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The Best Fire Extinguisher for Basic Preparedness

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When a house fire strikes you need to be prepared. Most people don’t think it will happen to them, but there are over a million reported fires every year in the US with several thousands of deaths. Preparedness can go a long way to help you survive a fire and better protect your property.

The best tool to deal with a fire is a fire extinguisher. There are plenty of brands and types to choose from. This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best fire extinguishers, tested them, and the results are in: the overall best, a vehicle option, and an upgrade option. If you need a fire extinguisher that won’t let you down in an emergency, one of our suggestions will help you beat the heat.

The Best Fire Extinguisher

First Alert Home1 Fire Extinguisher

Simple, Effective, and Trustworthy

The best option for tried-and-true residential fire safety has earned over 25,000 five-star reviews, and we can see why.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Proven, durable, rechargeable- all in a recognizably classic design for less than $20. Put one of these on each floor of your home and in your garage. For your kitchen, you can also find the Kitchen5 Fire Extinguisher (by First Alert as well) which is perfect for small kitchen fires.

First Alert is not the best-of-the-best of the fire extinguisher brands. Just ask any firefighter and they’ll probably recommend Buckeye, Amerex, or Badger… but First Alert is widely available and is a great value. You don’t need to spend $50 on each residential extinguisher unless you are looking to upgrade. This is one major reason why we suggest the First Alert Home1 Fire Extinguisher– it is simply the best value you will find.

Vehicle Fire Extinguisher

First Alert Auto5 Fire Extinguisher

Lightweight, Portable, and Dependable

A little vehicle preparedness can go a long way with this portable extinguisher.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

The First Alert Auto5 will fit in any vehicle and is smart to include in any car kit. The integrated bracket that it comes with makes it easy to install.

This model has been around for a while, so you may be familiar with it already- I first had one in my Jeep over ten years ago. They keep a charge for a long time, are easy to check for a charge, and hold just enough to douse an engine compartment.

Upgrade Fire Extinguisher

Cold Fire Ultimate Fire Protection

Versatile, Compact, and Effective

A big safety upgrade trusted by operators to handle a wide range of situations and environments.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

If you are serious about fire safety, you may want to go for a seriously good fire extinguisher. SWAT teams carry this to put out meth-lab fires and collectors rely on Cold Fire to protect vintage cars, so you can already see some versatility there. The compound is tough enough to put out tire fires but it is non-toxic so you can even put out people that have caught on fire. The only detraction is that Cold Fire is a compressed liquid, so you can’t spray live electrical circuits with it, but it does easily handle any sort of material, liquid, gas, or grease fire.

The Cold Fire Ultimate Fire Protection is meant to be small, portable, and easily used with one hand- so you may need to consider additional extinguishers if you could possibly need more than ten seconds of continuous spray. The Guns and Gear Networks has a pretty good video showing how easy it is to use:

Everything We Recommend

The Fire Extinguishers We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to the several fire extinguisher brands and types that we tested: First Alert, Sentry, Cold Fire, Buckeye, Amerex, Kiddie, Badger, Ansul, and more.

There are a lot of brands that make fire extinguishers these days without significant differences other than capacity, chemical type, and quality. Many of the more expensive commercial models are not necessarily better for home use, even though they have a larger capacity. They are not designed to handle kitchen fires and other residential hazards unless you spend even more, which usually prices them out of contention.

We also steered clear of built-in fire-suppressant systems and fire blankets, even though both of these can be very effective. Our goal was to compare handheld extinguishing devices for this review roundup.

What to Look For

  1. Value
  2. Durability
  3. Suppressant Type
  4. Capacity
  5. Versatility

The best fire extinguishers have several important features to look for.

When you get the right blend of these, you can find a solid fire extinguisher that will give you the best fighting chance when you encounter a fire. Below, we break down what each of these features means for a truly dependable fire extinguisher:

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on fire extinguishers shouldn’t blow out your budget unless you have special circumstances where a fire is much more likely. The difference between different extinguishers is not that big, as long as you have one with proven consistent quality.

