Answer:  They Don’t!

We’ve all heard about the very important annual service which is required by code.  Well isn’t recharging required as part of that service??

Not necessarily.

Save a very few exceptions, nearly all fire extinguishers require internal maintenance or testing only once out of every 5 or 6 years.  Given this, an extinguisher should require just an inexpensive external maintenance in most years, unless it is found to have been damaged or discharged.

Hmmm, you say.  “We have our fire extinguishers serviced each year and I could swear it always involves recharging.”

Here are some possibilities:

  • Your equipment is being vandalized or tampered with: This is a possibility in cases where extinguishers are located in areas that are un-supervised and accessible to public riff-raff or disgruntled employees.  Although, your monthly inspections should be indicating the need for recharge in a case like this.
  • Your equipment is subject to damage: Warehouses with forklift traffic and operations which involve transport of the extinguishers would be examples.  Depending on the damage, recharging may be required in order to restore an extinguisher to working order.  Again however, your monthly inspections should reveal this before the annual service rolls around.
  • Some of your extinguishers require recharging each year, but not all: Now this might be normal if you’ve got dozens of units.  In this case, it would not be unusual for at least a few to be due for internal maintenance or testing in any given year.
  • None of the above. But your service company just makes a practice of recharging all extinguishers each year:  Yikes!!

You may be spending 4 or 5 times more than you need to for service.  It’s time to start asking some questions of your service company or maybe talking to a new one.  A reliable fire extinguisher service company will track the maintenance requirements on your equipment and should be able to tell you in advance how many will require internal service or testing and what the cost will be.

OK, most extinguishers DO NOT require recharging every year.  So when DO they require recharging??

  • Immediately after use. Even if only partially discharged!  A partial discharge will usually disrupt the pressure seal and allow the remaining expellant gas charge to escape.  If so, the extinguisher will be useless until it is properly recharged.
  • If damaged and the repair requires that the extinguisher be discharged and dis-assembled.
  • When it is time for a code or manufacturer-required maintenance procedure which involves internal inspection +/or testing of the container.

How can you tell if you need fire extinguisher recharge?

A thorough monthly inspection will tell you all you need to know.

First thing you should do is to look at the pressure gauge – is it in the “OK” zone or does the gauge indicate a recharge may be required?

Someone may have accidentally discharged it and did not inform anyone, so it may not be capable of  providing the intended protection.

If you’re unsure, call your fire extinguisher service professional.  At Albany Fire Extinguisher, we have been helping Capital Area businesses and homeowners to protect lives and property for three generations and over 65 years.  We’d love to hear from you today!