The most common size fire extinguishers for home use are 5-pound models. The rating for these home models should be labeled “2A:10B:C.” The number of fire extinguishers in a home depends on the size of your residence. Generally you only need one for a small apartment, or one on each floor of a multi-level home, and one every 40 feet in larger houses.
Unfortunately, fires are a common hazard in the home, so it’s important to be prepared. Among other causes, fires can happen in the kitchen, the dryer/laundry area, or from a continuously running bathroom fan. For this reason, fire safety experts recommend you have at least one type of fire extinguisher on hand in your house.
Having home extinguishers can truly save your life and that of your loved ones, along with your house. It’s a necessary piece of equipment that every home needs, regardless of whether you live in a four-story house or a studio apartment.
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What Is A Standard Size Fire Extinguisher?
There isn’t a “one size fits all” for home fire extinguishers. The most common ones you see mounted on the walls in residential buildings are 5 pound fire extinguishers.
That being said, the best size for home use are the ones between 5 and 10 pounds. The “size of the extinguisher ” isn’t only determined by how heavy a fire extinguisher is either; it’s also determined by the overall rating.
2A:10B:C is the rating that is most commonly used for home use.
Here’s what those numbers and letters mean:
Rating A: Water Equivalency
You’ll notice the first part of that rating is “2A.” The letter A is referring to the water equivalency of that particular device.
A is equal to 1.25 gallons of water. So 2A means that the water equivalency is equal to 2.5 gallons of water. So, this extinguisher has the same firefighting power as two and a half gallons of water.
Two and a half gallons of water would weigh just over twenty pounds. That means that even a small, 5-pound unit can pack a lot of punch in an emergency. Much easier than slogging around 20 pounds of water to fight a kitchen fire.
Rating B: Square Foot Coverage
The second letter, B, refers to the square footage of flaming material that the fire extinguisher can effectively fight. This means our example device can combat a fire burning an area of about ten square feet, hence the rating, 10B.
For home use, where the fire is often contained in one room (usually the kitchen), this should be more than enough to put out a fire before it grows too large.
10B is sufficient for home use where it might be used on a couch, oven, or in the garage. While you could certainly use a larger unit, even a 10B five-pound extinguisher can go a long way.
Class C: Non-Conductive Indication
This last letter in the ratings tells you what type of fire(s) this particular extinguisher would be used on. I’ll talk more about that a bit later.
The C means one thing: the extinguishing medium in that particular fire extinguisher is a non-conductive agent. Simply put, it means that it is safe to use on electrical fires.
For example, you can put out a fire caused by a candle catching draperies alight by splashing it with water. It is going to make a mess, but it is safe and effective.
However, if a fire is caused by exposed, live wires, pouring water on the fire will make a deadly, conductive puddle that can electrocute people and pets and burn other objects, actually allowing the fire to spread. A fire extinguisher with a C rating will not do this.
So now it should make a bit more sense as to why you should go with the 2A:10B:C, like this dry chemical fire extinguisher, for residential use. If you are really hard up for space, you can always go with something smaller, say in the 1A category.
Now that you know how to read the labels, it should be easier to find what you’re looking for.
About The 5 Classes Of Fires And The Extinguishers For Each One
As I mentioned before, the last letter of the ratings number that you see in fire extinguishers tells you the type of fires it can be used for and these are called “classes”.
There are 5 of them and here is a list of the classes and the different types of fires they are used for.
- Class A – Ordinary combustibles like cloth, wood, paper, rubber, cardboard and certain types of plastics.
- Class B – Flammable liquids such as oil, grease, paint and solvents. These types of fires require a foam barrier.
- Class C – Electrical equipment like an electrical panel, wiring, motors, etc.
- Class D – Combustible metal like aluminum, magnesium, etc.
- Class K – Used in commercial kitchens for fires involving cooking oils and animal fats.
The extinguisher types that experts recommend for most households are ones that are rated “all purpose”. These can be used to put out most everything from grease fires to your drapes catching on fire.
They would be labeled with the 2 or 3 classes that they can be used for. An example would be ABC fire extinguishers, like this Kidde ABC model.
Portable Extinguishers vs. Non-Rechargeable Extinguishers
There also are two different types of extinguisher units:
- Non-rechargeable – a non-rechargeable fire extinguisher can only be used one time. Once you use one of these, it cannot be used again.
- Portable extinguishers – the portable fire extinguishers (aka rechargeable) can be refilled after they’ve been used or if they lose pressure over time.
How Many Fire Extinguishers Do I Need for An Apartment?
If you’re buying a fire extinguisher for an apartment, more than likely you’ll only need one to get the job done.
Regulations vary by local ordinances, so if you are a landlord or building owner questioning how many devices you will need to purchase, you will need to check your local regulations (likely with the building department at your local city hall).
How Many Fire Extinguishers Do I Need In A House?
The best place to store a fire extinguisher is near the exit door where everyone can reach it if needed. Ideally, there should be one close by for each floor of your home- or one per room depending on its size.
For protecting your own home, a good rule of thumb is to have your extinguishers no more than 40 feet from one another. So, if you have a reasonably large house, you may need to have more than one per floor.
