Fire extinguishers can save lives. But even for small fires, it is important that you always have a fire extinguisher nearby. With so many of these, we want to help you decide which extinguisher is exactly right for you.

In addition to information, we have also presented the classes in detail. Everything you need to know about fire extinguishers for your home can be found here.

The most important things summarised

  • Fire extinguishers are important in all homes and business premises because they extinguish fires and prevent larger fires
  • Fires are divided into different classes depending on what kind of fire it is. Different extinguishing agents can be used for different types of fires.
  • Depending on where the extinguisher is to be used on a fire, other features such as extinguishing agent, size, extinguishing capacity or technical design may also be appropriate.

How you can compare fire extinguishers with each other

Here are some of the factors you can use to compare and evaluate fire extinguishers. They will help you decide if a particular fire extinguisher is right for you.

In summary, these are

In the following sections, you will learn more about the different buying criteria and how they can influence your purchase decision.

Technical design

When it comes to the technical design of portable fire extinguishers, it is important to distinguish between high-quality rechargeable fire extinguishers and conventional flow-through extinguishers. The main difference lies in the interaction between the extinguishing agent and the propellant.

Fire extinguishers for different purposes
Fire extinguishers are designed for different types of fires. Before you buy one, find out which one is right for you.

In rechargeable fire extinguishers, the extinguishing agent and the propellant are physically separated so that the extinguishing agent is not under constant pressure. Because the isolation area is small, leakage is very rare with rechargeable extinguishers.

With pressure extinguishers, on the other hand, the propellant exerts a constant pressure on the extinguishing agent and the extinguishing agent container. Due to their simpler technical construction, these extinguishers are a cheaper option, but they usually have a shorter service life.

Even minor damage can lead to a loss of pressure and render them unusable. It is therefore advisable to buy a fire extinguisher with a pressure gauge to check the pressure yourself. This way you can see immediately if the bottle is leaking.

Fire protection classes

The different fire protection classes (A, B, C, D and F) have already been described in detail in the previous section of this manual. However, we would like to draw your attention to them again, as they are probably the most important feature in determining the type of fire for which a fire extinguisher is suitable.

If you are looking for a home extinguisher that will protect you from fires in smaller rooms, you should buy a class A extinguisher. So-called universal fire extinguishers are of course even better. Even better, of course, are the so-called universal extinguishers, which are usually suitable for type A, B and C fires.

If you want to keep the damage in your home as low as possible, you should rather use foam extinguishers than powder extinguishers. It is harmless and does not leave a crusty residue on furniture and appliances.

Metal fires (fire class D) are very sensitive and should only be extinguished with extinguishing agents that are suitable for this fire class. If you use the wrong extinguishing agent, the consequences can be fatal.

Fires of cooking oils and fats are also a separate fire class (F) and are extinguished with special extinguishers. These fires do not only occur in large kitchens, but also pose a danger in residential buildings. By using a small fire extinguisher in the kitchen, you can prevent the flames from spreading to other objects near the cooker.

Quantity of extinguishing water

Portable fire extinguishers, like most products on the market, are standardised according to DIN EN3. This means that the extinguishers are marked with a combination of numbers and letters indicating their extinguishing capacity.

The letters simply indicate the fire class, so you know where you can use the extinguisher. The number indicates the maximum size of the fire.

For class A fires, a standardised wood pile 56 cm high and 50 cm deep is used as a scale. The width in decimetres is therefore a numerical code that must be taken into account. This means that, for example, with a rated current of 55 A, the width of a log can be up to 5.5 metres.

With fire protection class B, things are a bit more complicated. It requires that the burning liquid has a circular surface. The higher the number, the larger the surface area can be. For 34B it is 1.1 m2 , for 183B it is 5.75 m2.

The easiest way to understand the extinguishing capacity is the fire protection class F. The number in the classification indicates the fire area. The number in the designation indicates how many litres of burning fat can be extinguished. The extinguishing capacity of grease extinguishers varies from 5F to 75F.

For gas and metal fires (fire classes C and D), this classification is not given. Only the letters are mentioned.

Below you will find an overview of the possible/proven extinguishing capacities of fire classes A and B:

Deletion time

The extinguishing time is the time during which the extinguishing agent is discharged from the fire extinguisher by a continuous spray until it discharges. It depends on the extinguishing agent and the size of the fire extinguisher. Unfortunately, there is no fixed relationship and therefore no exact guide value.

