When Fire Extinguishers Expire
Fire extinguishers are often only “good” for a certain amount of time. While they may not have a set expiration date, they do need to be tested periodically to ensure that the contents are still functioning properly and the cannister itself isn’t damaged.
There are essentially two types of fire extinguishers: rechargeable and disposable. You can check which kind you have by checking the gauge. Rechargeable ones will read either “charge” or in the green, “overcharge” or “recharge,” and disposable ones will read “full” or “empty.”
If you have a disposable extinguisher, they’re just that – disposable; they cannot be recharged. Extinguishers are filled with a pressurized gas – typically nitrogen or carbon dioxide – that over time can lose pressure and become unusable. Or, if used, the chemical will of course no longer be inside of the unit. If you have this type of extinguisher, you’ll need to replace it after use or once the chemicals have become ineffective and depressurized – typically at least every 12 years.
Rechargeable fire extinguishers are a little bit different. These also contain pressurized chemicals, but the cannister is designed to be “recharged” or “refilled.” They need to be recharged after every use – even if not all of the contents were used – and also every six years even without use, according to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA).
Recharging works by completely depressurizing the extinguisher, cleaning all of the parts thoroughly, installing a new valve, refilling with the active agent and re-pressurizing the unit. A trained professional should recharge any extinguishers.
What to Do with Expired Extinguishers
Your fire extinguisher is expired or damaged – now what?
If it simply needs to be recharged, then you should contact a professional fire and life safety company like RCL Safety Centre to recharge it and conduct an inspection to ensure it’s good to go.
If the extinguisher is disposable or damaged, then properly disposing of the unit is critical. Fire extinguishers with any contents remaining inside should never be thrown in the trash, as they contain hazardous, pressurized chemicals. Instead, fire extinguishers should be taken to your local hazardous waste location or a local fire department. If you’re taking one to the fire department, call ahead to ensure that they receive expired extinguishers.
Not only is improper disposal of fire extinguishers bad for the environment and dangerous – there can also be a fine depending on where you live. Be sure to utilize one of the other options instead.
If your fire extinguisher is completely empty of any chemicals, then it may be able to be thrown away in your normal trash. You should test the unit by releasing the pressure in an open area and letting it sit out in an open area for several days, to make certain all of the pressure is released. When in doubt, ask your local fire department or trash company about disposal.
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Our company (RCL Safety Centre) is an indigenous company dedicated to Health, Safety and Environment Training and Services.
We are technical partners of the National Industrial Safety Council of Nigeria (NISCN) as well as approved training partners of most major International Occupational Safety and Health organizations like NEBOSH, and corporate members of ISPON (Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria) with thousands of personnel trained in various areas till date.
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