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How To Choose a Fire Extinguisher for Home (Type, Size) and How To Use It

Posted by Wayne Bennett on

Rechargeable or Disposable?

A rechargeable extinguisher will cost more initially, but they can be used and refilled over and over again. They will last a lifetime.

Watch this Fire Extinguisher Workshop

Do fire extinguishers expire? Fire extinguishers of any kind (dry chemical, wet chemical, etc.), don’t typically expire. They may occasionally need recharging over time, especially after you discharge them. Just keep an eye on the gauge by checking it once a month. If the yellow needles moves into the red, get it serviced.

Type of Fire Extinguisher

Fire extinguishers are labeled with A, B, or C (or combination). This tells you the types of fires the extinguisher can extinguish.

A – ordinary combustibles. Paper, wood, cloth, basically all non-metals. That is anything that burns and leaves an ash (A for Ash).

B– flammable liquids. Gasoline, oil, grease. Of course they come in barrels (B for Barrel).

C– electrical fires. Anything that is plugged in. And electricity carries a  electrical charge (C for Charge)

Look for these 3 Letters A B C when purchasing your home extinguisher.

In the fine label print, you may find these letters are preceded by numbers(eg.  3-A:40-B:C). The number is the extinguisher’s classification rating. The higher the number, the greater the extinguisher’s effectiveness against each type of fire.


In most cases, bigger is better, but sometimes the largest extinguishers are too heavy to maneuver.

Here’s my recommendation, choose a 5-10 lb. extinguisher for your garage or home workshop, especially if you have flammables, electrical equipment, etc.

A 2.5 lb. for your kitchen or laundry room.

And if you also want to get a fire extinguisher for your car, get a 2.5 lb. or 5 lb. with mounting hardware to keep it from rolling around in the trunk.

Where to put your fire extinguishers

Definitely in the kitchen and the garage. If you live in a two story residence, place one upstairs (also consider buying a 2 story escape ladder) Locate your fire extinguishers in an easy-to-grab spot, so you can quickly put out a small fire before the firefighters arrive, or at least suppress the flames while you escape.

You can also print this letter size poster on how to use fire extinguisher and post it beside your extinguisher.

Where to put your fire extinguishers

First call 9-1-1 and get the fire engine on the way, then grab your extinguisher and check the gauge to make sure the needle is in the green. This tells us that the extinguisher is charged with nitrogen, an inert gas that will blow the powder out of the extinguisher and onto your fire.  You’re now ready to GO!

Next, refer to that acronym P A S S 

Pull the pin

Aim at the base of the fire

Squeeze the handle and

Sweep side to side, just enough to cover the items burning.

Of course, don’t start discharging the extinguisher until you are 8 to 10 feet away. This is about the time you should start to feel the heat. And never start discharging any closer than 5 feet to the burning product or you will blow fire right back on top of yourself.

With a 5 lb. extinguisher, one you would typically see at your work, will discharge powder for about 20 seconds. Which may not seem like a long time, but in firefighting time, that is very long time. Most small fires should extinguish in 2-5 seconds.

Kitchen Fire

Since most fires at home start in the kitchen, here are some simple tips for kitchen stove fires. First turn off the flame to the stove, second grab the lid to the pan, hold it directly in front of you (using it as a shield) and simply place it on top of the pan, this will immediately extinguish the fire.

Fire Caution:

  • Never use water on grease fires (steam explosion)
  • Never use flour (dust explosion)
  • Never use a dish towel (it will only add fuel to the fire if you don’t cover the pan completely)

Family Emergency & Disaster Preparedness Calculator

Once you have the right fire extinguisher for your home and you know how to use it, take the next step in preparedness for your family. Go to our Family Calculator and simply enter the number of people in your home. It will generate a report with the items you need (in priority order) and quantities. The list covers first aid, fire, utilities, water, food, shelter, sanitation, car, and pets.

I’ve designed this tool to be quick and simple so that you can take action immediately. Give it a try, it’s free and if you find it useful, please share it with your friends.

Let’s make this year a year to get prepared.


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