Speaking of floors, you’ll also need to have at least one unit on each floor of the house. So, if you have a two story home, at the minimum, you’ll need two units. You should double that amount if your house covers a lot of horizontal space as well.
If you’re interested in calculating precisely what you’ll need for a given space, check out this handy guide at qrfs.com.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the recommendations for the fire extinguisher size and weight for the house are:selectsafety.net
The living room should have a 2A: 10: B: C or 5-10 poundsfire extinguisher every 40 feet.
The garage with inflammable objects should have a 3A: 40B-C or 5-10 poundsfire extinguisher installed.
The kitchen should have a 2.5 poundsextinguisher.
When you buy a fire extinguisher, don’t forget to read the instructions. These tips can help with usage and maintenance, as well as provide information on how to register your home address for safety purposes where applicable.
Also, call your local fire department – they may offer a class on fire safety.
How Long Do Fire Extinguishers Last?
For most fire extinguishers, you can expect 5 to 15 years of life out of a device. Modern extinguishers have expiration dates and pressure gauges to let their owners know when a unit needs to be serviced or replaced.
Suppose an extinguisher is coming up to its expiry date. In that case, you can have it serviced or checked by the manufacturer or a company that services the devices for residential and commercial customers.
If the device is past its prime, it can be recharged for a fee that should be less than the cost of buying a new unit.
The pressure gauge on a fire extinguisher should also be checked from time to time. As long as the needle is in the green part of the indicator, the device should be under pressure and in good working order.
If it ever dips out of the green, it would be wise to have it tested. If you’re unsure who to call, simply look up “fire extinguishers in my area.” You’re sure to find a reputable company to service you.
Five to fifteen years is a large span, and when it comes to fire safety for your home, you don’t want to leave it up to chance. It is an excellent practice to put a mark on your calendar to check your extinguishers every month or so to ensure that they are in tip-top shape.
A few other things to look out for:
- Cracks in the nozzle, hose, gauge, or metal can mean that the pressure has dropped or might not fire correctly.
- The safety pin is missing: This may mean that the unit has been used and may not fire.
- Loose parts: If the handle or hose is loose in the housing, or you hear moving parts inside any part of the device, it may need servicing.
- The tag is missing: If the expiration tag is missing or the labeling stickers are unreadable, you don’t want to count on luck. Get it serviced or get another.
Be Prepared For A Possible Fire
Below are some general tips on the safety protocols in case of a fire.
- Every household should have a fire escape plan. Know what your escape route would be from any part of the house.
- All members of the household should practice this escape plan once or twice a year so they are familiar with it.
- If you have pets, we recommend putting up Pet Alert stickers by your doors and windows so that fire and rescue personnel are aware that there are pets inside and they can search for them.
- If there is anyone in your home who cannot manage a fire extinguisher, we would recommend to have fire blankets available as well. They are lighter and easier to use.
- You should also learn about how to put out a fire without a fire extinguisher, just in case you don’t have one or it isn’t working properly.
4 Easy Steps On How To Use A Fire Extinguisher
The acronym P-A-S-S is what is often used to remind you how to use a fire extinguisher. It stands for…
- P – pull the pin by the handle of the unit
- A – aim the nozzle low, by the base of the fire
- S – squeeze the lever on the handle slowly and steady
- S – sweep the nozzle side to side
Here’s a short video show you these very easy steps.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most appropriate type of fire extinguisher in your house kitchen?
The kitchen is most likely where you’ll have a fire, due to inadvertently leaving the oven on or possibly bumping a knob and leaving the gas stove on. Here, experts usually recommend that you have an ABC extinguisher or one that can specifically handle flammable liquids (which are Class K or Class B fires).
A typical household should always have one of these types on hand in case of a fire. If you ever have food and grease burning (which could cause something like a blaze producing toxic smoke), you would want enough water pressure from your hose pipe to put out those flames before they spread any further!
When should you only use a fire extinguisher?
There are a few steps you should take before using your fire extinguisher:
- Call 9-1-1-
- Make sure everyone in the house knows about the emergency and that help is on the way.
- Don’t get too close to any flames. There is no sense in putting yourself at risk if it isn’t necessary
- Get out of the home ASAP and don’t block an exit for others who may need one.
What fire equipment should I have at home?
This is a list of important safety products for your home that you should have to help get out in the event of an emergency.
- The first product is a fire escape ladder, which helps people flee their homes when there’s smoke and flames coming from below them.
- Smoke detectors are also incredibly necessary because they let off loud fire alarms if anything goes wrong so that everyone can quickly evacuate or stay safe inside without breathing any toxic fumes.
- The third item on this list is a carbon monoxide alarm: these protect against poisonous gases like CO (carbon monoxide) by sensing it before anyone gets too close or injured!
- A few more household items worth keeping around include fire blankets. These are useful as both protection from burning materials and for staying warm during emergencies
Once you’ve learned how to read the rating code on a fire extinguisher, it shouldn’t be hard to find the right size for your home. Also remember not to let your extinguishers expire or sit in poor condition. Fire extinguishers are often forgotten but, when an emergency strikes, it is critical to have them in good working order.