What is the difference? Fire Extinguishers for residential use come in A, B, C and K units.
Truly, if/when a fire happens in your home you need to react QUICKLY and your reaction can prevent a small fire in a kitchen, bedroom or garage from spreading and causing a significant damage to your home. The best way is to simply be prepared and equip your home with several fire extinguishers. Clearly, having it in a key location isn’t enough; you need to make sure that it’s the right type for the type of fire which is most likely to occur in each location. Otherwise, you can easily make things worse.
Understanding the difference between fire extinguishers begins with understanding the different types of fires:
Class A – paper, wood, textiles, rubber and many plastics.
Class B – flammable liquids
Class C – electrical wiring and equipment
Class D – combustible metals (not relevant for residences)
Class K – cooking oils and fat
Most of us know that the classic class A fire extinguisher from its presence in schools and other public buildings. It’s made of stainless steel, holds 2.5 gal. of air-pressurized water, and can be refilled and reused many times. Because water is conductive, though, using a class-A extinguisher to fight an electrical fire could result in electrocution. A class-A unit also is the wrong tool to use for extinguishing a flammable liquid fire; pressurized stream of water it shoots can propel a burning liquid toward a new source of fuel. For those reasons, plus the fact that a filled class-A unit weight about 25lb., these extinguishers typically are not found in homes.
The most common units found in homes are rated for class A, B, and C and weigh between 7-10lbs. Made of aluminum and usually painted red, they contain monoammonium phosphate powder as the extinguishing agent. Their pressurizing agent isn’t air but nitrogen, which carries no moisture and so won’t clog up the powder. While great at suppressing small household fires, ABC extinguishers leave a dusty mess to clean up. If you don’t clean up themes immediately and moisture is present the dust will corrode metal surfaces.
Choosing the right extinguisher for your home
Now that you understanding the class ratings, let’s say you arrive at your local home center or hardware store ready to purchase a class K fire extinguisher for your kitchen and an ABC extinguisher for each floor of your house. To your dismay you can’t find a class K unit and all of the units are ABC units and a confusing jumble of numbers, letters and punctuation marks. The reason you can’t find a class K extinguisher is that these units are designed for restaurants and other commercial kitchens and have slowly been finding their way into residential kitchens. If you have a busy kitchen with access to a deep fryer, you may want to shop online for a class K unit. They look similar to the ABC units yet, are known to dispel a wet-chemical mix. It’s easier to clean and less corrosive to metals.
Note, proper care of the units is important. Single-use units have a limited life span and rechargeable units need to be emptied and refilled and recharged every few years. Be sure everyone in the family is fully aware of the location of these units and follow the manufactures instructions to ensure that if you need to fight a small fire in your home, you’ll have a working tool that is ready.
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