If you store a fire extinguisher in a garage, basement, shed or outdoors, you might wonder if the cold from these uninsulated areas would damage the fire safety device. It depends on the type of fire extinguisher, but a typical ABC fire extinguisher has an operating temperatures of -65 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Since temperatures are more likely to approach 120 degrees Fahrenheit (for instance, a fire extinguisher in a car on a hot day could easily reach a temperature of 120 degrees), the extinguisher is more likely to get too hot to operate than too cold. In the United States, only Alaska and Montana have ever recorded temperatures as low as -65 degrees Fahrenheit, and these instances were record-breaking extremes, recorded decades ago. However, there are other hazards of the outdoors, making storing fire extinguishers outdoors unsuitable.
Types of Canisters
There are several different types of fire extinguishers, each made for different types of fires. Extinguishers made with water—water mist and pressurized water canisters—will freeze when stored at temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, as you might imagine. So will AFFF foam, FFFP foam and Class K extinguishers. Other fire extinguishers are more resistant to freezing temperatures, including the the widely used ABC extinguisher, which uses dry chemicals to put out electrical fires, oil fires and class A fires like wood, paper and textile fires. Fire extinguishers of pressurized water with antifreeze, halotron, halon, CO2, class D and other dry chemical fire extinguishers are all resistant to temperatures as cold as -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Storing Your Canister
The National Fire Protection Association recommends that you have a fire extinguisher on each floor of your house. Bigger canisters are better for locations that won't be trafficked often, like a garage, while a five-pound canister is suitable for a kitchen or laundry room.
Checking Your Canister For Damage
Even in normal temperatures, storing your fire extinguisher outdoors and subjecting it to precipitation and humidity can cause rust and corrosion that may result in the canister losing pressure, rendering it unusable. If your canister is dented, rusted or has a beat handle, it may be ineffective at releasing whatever substance is inside. Check the pressure gauge; if the needle is not in the green zone, you need to replace your canister. Also examine the can for signs of corrosion or a clogged nozzle. And remember, if you have used the canister, even if it's not empty, it needs to be replaced.
- Amerex-Fire: ABC Multi-Purpose Stored Pressure Dry Chemical Extinguishers
- National Centers For Environmental Information: State Climate Extremes Committee
- WJLA: Advice From Fire Marshals in the Wake of Massive Fire Extinguisher Recall
- Marsden Fire Safety: Fire Extinguishers
- Nafed.org: Winterize
- This Old House: How To Choose And Use Fire Extinguishers
Jaime is a writer living in New York City.