Keeping a fire extinguisher at home can save lives and prevent a small fire from spreading into a large one. There are different sizes and different types of fire extinguisher, so it’s important to know exactly what kind you need and how many of what size in order to best protect your home.

Fire Extinguisher Classifications

Home fire extinguishers come in three different types – A, B, or C. Each type is effective against different types of fires. In addition to the letter, there’s also a number classification. The higher the number, the more effective that particular fire extinguisher is against that type of fire. Fire extinguishers can be effective against more than one type of fire. It’s important to check the numerical rating next to each number to see how effective it is for each type of fire.

The C classification doesn’t have a number rating to go with it. A C label on a fire extinguisher indicates that it isn’t conducive to electricity.

A

Fire extinguishers that are labeled A are designed for fires caused by normal burnable items such as wood or paper.

B

Fire extinguishers labeled B are effective against fires caused by liquids. These include cooking oil or gas.

C

Fire extinguishers with a C label are meant for use against fires caused by live electricity. The chemicals inside the fire extinguisher will not conduct electricity. This allows them to suppress the fire instead of spreading it.

D

Class D fire extinguishers are for use on combustible metals. These include sodium, magnesium, titanium, and more.

K

Class K fire extinguishers are for use in the kitchen on fires caused by grease and other cooking materials. These are more commonly used in larger, commercial kitchens, however.

Five different classifications of fire extinguishers

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Fire Extinguisher Sizes

There are four standard sizes of fire extinguisher for the home: stove-top, 2-pound, 5-pound, and 10-pound. Each size is best suited to a different part of the house.

Stove-Top

Stove-top sizes can be mounted over the stove, although they should not be used with deep fryers – the can cause the fire to spread by splattering grease.

2-Pound

2-Pound models are small and more portable and so are suited for use in your car. Some come with hardware so you can mount it to stop it from moving around as the car moves.

5-Pound

This is the best size for within the house, such as in the kitchen or laundry room.

10-Pound

The largest of the standard sizes, the 10-pound fire extinguisher is best used in a location such as a garage, basement, or a storage area, where a fire may not be noticed as quickly. The larger size can compensate for how big a fire might grow before it’s noticed in the lesser-used areas of the house.

Different fire extinguisher sizes

Why Should I Have a Fire Extinguisher at Home?

Having a fire extinguisher in your home can be an essential part of home safety, just like having a smoke detector. Provided you know how to use the fire extinguisher, you can prevent a fire from spreading or causing more damage than it already has.

Preserving your home and property is important, but not as important as the lives of the people (and any pets) that live there. Before you attempt to douse a fire with a fire extinguisher, first make sure that the fire department has been called and that all people (and pets) are out of the house. Also, make sure that you always have an escape route so that you can leave the house safely should your attempt to put out the fire be unsuccessful.

Where Should I Keep a Fire Extinguisher?

It’s recommended to have several fire extinguishers kept in your house, at least one on each floor. It’s best to keep them where they will be within easy reach in the event of a fire. It’s most important to have fire extinguishers in areas that are more prone to fire, such as the kitchen or laundry room.

Kitchen

You’ll need a class B or K (depending on your cooking habits) to put out a fire caused by grease or cooking oil. It’s recommended that the fire extinguisher is stored at least 30 feet away from the stove. If it’s kept too close to the stove, you won’t be able to reach it through the fire in order to put the flames out.

Many people keep their fire extinguisher by the kitchen door, or even in a separate room in homes that have small kitchens.

Garage

The garage is filled with many different kinds of flammable materials, including paint, gasoline, and even some tools. This is also a location where a fire may not be noticed for some time, so a larger fire extinguisher may be necessary. The safest location to store the fire extinguisher is near the door so it’s within easy reach from inside the house.

Laundry Room

Because of lint traps and exhaust tubes on the dryer, laundry rooms are also a common source of fires. You can prevent fires here by making sure to clean the lint trap every time you do laundry and by clearing out the exhaust tubes at least once every six months. It’s still best to keep a fire extinguisher nearby as well.

Bedroom

It’s recommended to have a fire extinguisher in each bedroom. Most home fires occur at night and having a fire extinguisher handy to where you were sleeping can prevent the fire’s spread as well as save lives. A centrally-located fire extinguisher wouldn’t be easy to reach from the bedroom, especially if the fire were in or near the bedroom.

Outside

If you have a grill or a fire pit in your back yard or on a patio, keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Both are potential fire hazards, so keeping a fire extinguisher near the back door or in another spot that’s easy to reach.

Car

A small, 2-pound fire extinguisher can be mounted in the trunk of the car.

How Many Fire Extinguishers Should I Have?

You should have, at minimum, one fire extinguisher per floor. If you do have only one, it should be in a centrally located area, mounted off the ground and in an easy-to-see place so that in the event of a fire, no one wastes time searching for it.

However, it’s recommended that you have a fire extinguisher handy for any location that’s a potential fire hazard. This includes near chimneys, fireplaces, a furnace, the stove, the dryer, or other potentially risky areas.

Fire Extinguishers per Square Foot

Fire departments recommend that there are fire extinguishers with a rating of at least 13A total for every approximately 2,000 square feet. Since home fire extinguishers tend to be smaller, this means more fire extinguishers per square foot than in a commercial establishment.

How many fire extinguishers you need per room varies based on the layout of your house and how many rooms you have. It’s important to cover all of the areas where a fire is most likely to start as well as all bedrooms.

Different fire extinguisher sizes

How Do I Use a Fire Extinguisher?

When you purchase a fire extinguisher, first read the manual that comes with it so you understand how to properly use it. Most fire extinguishers will also come labeled with instructions for easy use during a fire.

Waiting until there’s a fire to use a fire extinguisher for the first time isn’t a good idea. You may want to practice using a fire extinguisher so you’re prepared for how it feels and sounds when you use it.

To use a fire extinguisher, pull out the pin and then aim it at the fire’s base, not at the flames. Sweep the nozzle or hose from side to side until the fire is out. Carefully watch the area to make sure that it doesn’t reignite.

How Do I Know What Type of Fire Extinguisher to Use?

Fire extinguishers that you keep in your home should be multipurpose. Homes are at risk for multiple types of fires, so unless you know that a certain area should only have one type of fire, then it’s not a good idea to have several different classes of fire extinguishers. In an emergency, it’s better to have one that can be used for everything so that you don’t have to waste time trying to figure out which one to use.

How Often Do I Need to Replace a Fire Extinguisher?

Most fire extinguishers can last up to 15 years before needing to be replaced. It’s important to check the pressure gauge regularly. If the gauge is in the green, then the pressure on the fire extinguisher is still good.

If you have recently used your fire extinguisher, then you may need to get it refilled or have it replaced.

How Should I Store a Fire Extinguisher?

Fire extinguishers should be stored in an easily visible and easily accessible location. Fire extinguishers are designed to work from a wide temperature range (-60 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit), so the primary consideration is where the fire extinguishers will be the most useful in an emergency.

Where Can I Buy a Fire Extinguisher?

Fire extinguishers can be purchased at most home improvement stores, such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, but other big box stores such as Walmart carry them, too. You can also purchase a variety of fire extinguishers online at online retailers such as Amazon.