Buying a fire extinguisher for your home or vehicle is a smart choice, but it may be more complicated than you think.
Getting the right model is about more than simply finding one to fit your space and budget. You need to first make sure the extinguisher is rated to put out the kind of fire you're most likely to encounter. The material inside a fire extinguisher varies, and some materials could actually make certain fires worse if used in the wrong situation.
Before you buy a fire extinguisher, check out our brief guide that includes some of the key things to think about to find the best product for your needs.
Considerations when choosing fire extinguishers
Fire extinguishers are rated based on the kind of fire they're designed to put out (A, B, C, D, K). These ratings include a coded graphic to make them easy to understand. Class A extinguishers are for wood, paper, plastic and cloth. Class B extinguishers are primarily for gas or flammable liquid fires. Class C extinguishers can handle electrical equipment. Class D can handle combustible metal. Class K is for grease or other kitchen-related fires. Many fire extinguishers have more than one rating, making them more useful for a home situation.
Consider the type of flame retardant inside the extinguisher. Most extinguishers do not have water but liquified gas, carbon dioxide, dry chemicals, powder, or foam. Different flame retardants are effective for different types of fires (such as a wood or electrical fire).
Fire extinguishers also need regular maintenance. A pressure gauge must show adequate pressure for the extinguisher to work. If your fire extinguisher doesn't come with a pressure gauge, check the instructions carefully to make sure you understand how to properly maintain the unit's pressure. Cracks, corrosion, or other damage could also render your fire extinguisher inoperable.
It isn't always easy to know how to operate a fire extinguisher. Check to see if your local fire department offers training, or look for tutorials online.
Fire extinguisher prices: The cost of a fire extinguisher largely depends on its size and whether it is single use or rechargeable. The cost of a small kitchen fire extinguisher starts at about $15 to $20. Don't expect this to handle much more than a pan fire, but it might be just what you need to keep a small fire from burning out of control. Two-pound canisters cost between $20 and $60. A five-pound canister costs between $30 and $75. A ten-pound canister costs around $45 to $100.
Q. How do I know which fire retardant I need?
A. Check the rating on the fire extinguisher. For example, Class A extinguishers are good for combustibles you'd find around a home, such as wood, paper, and textiles. For a more versatile extinguisher, find one that is also rated for electrical and grease fires.
Q. How long should I try to use my fire extinguisher before calling for help?
A. A fire extinguisher is designed to work very quickly. It will only dispense fire retardant for several seconds up to a minute, depending on the extinguisher. Call the fire department first and then use your fire extinguisher only if it is safe to do so and you've been trained in its use.
Fire extinguishers we recommend
Best of the Best: Amerex B500
Our take: Nice, midsize fire extinguisher. Rated A, B, and C, so versatile choice for home use.
What we like: Metal valve lasts longer than plastic. Decent price point. Wall bracket included. Easy-to-read pressure gauge.
What we dislike: Some issues with unit losing pressure.
Best bang for your buck: First Alert Pack of Four
Our take: Budget-friendly price for four extinguishers rated A, B, C that you can place around the home and/or in vehicles. Easy to use.
What we like: Metal pin, head, and handle. Extinguishers come with mounting brackets. Versatile. Inexpensive.
What we dislike: Small, so not the best choice for larger fires.
Our take: An affordable choice from a reputable maker of fire extinguishers.
What we like: A suitable choice for the home. Can be refilled, which is more economical than buying a new one.
What we dislike: A few customers have complained that the product didn't last as long as the warranty.
Karen is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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