Filling quantity Minimum duration
Up to 3 kg or 3 l Circa 6 seconds
3-6 kg o. 3-6l Circa 9 seconds
6-10 kg o. 6-10l Circa 12 seconds
Over 10 kg o. 10l Circa 15 seconds

However, portable fire extinguishers are not usually designed to extinguish large fires, and the extinguishing time with a continuous stream of liquid is usually between a few seconds and half a minute.

The spray time is not always given, but if it is, you can probably find it in the product description.

Rate

Vaccine doses according to DIN EN3 cannot simply be added up. That is why the so-called “LE” units were introduced. This unit is mainly important in the commercial sector and in principle not relevant for private individuals.

Depending on the space available and the fire hazard, a business should be equipped with the right number of fire extinguishers. If a unit has 4 hp of fire protection class A and 6 hp of fire protection class B, 10 extinguishers are needed if 40 hp of fire protection class A is required.

Filling quantity

The filling capacity of a fire extinguisher refers to the amount of extinguishing agent available and is expressed in kilograms (for powder and CO2 extinguishers) or litres (for foam, water and grease extinguishers).

The extinguishing capacity of a portable fire extinguisher varies from a few 100 millilitres (for small grease extinguishers) to 12 kg or litres. However, they are mainly used in the professional sector and are not suitable for private households.

Weight

In addition to the volume of the cartridge, the weight of the bottle should not be forgotten. Due to the robust construction and the pressure required for safety, about 2-4 kg are added to the weight of the fire extinguisher. The total weight of most fire extinguishers containing 6 kg or litres of extinguishing agent is therefore about 10 kg.

Especially at home, it is a good idea to buy a fire extinguisher that you can pick up and use. There is no point in buying the biggest fire extinguisher because it has more extinguishing power if it is difficult to carry around in case of fire.

There are very small portable fire extinguishers and grease guns especially for the kitchen that weigh less than half a kilogram. A lighter weighing about two kilos is also recommended for the car.

Size

Fire extinguishers with the same capacity have very similar dimensions. The height of a 6 kg fire extinguisher is usually 50-60 cm.

We have already mentioned that there are kitchen and car lighters. They are usually much smaller than conventional fire extinguishers and therefore easier to store. Fire extinguishers that are less than 30 cm high and 10-12 cm deep fit perfectly in almost any suitcase.

Range of use

The area of use of a fire extinguisher depends on the extinguishing agent, its weight and its size. A distinction is made between houses (flats) and offices, shops, kitchens as well as cars, trucks and boats.

Foam extinguishers are particularly useful in homes and offices because, unlike powder extinguishers, they do not leave any additional damage. CO2 fire extinguishers are most commonly used in commercial/professional settings.

The smaller extinguishers are more suitable for cars and boats. They often come with a special handle. In trucks, on the other hand, larger fire extinguishers are logically used; a separate fire protection system is even mandatory above a certain vehicle size.

Protection against ice

Not all fire extinguishers are suitable for use in sub-zero temperatures and should therefore not be stored outdoors. However, many fire extinguishers are now supplemented with antifreeze or even water.

The temperatures for which a fire extinguisher is suitable are usually indicated directly on the extinguisher’s label.

Equipment (pressure gauge/pressure gauge)

On our website, we always state whether the fire extinguisher is equipped with a pressure gauge and whether it has a holder.

The pressure gauge indicates whether there is enough pressure left in the extinguisher. It is usually quite small and is located directly under the bracket. If the pressure gauge is no longer on the green line, you should check the extinguisher as soon as possible and replace it with a new one if necessary.

Many extinguishers also come with a wall bracket. In other cases, the brackets are available at a reasonable price. In addition to travel holders, simple fire extinguisher holders and boxes are also available as the safest storage option.

When buying a holder, it is important that the size of the fire extinguisher fits the size of the holder.

Guide: Questions you should ask before buying a fire extinguisher

Here you will find the answers to the most important questions about fire extinguishers.

How much does a fire extinguisher cost?

Prices can vary greatly depending on the size and type of extinguisher and whether it is a refillable extinguisher or a pressure extinguisher. It is important that you know what you are going to use a fire extinguisher for before you buy it.

Permanent foam fire extinguishers are available from around €40. They are cheaper than reusable extinguishers with the same extinguishing agent (from about €70), but have higher maintenance costs.

