The significance of having a fire extinguisher cannot be overstated in the world of fire safety. These lifesaving devices are ready to fight flames at a moment’s notice, yet the decision to store them outdoors introduces numerous factors that could compromise their effectiveness. So, can you store fire extinguisher outside?
Storing your fire extinguisher outdoors is doable, but doing so safely to keep them out of the elements, including freezing temperatures, sunlight, rain, and the rest, would be better. If you must store your fire extinguisher outside, ensure the unit is in a cool, dry place.
This guide explores the best place to store fire extinguishers, the effects of storing them outside, and other related topics. Stick around!
What Happens If You Leave a Fire Extinguisher Outside?
If your fire extinguisher is exposed to outside elements, it might lose pressure and develop rust. Here’s what happens when you leave your fire extinguisher outside unprotected:
- Temperature Extremes
Fire extinguishers are sensitive to temperature changes. Extreme temperatures can affect the pressure in the extinguisher, causing the unit to malfunction. The liquid in the canister may freeze in cold temperatures, rendering the device inoperable due to low pressure.
Exposure to excessive moisture can wear down the metal components of a fire extinguisher. If this happens, the extinguisher’s structural integrity will diminish and result in leaks.
- Material Weakening
The UV radiation from sunlight can degrade the fire extinguisher’s materials. Plastics, hoses, and other components may degrade gradually, becoming brittle and vulnerable to cracking.
- Loss of Pressure
Fire extinguishers are pressurized devices, and exposure to heat or direct sunlight can increase internal pressure, resulting in leaks, damaged pressure gauges, and unintended expulsion of the extinguishing agent.
Note: If outdoor storage is necessary, consider using a weather-resistant and UV-stable enclosure to avoid premature degradation.
Can You Store Fire Extinguishers Outside In Freezing Temperatures?
If you have fire extinguishers around your home, you’ll want them to be easily accessible, and you’ll need them to function properly when you need them most. These demand careful planning in terms of location and storage. You can store your device outside in freezing temperatures, but it’s not recommended.
- Fire Extinguisher Storage Temperatures
To guarantee proper functioning, fire extinguishers should be kept between -40 degrees and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping your unit in temperatures below -40 degrees can lead to cracked hoses and valves, and freezing may occur based on the type of fire extinguisher.
The latest water-mist extinguishers, Class K fire extinguishers, Class A extinguishers, and those using FFFP foam will freeze below -40 degrees. The typical fire extinguisher for home use pushes the envelope slightly. It can withstand low storage temperatures as low as -65 degrees. Others faring better in freezing temperatures are those using pressurized water with antifreeze, halon, and carbon dioxide.
On the other hand, high temperatures can damage fire extinguishers. Those units stored at temperatures above 120 degrees will have a limited lifespan. The elastomeric seals will degrade, and discharge times might reduce.
Note: If you must store your fire extinguisher outside, use extinguisher cabinets to protect it from the elements, vandalism, and theft. While not mandatory, cabinets are highly recommended, and I’ll tell you why.
First, these units minimize damage to the extinguisher. Mother nature is not friendly when it comes to ensuring your outdoor fire extinguisher is working as expected. Prolonged sun exposure can fade the inspection and instruction labels on the device.
If an inspector notices a faded label, the extinguisher will be removed from service until the label is replaced. Sunlight can also degrade the plastic cover on the pressure gauge, making it unreadable.
You can easily mitigate these shortcomings by investing in a fire extinguisher cabinet. The benefit of an extinguisher cabinet is it increases visibility during an emergency.
Things can get hectic in an emergency as it can be challenging to access a fire extinguisher that’s randomly mounted. A large cabinet with bright decals makes an extinguisher easier to locate when you need it most.
- Fire Extinguisher Classes
When considering investing in a fire extinguisher, things can get confusing because of the numerous types and classes of extinguishers. Not all extinguishers work on all classes of fire, and when used on fires for which they are not intended, they can worsen the situation.
Understanding the type of extinguisher to use in and around your home is paramount. Here’s a brief explanation:
- Class A Fires: These fires involve combustible solid materials, such as wood, rubber, or paper, that are burning freely.
- Class B Fires: Flammable liquids, including gasoline, petroleum greases, oils, and oil-based paints. Also, flammable gases like propane and hydrogen.
- Class C Fires involve an electrical component, such as wiring, connected to an electrical source.
- Class D Fires: These fires involve burning metals.
- Class K Fires are more common in commercial kitchens. They involve high-temperature cooking oil and grease fires.
Where Is the Best Place to Store a Fire Extinguisher at Home?
Fire extinguishers must be readily accessible. They should be installed with appropriate brackets and placed in an open area where you can quickly grab them. They should be mounted in areas susceptible to fires, like kitchens.
