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  • E K Fire Protection

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Water, Dry, and Gas Fire Extinguishers

Updated: Jun 13

Close-up of a fire extinguisher in a hallway

Fire extinguishers are the type of items that are often overlooked until they’re needed, even though they save lives and properties. However, there are a few types of fire extinguishers with different properties because fires can vary hugely. Therefore, it’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each type before deciding to buy or hire some.

Water-Fire Extinguishers

Label Colour: Red

Water-Fire Extinguishers contain about 9 litres of ordinary water which is mixed with sodium nitrate to prevent the water from freezing or from rusting the cylinders. This extinguisher is specifically designed for wood, plastic, fabrics, and rubbish.

They’re good because they’re easy to use and control and water is a non-harmful liquid. However, they can only be used once and they aren’t suitable for electrical and mechanical equipment, tools, or vehicles, as the water will create more of a hazard.

Dry-Type Fire Extinguishers

Label Colour: Blue

When the plugger is pressed, CO2 gas is released and rather than pushing water out through the nozzle, dry dust is exerted instead. This dust is mainly sodium bicarbonate, but it also has traces of magnesium compounds and tricalcium carbonate.

Dry-type extinguishers are great because they’re suitable for most materials and can remove class A, B, and C fires. Not only this but the fountain of foam produced can be controlled via a  lever and they’re generally more effective at removing the fire as they’re essentially smotherers.

Yet, as with water-fire extinguishers, they can only be used once. They aren’t suitable for metal fires and the flour can freeze if it’s left in a cold location. The residue can also damage certain materials.

Gas Fire Extinguishers

Label Colour: Black

Rather than using CO2 release mechanisms as water and dry-types do, when the plugger is pressed on gas fire extinguishers, what was once pressurised gas is pushed straight out the nozzle.

The main benefit of this extinguisher type is that the gas is harmless to your health and the materials it’s used on. They’re also the simplest to use as their release mechanism is more straightforward. However, they’re only suitable for C-type fires, they can only be used once, and they’re not as effective against larger fires because they don’t last as long and they require you to stand closer to the hazard.

In reality, there is no one-size-fits-all fire extinguisher. Because of their properties, different types have their individual strengths and weaknesses, but this is deliberate because fires come in all shapes, sizes, intensities, and ‘classes.’ Consider your requirements based on what potential hazards you may face and, if in doubt, get all three as they literally determine life and death.

If you have any further questions about fire extinguishers, or if you’d like to know about E K Fire Protection’s other services like our fire safety risk assessments and emergency light installation, then don’t hesitate to get in touch by calling 01304 210909 today!

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