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How Old Can A Fire Extinguisher Be Without Replacement?

Most fire extinguishers don’t come with expiration dates printed on the canister. This is because their lifespan varies widely depending on how you maintain the extinguisher and whether anyone tampers with it. Still, if you have an aging fire extinguisher, you may wonder how many more years it can pass a safety inspection.

How Long Do Fire Extinguishers Last?

All fire extinguishers should last a minimum of five to 12 years. It’s at these intervals that extinguishers are hydrostatically tested, depending on the type you have. Hydrostatic testing is when the cylinder is emptied, filled with colored water, and brought up to a high pressure for a brief time. The shell, hose, and nozzle must withstand this pressure to pass the test.

If you keep up with maintenance and hydrostatic testing requirements, you can expect your extinguishers to last for many decades. Follow these rules outlined in NFPA 10 to keep your fire extinguishers around for years:

  • Check all fire extinguisher gauges monthly to make sure they are holding a charge. If the needle is pointing to the recharge zone, have the extinguisher serviced immediately.
  • Schedule professional inspections for all fire extinguishers once a year.
  • Hydrostatically test pressurized water, carbon dioxide, and wet chemical extinguishers every five years. If the canister passes the test, it can be recharged and put back into service. Continue with monthly maintenance and yearly inspections, and conduct hydrostatic testing in another five years.
  • Empty and perform proper maintenance on dry chemical extinguishers every six years.
  • Empty and recharge all rechargeable fire extinguishers every 10 years.
  • Hydrostatically test dry chemical extinguishers every 12 years. If the canister passes the test, it can be recharged and put back into service. Continue with monthly maintenance and yearly inspections, and conduct hydrostatic testing in another 12 years.

When to Replace a Fire Extinguisher

Disposable fire extinguishers can’t be recharged, so you should replace them 12 years after the manufacturing date. The 2007 edition of NFPA 10 also requires dry chemical extinguishers manufactured before October 1984 to be disposed of at the next six-year maintenance period or 12-year hydrostatic test, whichever comes first.

Other than these requirements, your extinguishers should only require replacement if they show signs of damage. Have your extinguishers serviced or replaced if you notice any of these problems:

  • The seal around the extinguisher’s neck has weakened or broken, preventing the canister from holding a charge.
  • The nozzle or hose is cracked, ripped, or clogged.
  • The safety pin is unsealed or missing entirely.
  • The handle is wobbly or broken.
  • The outer shell is damaged.
  • The inspection tag is missing.
  • The extinguisher fails a hydrostatic test.

How to Dispose of a Fire Extinguisher

Many times, the above problems can be repaired, and you can continue using the extinguisher safely for many more years. Other times, it’s best to retire the canister and invest in a new one. The fire protection experts at Kauffman Co. can help you make the right decision.

If you end up needing to dispose of an old or damaged fire extinguisher, here’s how:

  • For a fully or partially charged cylinder, call the fire department and see if they’ll let you drop off the extinguisher. If not, take it to a hazardous waste disposal facility.
  • For an empty cylinder, first press the lever to ensure it’s completely discharged. Then, remove the extinguisher head to make this fact obvious. Call a local recycling facility and inquire about dropping off the empty steel canister.

If you have more questions about maintaining, testing, or replacing old fire extinguishers, please contact Kauffman Co.

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