Elevation is also vital for convenient access. Position the base of the extinguisher at least 4 inches off the ground while keeping the top at a maximum height of 5 feet. Here are the strategic locations around your home where you should install your fire extinguisher:
Research shows that fires are more likely to start in the kitchen than in other rooms at home. That’s because of high heat, flammable oils, and electrical appliances constantly in use.
Having a fire extinguisher within easy reach near the kitchen is so important as it will help prevent a minor accident from escalating to a life-threatening disaster.
Your garage stores plenty of essentials, most of which are flammable. Paint thinners, rags, wood, gasoline, and papers can quickly ignite, making the garage a high-risk area for fire occurrences.
Storing a fire extinguisher in the garage can help you to swiftly control and extinguish a fire before it spreads throughout your home.
- Living Room
The living room is often filled with invaluable possessions, including comfy furniture, soft rugs, and a fireplace. While these items are crucial for a comfortable living space, they pose a huge risk because of their flammability.
Sparks from a fireplace can catch onto soft rugs, while faulty wiring in an electronic device can ignite, making a fire extinguisher a valuable investment in the living room.
- Laundry Room
Keeping a fire extinguisher in the laundry room makes sense, as dryers use heat to dry clothes and develop lint accumulation over time. Washer motors may overheat, and electrical outlets can short, causing a fire.
Mounting fire extinguishers near bedrooms can save lives. Bedroom fires are caused by candles, overheating devices, or faulty wiring. Whether the fire starts in the bedroom or elsewhere, it’s good to be prepared to combat the flames when they’re just getting started.
- Near the BBQ
Outdoor cooking is an excellent way to enjoy good weather and delicious meals with family and friends. Unfortunately, flammable oils and open flames make the area near your grill a potential fire hazard. A tiny flare-up can suddenly get out of control, particularly if it contacts nearby items such as dry plants.
- Attic or Basement
Attics and basements are frequently used to store old furniture, seasonal decorations, and, at times, heating equipment. These spaces are often overlooked in terms of fire safety. The danger multiplies when you take into account that old, defective wiring may run through these areas.
How to Protect Fire Extinguishers from the Elements
Fires are unconcerned about the weather and will easily burn regardless. For this reason, you should ensure your fire safety equipment will also function irrespective of the weather. There are measures you can take to sustain the effectiveness of your fire extinguishers in all extremes.
If your extinguishers are mounted outdoors, you’ll want to keep corrosion at bay and keep mischievous hands away. Or, if your home gets cold in the depths of winter, you’ll need to avoid a frozen extinguisher. After all, what help can a fire extinguisher offer if it’s frozen or corroded beyond functionality? None.
Below are various measures you can take to protect your fire extinguisher from the elements:
- Use Weather-Resistant Cabinets: Put your fire extinguishers in weather-resistant cabinets to shield them from rain, snow, sunlight, and blowing dirt. The cabinet should be durable, shatter-proof, and long-lasting so that the elements cannot affect it. You can opt for one with a lock, alarm, or both for extra security.
- Use Extinguisher Covers: Like cabinets, extinguisher covers keep your fire extinguishers safe from UV radiation, moisture, and other elements. Beyond that, covers make it difficult for anyone to tamper with your fire extinguisher easily. This won’t affect accessibility during an emergency.
- Choose Outdoor-Rated Extinguishers: Pick models designed for outdoor use as they come with additional protective features like coatings that repel corrosion and materials that tolerate UV radiation.
- Elevate from Ground Level: Install your fire extinguisher at least 4 inches off the ground to prevent contact with standing water, particularly in flood-prone areas. This mitigates corrosion and leaks and ensures the unit is accessible even during adverse weather.
- Provide Shelter: It’s a good idea to install extinguishers in areas offering natural shelter, like below building eaves or covered walkways. Doing so protects your device from rain, snow, and more.
- Follow Manufacturer Guidelines: Comply with the manufacturer’s recommendations about the storage and maintenance of fire extinguishers. This should keep your device in good working order to help you during a fire outbreak.
How to Clean and Refill a Fire Extinguisher
Whenever you use a fire extinguisher, it should be refilled or recharged before using it again. These devices must also be recharged regularly as part of their regular maintenance routine.
It’s best to have your unit refilled and serviced by a certified fire safety expert. If you decide to do this task independently, follow your owner’s manual guidelines carefully.
Cleaning and Inspecting the Extinguisher
- Empty and depressurize:
Refer to your fire extinguisher’s service manual to learn the procedure for depressurizing it. This usually involves holding the device vertically or upside down and squeezing the discharge handle until the pressure gauge reads “0” and nothing oozes when you wedge the handle.
