a Fire Extinguisher Is Fully Charged?
The pressure gauge tells you if the unit is:
- Within operational zone
If the needle on the pressure gauge is within the operational or the green-colored zone, the fire extinguisher is fully charged.
You can perform a simple fire extinguisher inspection every month by checking the pressure gauge.
Every time you use a fire extinguisher, no matter how minimal the discharge was, there is a loss of pressure and risk of the extinguishing agent leaking. Fire extinguishers need full pressure of the extinguishing agent to work, and it’s crucial to get them serviced after every usage.
The NFPA 10 Criteria
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 10 requires that fire extinguishers should be
- Inspected every month
- Recharged by a professional
The fire extinguishers may be inspected more frequently than a month when the property in question has a higher risk of catching a fire – like a laboratory or a welding shop.
Class D extinguishing agents that put out fires related to electrical appliances need a weekly or even daily inspection for recharging.
How Do I Know If My Fire Extinguisher Is Rechargeable?
Not all fire extinguishers need to be recharged. Some are single-purpose and classified as non-rechargeable. These are to be disposed of either after they are used or 12 years after their manufacturing dates.
Here are some differences between the rechargeable and non-rechargeable fire extinguishers
|Rechargeable Fire Extinguishers||Non-Rechargeable Fire Extinguishers|
|They usually have a metal discharge head||Their discharge head is made of plastic|
|The pressure gauge has the following settings:||The pressure gauge has the following settings:|
|It is labeled rechargeable||It is labeled as non-rechargeable and has a lifespan of 12 years from the date of manufacturing|
How Long Does It Take To Recharge a Fire Extinguisher?
The process of recharging a fire extinguisher can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day. This depends on the size and type of fire extinguisher.
- Depressurizing the extinguishing agent
- Removing the discharge valve from the cylinder
- Removing the siphon tube, valve stem, and spring
- Cleaning the valve
- Inspecting for and fixing the signs of damage
- Reassembly of the valve system
- Refilling the extinguishing agent
- Re-pressurizing with the appropriate gas to the required pressure
- Performing a leak test and weight test
- Adding a new tamper seal on the safety pin
How Many Times Can You Recharge a Fire Extinguisher?
You can recharge a fire extinguisher as many times as you want until you feel like it needs to be replaced.
Sometimes, the fire extinguisher needs to be discarded entirely instead of being recharged. You can determine that by checking the following parameters.
- The size of the extinguisher
- The condition of the extinguisher’s shell
If the fire extinguisher is smaller in size, it is easier on the pocket to get a new one than to get it recharged. Another reason you might need to replace the fire extinguisher is when there are signs of corrosion, or the handle has cracks or rips in it, the hose is clogged, or the canister loses pressure. In these events, the container is damaged, and recharging is not going to fix the problem.
If there is nothing wrong with the fire extinguisher parts, you can keep replacing it until it has been 6 to 12 years from the date of manufacturing. After that period, it is no longer safe to keep reusing the same container.
Can a Fire Extinguisher Be Overcharged?
Yes, rechargeable fire extinguishers can be overcharged. Depending upon the extinguishing agent, overcharging a fire extinguisher can have the following consequences
- Rupturing of the ‘burst disc’ – this releases the agent present inside the container, which can sometimes be toxic or suffocating
- Damage to the safety valve – any damage to the safety valve means leakage and pressure problems, meaning there may not be enough pressure to release the extinguishing agent in a fire, or potentially the inability to relieve pressure causing an explosion of the cylinder.
The pressure gauge of a rechargeable fire extinguisher has three settings: optimal, undercharged, and overcharged. While most of us know that devices should not be left ‘undercharged’, we struggle to understand that ‘overcharging’ them is pretty harmful too.
Now you know how to approach a fire extinguisher that needs recharging including when to do a recharge, how much it costs, and how much time it takes. Just remember that one of the simplest ways to protect your home and business from fires is to ensure that the fire extinguishers are charged and properly maintained.
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.