Experts recommend having at least one fire extinguisher on each floor of your home, but how do you choose? They all look the same to the untrained eye, but there are some important differences.
Checking the fire extinguisher’s label is a good first step, since it contains vital information about what kind of fires the extinguisher will put out and how effective it is against them. An “A” label means it can be used against common combustible materials like wood or cloth; a “B” means it can be used... against fires arising from flammable liquids like gas or grease; “C” means it can be used on electrical fires. An extinguisher can have any combination of the three letters, and they will be accompanied by numbers from one to 60. The higher the number, the more powerful the fire extinguisher on each type of fire. (Lower number ratings are common for household fire extinguishers, however.) For general household use, the safest bet is an ABC extinguisher.
Two other important factors to consider when buying a fire extinguisher are size and whether the unit can be refilled. Buying a bigger fire extinguisher makes sense since it will be able to fight a larger blaze, but you’ll need to make sure you can lift it comfortably and have room to store it. Smaller units may make sense in cars or kitchen cabinets, but remember that they may be depleted quickly. Also, not all fire extinguishers can be refilled, which is typically much cheaper than buying a new unit. Be sure to check before you buy.
Still unsure? Here are six great fire extinguishers to help keep you and your family safe.
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Owners say the Amerex B500 is long-lasting and reliable, and a perfect size for general home use. This is a chemical fire extinguisher that will work on all kinds of fires: trash, wood, and paper; flammable liquids; and electrical blazes. It weighs 10 pounds, has 5 pounds of powder, and has a 2A, 10B-C rating.
The Amerex has all-metal valves and comes with a wall mount and a pressure gauge. Reviewers like that unlike many home fire extinguishers, this one is refillable. They also say that its... 14-second discharge is enough to put out substantial household blazes, but at about 15 inches tall, the canister is still small enough to fit in a cabinet or in other tight storage spaces. The metal handle and trigger also earn a lot of praise for sturdiness and durability compared to cheaper plastic versions. It comes with a six-year warranty.
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The Kidde Pro 210 is very similar to the Amerex B500, but it contains one pound fewer of extinguishing agent. Like the Amerex, it is also a chemical fire extinguisher that can handle all types of blazes, whether they’re conventional, liquid, or electrical fires. It weighs 7 pounds, contains 4 pounds of chemical extinguishing powder, and has a 2A, 10B-C rating.
Like the Amerex, the Kidde Pro is refillable and comes with a wall mount and a pressure gauge. Discharge time is 13 to 15 seconds, and... Kidde reports a range of 10 to 15 feet. It’s about an inch taller than the Amerex but a few inches narrower, so it won’t take up too much space. Reviewers like the sturdy chrome-plated trigger and say the unit feels durable. Those who’ve had to use this extinguisher say it did its job well, but potential buyers should also note that Kidde has been plagued by a significant number of fire-extinguisher recalls in recent years. It comes with a six-year limited warranty.
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Buyers who want to be prepared with a beefier fire extinguisher should look into the Kidde Pro 10MP, which has a larger-capacity canister that holds 10 pounds of chemical fire extinguishing agent. It can handle all major types of fires, weighs 16 pounds, and has a 4A, 60 B-C rating, which indicates that it has enough power to handle larger blazes.
As a high-capacity extinguisher, the Kidde Pro 10MP is more than 21 inches tall and will require more storage space than smaller units. It does come... with a wall mount and a pressure gauge. Discharge time is 19 to 21 seconds, and range is about 20 feet. Reviewers like having the peace of mind that a bigger fire extinguisher provides, and one reports having used is successfully on a substantial brush fire. They also like the rugged metal trigger, but a few report users report issues with receiving dented or partially discharged units.
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Anyone who wants an easy-to-use aerosol fire extinguisher should check out Fire Gone, reviewers say. Sold in a two-pack, the 16-ounce Fire Gone extinguishers look similar to large cans of bug spray. Despite their humble looks, they are still capable of putting out all major kinds of fires, including liquid and electrical fires. However, buyers should note that there is no pressure gauge on these cans, and they have performed poorly in expert tests. Many experts warn against them or recommend... that they only be used as a supplement to normal fire extinguishers, but never as a replacement.
Reviewers love being able to stash a can of Fire Gone in a cabinet or on a counter because it is so small. They also say Fire Gone is less intimidating than a heavy, utilitarian traditional fire extinguisher, and a handful say they’ve used Fire Gone to put out a fire successfully. The manufacturer says Fire Gone has a three-year shelf life and a range of about 10 to 12 feet.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Small enough to stash in even the most compact cars, the First Alert FIAFESA5 Auto Fire Extinguisher is 5 B-C rated to handle small fires common in cars, such as gasoline, oil, grease, or electrical blazes. Note that it is not suitable for trash, wood, or paper fires, however.
Reviewers like how small the First Alert is—one user compares it to the size of a 2-liter bottle at under 11 inches tall, small enough to stash in a trunk, in some larger glove compartments or even under seats. The few... owners who’ve had to use it said it put out small automotive fires quickly and easily. It comes with a pressure gauge and a mount engineered to provide additional stability in a car. Note that like many other auto-specific fire extinguishers, the First Alert is not refillable. It comes with a five-year warranty.
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In some settings, cleaning up messy chemical fire-extinguishing agents can wreak havoc. In those situations, buyers may want to pay more for a clean-agent extinguisher such as the Amerex B386T, which doesn’t leave behind any hard-to-clean residue after use. It can handle gasoline, oil, grease, or electrical blazes but is not for trash, wood, or paper fires. It has a 5 B-C rating, holds 5 pounds of extinguishing agent and weighs about 10 pounds.
Some reviewers insist that the Amerex B386T is worth... the extra cost after seeing the costly, messy aftermath of traditional fire extinguishers. A few specifically like it for engine fires or incidents in rooms with sensitive equipment such as computer labs. It comes with a mounting bracket and pressure gauge, and has all-metal valves. At just over 15 inches tall, it’s small enough for a cabinet or other tight spots. Amerex reports a range of 9 to 15 feet and a discharge time of 9 seconds. It is backed by a five-year warranty.