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Originally published August 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 25, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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When and how to replace a fire extinguisher

Q: When we bought our 1922 Seattle house 15 years ago, it came with two wall-mounted Kidde ABC fire extinguishers. We have no knowledge...

Special to The Seattle Times

Q: When we bought our 1922 Seattle house 15 years ago, it came with two wall-mounted Kidde ABC fire extinguishers. We have no knowledge of how old they are, but each has a gauge with a needle that continues to be in the middle of the small green area that indicates that the unit is OK.

Our question: Is there a time limit on when such fire extinguishers should be replaced?

A: J.R. Nerat, technical manager for Kidde, says the shelf life of disposable fire extinguishers is three to 12 years, depending on the model and manufacturer. The fine print on the label will be marked with the rating of the device, in years.

Nerat had me go through an exercise with my own fire extinguisher (of unknown age). With his direction, I found the tank's rating on the label, and then the year of manufacture stamped into the steel on the bottom of the tank. Piece of cake for me, directionally challenged as I am.

To ensure the extinguisher will work when needed, it needs to be within rated age limits; have the recommended charge as indicated on the pressure gauge; and undergo periodic inspection for dents, corrosion and integrity of the safety pin.

Nerat stressed that fire extinguishers (the nonrechargeable type) can be used only once and must immediately be thrown away after even the slightest amount of discharge or "testing."

If you do need a new one, Nerat, who has been in the business for 30 years, suggests buying the largest and best fire extinguisher you can afford.

Nerat's most important fire-extinguisher tip: Take the extinguisher out of the box, mount it so it is accessible, actually read the label and inspect it routinely. Have I done this? No. Mine's still in the box, and the vehicle extinguishers are somewhere under a seat. Don't do that: In a vehicle, it may become lost, inaccessible or an impromptu missile if not secured during even a small accident.

Darrell Hay is a local home inspector and manages several rental properties. Send home-maintenance questions to dhay@seattletimes.com. Sorry, no personal replies.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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