Grease fire extinguishers are more expensive because of the special extinguishing agent. You can also use spray extinguishers.

Their price starts at about 18 €, but be careful: due to their durability of 2-3 years and their small filling quantity, grease extinguishers are more suitable for use in the kitchen.

What fire protection classes are there?

Not all fire extinguishers can be used for the same type of fire. For comparison, there are so-called fire protection classes (A, B, C, D and F). A distinction is made between solids, liquids and gases; metals and edible fats are also separate fire classes. Until 1978, there was also category E, which concerned fires in low-voltage electrical installations (up to 1000 volts).

Since these fires can now be extinguished with all extinguishing agents except water, a separate classification is no longer necessary. The other classes are as follows:

Please note that there may be exceptions, for example a grease extinguisher may be suitable for extinguishing a Class A fire. Always use what it says on the extinguisher.

How do I use a fire extinguisher?

The procedure for using a fire extinguisher is the same for most fire extinguishers and is described directly on the label. Basically, you can’t do much wrong.

You should follow the following three steps when using a fire extinguisher:

When using a fire extinguisher, there are a few things to keep in mind so that you don’t put yourself or others in danger. Here are the most important rules for putting out a fire:

Do I have to have a fire extinguisher in my home?

The obligation to use fire extinguishers varies from place to place and from country to country. It also depends on whether you live in a block of flats or a detached house and what type of heating system you have. It is best to check with your chimney sweep or local authority.

The use of fire extinguishers is usually compulsory in commercial buildings and public buildings, but not in private residential buildings. But buying a fire extinguisher that goes beyond the regulations is certainly a good investment for your safety. In residential buildings, it is recommended to use one fire extinguisher per floor.

How often and where should a fire extinguisher be inspected?

To ensure that your fire extinguisher is ready for use in an emergency, it is a legal requirement to have it checked and repaired regularly, i.e. every two years. You can easily find out the exact time by looking at the inspection sticker.

It is extremely important that a professional carries out the inspection. This can be a qualified member of your local fire brigade or a specialist company. The cost of the inspection itself, the inspection sticker and the inspection certificate is usually no more than €10.

How long does a fire extinguisher last?

Depending on whether it is a rechargeable or a fixed fire extinguisher, you can expect it to last 20-25 years. Of course, this requires regular inspection and maintenance.

What types of fire extinguishers are there and which one is best for me?

Fire extinguishers are generally differentiated according to their extinguishing agent. This is the material that extinguishes the flames and usually smothers them. These are the most common fire extinguishers:

We will now describe the advantages and disadvantages of each fire extinguisher in more detail, hopefully making it easier for you to choose the right one for you.

How does a dry chemical extinguisher work, and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Portable fire extinguishers are what we call multi-purpose fire extinguishers. They are popular because they form a protective layer that prevents reignition.

There are different types of powder, so different powders are used for metal fires than for ordinary powder extinguishers. They are generally classified into fire protection classes A, B and C.

Advantages:
  • Frost resistant down to -30°C
  • No backfire
  • Can be used on class A, B and C fires
Disadvantages:
  • Residue sticks strongly to walls and furniture.
  • Irritates mucous membranes (but is harmless, except with powdered charcoal).

One of the biggest disadvantages of these fire extinguishers is the dirt that remains after use. Powder residue can often be found in the welds and grooves years later. This is why powder extinguishers are recommended for outdoor use.

Although it is said that the dust is completely harmless, it can still cause irritation of the mucous membranes. Be sure to read the instructions for use!

How exactly does a foam fire extinguisher work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Foam extinguishers are approved in classes A and B. They are commonly used because they are not dangerous. They are approved because they leave almost no residue. The foam layer forms a barrier on the outside, which makes it much harder to reignite and start a fire.

There are different types of foam, such as organic foam, antifreeze foam and performance foam.

Advantages:
  • Less consequential damage than dust
  • The foam blanket forms a protective layer that makes re-inflammation more difficult
Disadvantages:
  • More expensive
  • Only antifreeze with additives

One of the disadvantages of foam extinguishers is that they are slightly more expensive than powder extinguishers. But if you don’t want to spend a lot of time cleaning up after use, they are definitely worth buying.

Foam extinguishers have become the most popular portable fire extinguishers in the home.

