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What’s the Difference Between Commercial Grade and Store-Bought Fire Extinguishers?

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What’s the Difference Between Commercial Grade and Store-Bought Fire Extinguishers?

Sep 10, 2020 3:26:00 PM / by CertaSite Editor

tmp20029_2155Properly working fire extinguishers are crucial to the safety of your business, employees and customers. When it comes to choosing the right fire extinguishers for your facilities, it’s important to understand the vast differences in equipment and what is needed for proper fire protection at your workplace.

But all fire extinguishers are the same, right?  Not so. 

While managing a business often requires an owner or property manager to look for resourceful ways to save money, cutting costs on your fire protection equipment and extinguishers shouldn’t be one of them. If you’re considering buying your facility’s fire extinguishers at a local hardware or big box store instead of working with a trusted life safety partner, it’s crucial that you understand that not all equipment is the same 

The fire extinguishers that are sold through these retailers don’t offer the same quality and dependability that you can count on from commercial grade fire extinguishers to protect lives and assets properly. Our life safety experts don’t recommend that businesses use the same fire extinguishers that are designed for home use.  

Why do I need commercial grade fire extinguishers for my operations? And why do I need to partner with a life safety expert like CertaSite? 

Great questions, we’re glad you asked. Here’s why: 

  1. Business and Residential Fire Protection Needs Are Vastly Different 
    While fire extinguishers may look similar, they are indeed different. Fire extinguishers from your local hardware or big box store may be sufficient for homeowners, but businesses and commercial facilities require different types of equipment for their unique environments and operations.

    Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D and Class K – do you know their distinct differences and specific uses? For example, Class A fire extinguishers are used for ordinary combustibles like wood, paper, cloth and some plastics while Class K extinguishers can effectively douse fires caused by cooking grease and oils and are therefore mostly used in restaurant applications. The various classes are categorized by the type of chemical that’s used to extinguish the fire and certainly one size does not fit all 

  2. Store-Bought Fire Extinguishers Don't Have the Same Quality and Durability as Commercial Grade
    Comparing the quality and durability of store-bought and commercial grade fire extinguishers available through a life safety partner is like comparing apples to oranges. The key advantages to purchasing commercial grade extinguishers are in the components of the device itself. For example, the gauges and paint repel UV rays on commercial grade equipment, and their carry and discharge handles offer superior designs and are more heavy duty. Store-bought extinguishers also come with chintzy brackets whereas commercial grade brackets are built to last.

    Further, lower quality fire extinguishers don’t offer the same flow rate as a commercial grade offeringCertain fire extinguishers use a number rating to indicate how large of a blaze they can effectively fight, e.g. a 2A extinguisher will put out a smaller fire while a 3A has the power to put out a larger fire. While the suppressant powder may be the same between store-bought and commercial grade fire extinguishers, the distribution of this powder – which is what determines how large of a fire the extinguisher can put out – is not.

    You always make sure you have the right tools for any other kind of job and your fire extinguishers should be no different. Don’t risk fighting a fruitless battle by installing lower quality, ineffective fire extinguishers in your facilities. CertaSite’s life safety professionals will work with you to make sure you’re well-equipped to eliminate or minimize damage and downtime should an emergency strike.  

  3. Your Business Must Be Compliant with Local and National Laws and Codes
    Commercial properties are required to stay compliant with local and national fire regulations to avoid costly citations and possible closures. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) publishes more than 300 codes and standards - and that’s not even counting local and insurance regulations - but be aware, these are just minimum standards. Your local AHJ has the authority to make these codes more stringent, and they very often do.

    Your local AHJ has the authority to classify specific commercial building and will communicate the exact type of extinguishing agent(s) that are needed, many of which are not available in big box stores. It is exceedingly rare for an AHJ to approve a store-bought extinguisher for commercial use. Don’t be caught replacing multiple extinguishers that were recently purchased at a big box store, which results in lost time, money and efficiency for your operations. It’s a story we hear all too often.   

  4. You Need Professional Installation of Your Fire Extinguishers
    The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has exact codes and standards defined for fire and life safety. NFPA 10 specifically speaks to standards for portable fire extinguishers. Among those standards are ensuring that your fire extinguishers are properly installed exactly where they need to be in case of an emergency. It’s best practice to work with a life safety partner who is familiar with the intricacies of these codes and standards. Otherwise, you’ll be second guessing and left vulnerable to citations or worse - not having your fire extinguishers optimally placed when you need to reach for them quickly. 
CertaSite appreciates that you need to be mindful of your budgets, but compromising your life safety equipment is not a prudent way to go about that. Purchasing and installing lower grade fire extinguishers may save you money in the short term, but in the long term it could prove to be a very unwise investment. We want to help you avoid that while also positioning you to remain within compliance within local and national regulations. If it’s saving money you’re concerned about, talk to us about how we can help with budget planning. We work with our customers to help them properly plan and budget for life safety so they’re never in the red because of large, unexpected expenses. And though we can certainly help with your fire extinguishers, we offer so much more. 

Let CertaSite comprehensively manage your life safety program so you don’t have to. Simply fill out the form below or call us at 844-906-2321 to start the conversation. 
CertaSite Editor

Written by CertaSite Editor

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