On the flip side, you don’t want to go too cheap. Aerosol fire extinguishers can cost less but put out less suppressant than traditional extinguishers. They also usually don’t include a charge indicator, which may leave you with a useless can in an emergency.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially something like fire extinguishers. It’s better to diversify your safety and preparedness gear to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios. There is a sweet spot where you get high value out of the best features with not-to-high of a price, which is where our top pick sits.

Durability

Most of the time, a fire extinguisher is going to just sit there. It’s not handled very often, except when you really need it. When you need it, you really need it to work and your life or significant property, like your home, may depend on it.

This is why durability matters for fire extinguishers- you want the container to be as durable as possible to prevent leaks. This is especially important for extinguishers you keep in your car kits or other kits where they may be exposed to more abuse than the ones you keep ready at home.

Besides the container, the nozzle and gauges also need to be consistently durable to be dependable in an emergency. The material type, construction, and quality of the manufacturer usually impact this the most.

Suppressant Type

There are several types of materials you can find in fire extinguishers. They each have advantages/disadvantages and are described by class.

Extinguisher Type Solids (A) Flammable Liquid (B) Flammable Gases (C) Electrical Equipment Cooking Oils & Fats (F)
Water Yes No No No No
Foam Yes Yes No No Yes
Dry Powder Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Carbon Dioxide No Yes No Yes Yes

Capacity

Fire extinguishers come in a wide range of capacities with various amounts of compressed material within them.

Versatility

Smaller, portable fire extinguishers offer more versatility due to their compact size. Different extinguishing agents also offer versatility, since they can put out different types of fires.

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Using a fire extinguisher in an emergency is as easy as remembering the PASS acronym:

  1. Pull – pull the safety pin out of the handle
  2. Aim – aim the hose or container at the base of the fire
  3. Squeeze – squeeze the handle slowly to control the spray
  4. Sweep – sweep the spray side to side at the base of the fire

Howcast demonstrates this method pretty well:

Who Needs a Fire Extinguisher?

Everyone needs a fire extinguisher in their home. A fire is one of the most frequent threats that occur and is at the top of our TrueRisk analysis (a comprehensive risk analysis we’ve already run for you).

A fire extinguisher isn’t the most versatile piece of equipment, but you will miss it if you do not own one and encounter a fire. It should be on everyone’s move-in checklist and shows up on quite a few of our checklists below.

Fire extinguishers are an essential safety device for this kit:

Fire extinguishers are suggested for these kits:

Smaller fire extinguishers can be considered for these kits:

With how often house fires occur, having at least one in your home is extremely important for your preparedness.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best fire extinguisher is useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical military and prepping experience:

Dalton, T. (2005). Failure analysis of a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher. Journal of Failure Analysis and Prevention. Issue 5. Pages 51-56. (Source).

Lifke, J., Moore, T., & Mather, J. (2000). HANDHELD FIRE EXTINGUISHER DEVELOPMENT.The University of New Mexico. (Source).

Seidelin, R. (1961). The Inhalation of Phosgene in a Fire Extinguisher Accident. Thorax. Volume 16, Issue 1. Pages 91-93. (Source).

The Final Word

Fire extinguishers have been around for a while and now come in several varieties. They have come a long way since they were invented back in 1819, and are easily accessible to everyone.

To go along with your solid fire extinguisher, you should also consider home security upgrades since that is also a high-threat area that is relatively cheap to be prepared for:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found that the First Alert Home1 Fire Extinguisher is the best option given its value, durability, suppressant type, capacity, and versatility. If you take our suggestion and grab one of our fire extinguisher picks- make sure you get used to it by learning how to use and maintain it.

Often, you can find your local fire department giving fire extinguisher training where you can experience actually discharging a fire extinguisher and get tips from the pros. You don’t want to wait until you need it in an emergency before you figure it out since fires can be life or death.

It’s always a good idea to get used to your gear and resources before emergencies.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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