If you have a dry chemical fire extinguisher, depressurize it by releasing the contents into a discharge bag. You can buy a discharge bag from an architectural supply store.
- Use a solvent-free cleaner:
Use a clean rag and a mild cleanser, like warm water and soap, to wipe the outside of the extinguisher and remove dirt, dust, and grease. After that, dry the device with a clean towel. Never use solvent-based cleaning products, as they can degrade the plastic face on the pressure gauge.
Repair or Replace the Extinguisher If You Notice Any Damage
Check for abrasions, rust, dings, or other obvious damage to the cylinder. Ensure the nameplate or instruction label is clean and legible. Don’t disregard the pressure gauge, ring pin, and discharge valve.
Confirm whether you can effortlessly remove the ring pin and open and close the nozzle shutoff lever. Also, check that no components are missing or replaced with non-factory parts. If any component is damaged, have a fire safety technician evaluate the extinguisher and see whether a repair or replacement would suffice.
- Detach the discharge hose from the operating valve:
Discharge hoses are always connected to the valve with a threaded coupling. If necessary, loosen it with a wrench, then disconnect it and set it aside.
Take this opportunity to examine the hose, couplings, and hose gasket for signs of wear and cracks. Use pressurized air to blow into the nozzle assemblies to ensure it’s not obstructed. Buy replacement parts if you see any problems.
- Remove the valve assembly:
The last step is removing the valve assembly to refill the empty cylinder. Unscrew the operating valve from the top of the cylinder, being careful not to scratch the inner surfaces of the valve as this could cause leaks. Check for signs of corrosion and damage.
Depending on the type of your fire extinguisher, you’ll likely have to pull out the ring pin and disconnect the seal, loosen the ring holding the valve assembly with a wrench, and remove the inner components.
Refilling the Extinguisher
- Get the right type of filler for your device:
Check the nameplate on your device to know the type of filler you should use. Avoid mixing extinguishing agents for your safety and the proper functioning of the fire extinguisher.
- Use a soft cloth to clean the valve assembly:
Unscrew the operating levers, the siphon tube, and the valve stem assembly to disassemble the valve assembly. Wipe all the detached parts using a dry soft-bristle brush. Use a nitrogen duster to blow dust out of the valve. Use this opportunity to examine the inner components for signs of wear.
- Reassemble the valve assembly:
Put back together all the valve assembly’s components, including the down-tube. Set aside the reassembled valve assembly. Use a wrench to tighten the valve stem to prevent the pressurizing gas from leaking after the extinguisher is repressurized.
- Remove the residual chemical agent from the cylinder:
Check inside the cylinder to see whether traces of the extinguishing agent are inside. If any, empty it into a disposal container and put it out of the way so you can dispose of it properly later. The disposal container you need depends on the chemical in the fire extinguisher. Therefore, check the disposal guidelines in the safety data sheet for your specific extinguishing agent.
- Fill the cylinder with the amount of extinguishing agent printed out on the label:
Measure the right amount of extinguishing agent using a precise scale depending on the information specified on the label. You can also use the owner’s manual for reference. Depending on the type of extinguisher, you can insert a funnel into the top of the device and pour the extinguishing agent.
Use a plastic funnel to avoid scratching the opening above the cylinder. Some fire extinguishers require a filling system, which automatically feeds the chemical into the cylinder via a hose.
- Remove chemical residue on the extinguisher:
Use a stiff-bristle brush to wipe down the threads on the cylinder collar. This is where the valve assembly connects to the cinder’s neck. Use a clean cloth to clean the entire cylinder to get rid of dust or other stubborn dirt. Once you’re through, reinstall the discharge valve, but don’t put the hose back.
The last step is to repressurize the cylinder using this procedure:
- Set the device in an upright position.
- As your owner’s manual indicates, connect the extinguisher valve to a pressurizing line.
- Use nitrogen to pressurize the extinguisher to the psi outlined in your manual. Check that it is preset to the correct pressure setting before opening the valve.
- Spray a little detecting fluid to the collar and valve to examine if there’s any leak.
- Attach the hose and the ring pin.
- Weigh the assembled fire extinguisher on a scale and ensure it meets the weight specifications printed on the label. The unit may not be sufficiently filled if the weight is below average.
- Reinstall the fire extinguisher in its regular location.
Keeping your property safe is vital, and having a fire extinguisher is the best way to prepare for an emergency. After all, this innovative device can help snuff out flames before they engulf your home or business.
However, one question that always arises when considering fire extinguishers is…
Can You Store Fire Extinguisher Outside?
Fire extinguishers can be stored outside as long as you protect them from rain, snow, direct sunlight, and other elements. One way to guarantee the safety of outdoor fire extinguishers is to place them in weather-resistant cabinets and UV-resistant covers and install them a few feet off the ground.