Do Fire Extinguishers Expire? Here’s How Long They Last

Fire extinguishers: the silent guardians hanging on our walls, ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.

But do fire extinguishers expire, rendering them useless in the face of a blaze? And how long do they last before needing replacement?

This article dives into the world of fire extinguisher maintenance, separating fact from fiction and revealing the truth about their expiration dates and lifespan. So, before you blindly rely on your extinguisher in a crisis, let’s ensure it’s truly ready to control that fire.

Do Fire Extinguishers Expire?

Fire extinguishers do expire and generally have a 10-12 year life expectancy. Fire extinguishers are filled with fire-fighting substances, such as dry chemicals, carbon dioxide, and water, which can lose their charge or leak over time, making the extinguisher ineffective.

Do Fire Extinguishers Have an Expiration Date?

Fire extinguishers do not have an expiration date, but they do have a recommended service life by the manufacturer that is indicated on the label or the cylinder.

The expiration of fire extinguishers depends on various factors, including the type of extinguisher (rechargeable fire extinguisher or disposable extinguisher), the manufacturer’s guidelines, and the extinguishing agent used. 

Here’s a table showing the approximate service life of different types of fire extinguishers:

Type of Fire ExtinguisherApproximate Service LifeNotes
Disposable (Non-Rechargeable)12 yearsCannot be refilled after discharge or reaching expiration date.
Water5 yearsRequires annual inspection and pressure testing.
Wet Chemical5 yearsRequires annual inspection and pressure testing. May require more frequent service depending on usage and refill frequency.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)10 yearsRequires hydrostatic testing every 5 years after the 10th year.
Dry Chemical (Standard)6 yearsRequires annual inspection and service. May require cleaning and refilling after discharge.
Dry Chemical (Potassium Bicarbonate)12 yearsRequires annual inspection and service. May require cleaning and refilling after discharge.
Note: These are approximate guidelines and may vary depending on the manufacturer, usage, and environmental conditions. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for specific service and maintenance information.
Long lasting fire extinguisher

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if a fire extinguisher is expired?

Most fire extinguishers have an expiration date stamped on the cylinder or the label, referred to as the service life. The expiration date is based on the manufacturing date and indicates when the fire extinguisher needs to be replaced or recharged.

However, some fire extinguishers may not have a clear expiration date, but rather a record of maintenance or inspection attached to the tag or recorded in a service document. In those cases, you can use the date of the last service or inspection as a reference point.

Note: If the fire extinguisher is more than 10 years old, it is likely expired and should be replaced or recharged.

How do I know if my fire extinguisher is still good?

You can check the following signs to see if your fire extinguisher is still good:

  • The tamper seal and locking pin are intact.
  • The nozzle is free of rust or obstructions.
  • The pressure gauge is in the green area.
  • The handle is not wobbly or broken.
  • The pressure pin pops back up when pushed.
  • The extinguisher is free of dirt, oil, or grease.
  • The extinguisher has no dents, scratches, or corrosion.

Do out of date fire extinguishers still work?

Out of date fire extinguishers may not work effectively or at all, making them dangerous to use in a real fire emergency. This is because the pressure or the chemical agent inside the extinguisher may have decreased or leaked over time.

As explained in our other guide on this topic, Can I use an expired fire extinguisher?, using an expired fire extinguisher can be dangerous, as it may not be able to put out the fire or may even cause injuries. Therefore, it is recommended to replace or recharge your fire extinguisher before it expires.

How often should fire extinguishers be replaced?

Fire extinguishers should be replaced every 10-12 years, depending on the type and manufacturer of the extinguisher. However, this does not guarantee the effectiveness of the extinguisher, as it may lose its charge or leak before the expiration date.

Fire extinguishers should be checked monthly for any signs of damage, corrosion, or low pressure, and also inspected and serviced annually by a professional fire equipment company. See our related guide on how often should fire extinguishers be inspected and serviced for more details on this topic.

Is it cheaper to recharge a fire extinguisher or buy a new one?

The cost of recharging or buying a new fire extinguisher depends on several factors, such as the type, size, and condition of the extinguisher, the availability of the service, and the local market prices. In general, recharging a fire extinguisher can cost between $20 and $50, while buying a new one can cost between $100 and $200.

However, some fire extinguishers are not rechargeable and must be replaced when they are used or expired. You should compare the costs and benefits of both options before deciding on recharging an expired fire extinguisher or buying a new one.

See our related guide on where to recharge a fire extinguisher to find out where you can refill your extinguisher locally.

How do you deal with an expired fire extinguisher?

If your fire extinguisher has expired, you should dispose of it properly and safely. You should not throw it in the regular trash, as it may contain hazardous materials that are under high pressure. You should also not attempt to empty or puncture the extinguisher, as it may cause injuries or damage. Here are some steps you can take to deal with an expired fire extinguisher:

  • If the fire extinguisher is partially or fully charged, call your local fire department and ask if they accept expired fire extinguishers. If not, take the extinguisher to a hazardous waste disposal facility.
  • If the fire extinguisher is empty, squeeze the lever to ensure that no pressure remains inside. Then, remove the head from the cylinder and recycle the metal parts at a local recycling center.
  • If you are not sure about the status or condition of your fire extinguisher, contact a professional fire equipment company for advice and assistance.

Summing Up Fire Extinguisher Expirations

In conclusion, while the term “expire” isn’t entirely accurate, fire extinguishers do expire based on the service life of the unit per the manufacturer, and require regular maintenance and eventually reach the end of their lifespan.

Understanding how long your specific extinguisher lasts (dependent on type and usage) and following recommended maintenance schedules are crucial to ensure their effectiveness in an emergency. Remember, a properly maintained fire extinguisher can be your first line of defense in a critical situation. So make sure you get it serviced or replaced before the extinguisher expires.