How to Buy a Home Fire Extinguisher

A useful and inexpensive part of fire prevention.

Two fire extinguishers in front of a black wall.
No home is complete without a fire extinguisher.Pexels/Marcelo Moreira

Fire extinguishers are more varied and complex than they seem at first. There are all kinds of different alphanumeric ratings and applications for them, which reflect what kind of fire that extinguisher can handle. But for home use, you shouldn’t let those figures confuse you. Here’s how to shop for one.

First Alert Standard Home Fire Extinguisher, Red
This item features a pull pin to prevent it from spewing accidentally. Measuring 4”x15”, it’s small enough to fit inside a cabinet.First Alert

Different types of fire extinguishers include different materials to help put out fires. Those are generally labeled with alphanumeric codes to let you know what that extinguisher can and can’t handle, and you should make sure to check it first. The last thing you’d want to do is feed or spread a fire, which is absolutely possible. Other codes tell you the equivalent amount of water it would take to provide the same amount of fire-fighting power in a fire extinguisher’s chemicals.

Amerex B500, 5lb ABC Dry Chemical Class A B C Fire Extinguisher
This multipack includes a wall-mount, making it perfect for garages. They can also be recharged after use.Amerex

You’ll want to snag a fire extinguisher labeled with the letters “ABC.” Those three letters tell you that the fire extinguisher can handle three types of fire, roughly corresponding to dry products (like wood, paper and cloth), flammable liquids and electrical fires. This is the most standard variety you’ll find, and for good reason: it’s the best for general usage.

First Alert Fire Extinguisher | Tundra Fire Extinguishing Aerosol Spray, Pack of 2
This product may not have a huge tank, but it’s perfect for safety on-the-go in situations like road trips. It’s available in 1- or 2-packs with additional accessories, including a combination smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detector.First Alert

Most consumer-focused fire extinguishers will release a powder, often either monoammonium phosphate or sodium bicarbonate (the latter of which you may recognize as baking soda). Powders are ideal because they can be packed densely into charged canisters but spread over a wide distance quickly. That said, these aren’t materials you particularly want to inhale or touch, so make sure to follow the directions and never use more than necessary.

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