Exactly how does a CO2 fire extinguisher work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

CO2 fire extinguishers use carbon dioxide as the extinguishing agent. As they are the only extinguishing agent that leaves no residue, they are particularly suitable for electrical installations. Outside of electrical installations, only liquid fires are generally allowed! They can also be used for gas fires, but only if this is indicated on the extinguisher.

Since carbon dioxide evaporates quickly outdoors, CO2 extinguishers are intended for use indoors. Due to their weight, these fire extinguishers are mainly used in the professional sector.

Advantages:
  • Frost resistant up to -30°C
  • Suitable for burning electrical appliances
  • No damage due to residues/mixtures
Disadvantages:
  • Danger of suffocation for people and animals in the immediate vicinity of the operation site.
  • Ineffective in terms of re-entry possibilities
  • Expensive

It should also be noted that CO2 extinguishers are ineffective against possible re-entry, as the extinguishing agent does not form a protective layer at the source of the fire.

CO2 extinguishers should not be directed at people because of the risk of suffocation and freezing.

Exactly how does a water fire extinguisher work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Water is also considered a non-marking extinguishing agent and is available in a non-freezing version. Since water extinguishers are only suitable for extinguishing Class A fires, they are used less and less.

Water extinguishers are one of the cheapest options, even if they are recharged. They are also very environmentally friendly and safe.

Advantages:
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Harmless
Disadvantages:
  • Can only be used on solid materials
  • Very dangerous on fires of metals and greases

Be very careful, especially when working with liquids, metals and grease! Water extinguishers should never be used here!

It is not recommended to use water extinguishers as the only extinguishing agent in the house.

How does a grease fire extinguisher work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Grease fires are not uncommon. That is why precautions must be taken, especially in commercial kitchens. However, a grease extinguisher can also prevent serious damage in the home.

Fire extinguishers often come in a smaller version with a capacity of only 100 millilitres, so they can easily be placed in the kitchen.

Most grease fire extinguishers are now also suitable for class A fires.

Advantages:
  • Suitable for use in kitchens and households
  • Often suitable for class A fires
Disadvantages:
  • They usually have a low extinguishing capacity, as they are designed to extinguish small fires.

Burnt fat has a temperature of several hundred degrees Celsius and is very dangerous. Therefore, it should only be extinguished with a suitable extinguishing agent.

What does the label and test sticker say?

On the label you will find the brand and emergency number of the fire extinguisher. You can also read how much the extinguisher is filled with and how to use it. They are almost always illustrated with small pictures so that they are easy to understand in an emergency.

The inspection sticker usually shows the month and year, just like on the car, and the date of the next inspection.

Why should fire extinguishers not be aimed at people?

In principle, this does not apply to all fire extinguishers. However, when using a CO2 extinguisher, there is a risk of suffocation and frostbite, as the carbon dioxide released reaches temperatures below -50°C.

The other extinguishing agents mentioned are harmless when used correctly and can be used to extinguish people. Dry extinguishing agents can cause irritation to mucous membranes, but are not toxic, as is often assumed.

In any case, keep a distance of at least one metre when aiming a fire extinguisher at a person. This also applies to low-voltage fire extinguishers (1000 V). You will find this information on the label of each extinguisher.

Fire extinguisher keep your distance
Be sure to keep your distance when putting out a fire.

Where and how can I keep a fire extinguisher?

Simply where it can be easily and quickly reached from any room, so that you don’t have to search for it in case of a serious problem. In most cases, that’s a hallway. As for the grease extinguisher, it makes more sense to keep it in the kitchen.

Of course, you shouldn’t just leave the extinguisher on the floor. One solution is to install a wall-mounted fire extinguisher. There are special holders for different devices, but there is also a universal holder.

The advantage of this storage option is that the device is always visible and can be removed relatively easily. However, it is not protected against impacts and can fall over in the worst case if someone bumps into it.

That is why fire extinguisher boxes are made of plastic or steel. They are also attached to the wall and allow quick access. The boxes are available for about 30 €.

Simple fire extinguisher stands can also be used in larger rooms. They are light and can be moved at any time. The disadvantage of this version is that anyone standing runs the risk of dropping the fire extinguisher. This can damage the extinguisher.

Sources
  • https://pixabay.com/de/photos/feuerl%c3%b6scher-mauer-feuer-3441291/
  • https://pixabay.com/de/photos/feuer-hot-jobs-2775219/
  • https://pixabay.com/de/photos/feuerl%c3%b6scher-feuer-feuerl%c3%b6schen-712975/

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