Three Things to Know Before You Buy a Fire Extinguisher

Not all fire extinguishers are the same. Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for the right extinguisher for your needs

Fire extinguisher on a green wall
Different fire extinguishers are better for different kinds of fires.Piotr Chrobot via Unsplash

Nothing brings an abrupt end to a good time like an unintended conflagration. Having a fire extinguisher on hand any time there is the potential for something to catch fire is always a good idea. However, first make sure that the extinguisher you choose is equipped to properly fight any potential fire that might flare up.

Letter Rating

First Alert fire extinguisher
A fire extinguisher with an “ABC” rating is equipped to fight most common household fires.First Alert

All fire extinguishers have a letter rating that tells you the type of fire it can put out. "A" extinguishers will put out wood, paper, textile, and plastic fires. If a flammable liquid—motor oil, gasoline, kerosene, paint, etc.—catches fire, reach for a "B" extinguisher. Extinguishers with "C" ratings are made specifically for electrical fires, while "D" extinguishers are for combustible metals and "K" extinguishers are for cooking oils, fats, and grease.

Number Rating

Kidde fire extinguisher
As long as you sweep the nozzle from side to side, a 10-BC fire extinguisher is capable of fighting a fire up to 10 square feet in size.Kidde

A number preceding a letter in an extinguisher's rating indicates the size of the fire the extinguisher can fight. Multiply the number before an "A" by 1.25 for its equivalency in gallons of water. For instance, a 2-A extinguisher is as effective as 2.5 gallons of water. The number preceding a B or C represents square feet. A 10-BC extinguisher can extinguish a liquid or electrical fire that is up to 10 square feet in size.

Pressure Gauge

First Alert fire extinguisher
Unless you have the proper training and equipment to recharge your own fire extinguisher, take it to a certified recharging station after it has been used or if it loses its charge over time.First Alert

The pressure gauge on an extinguisher's nozzle tells you if it's ready to fight a fire or not. Check the gauge on your extinguishers often, as some will lose their charge over time. If it's a rechargeable unit, take it to a certified recharging station. If not, replace with a new extinguisher.