Just about everyone is familiar with the manually operated fire extinguishers such as CO2 and ABC Powder that you see in offices, but there are also automatic models available on the market for protecting vulnerable areas that are often left unattended. You will see this type of fire extinguisher in machinery rooms or server rooms as well as the engine compartments of vehicles and boats. In fact they are a common addition to engines within the boating community as automatic extinguishers are designed more as a preventative measure than the cure.
They are perfect for small areas where a full gas suppression or sprinkler system may be inappropriate or overly expensive. Automatics are available to buy in two varieties and are available in a range of sizes from 1kg up to 10kg depending upon the manufacturer.
The gas based version uses FE-36 gas and is perfectly safe to use on electrical equipment and fires associated with them. The gas is stored under high pressure and is in liquid form within the cylinder. When activated it is released and at a temperature of -1.4 degrees C (39 degrees F) it turns into a gas which will leave no residue behind. This is why they are perfect on sensitive equipment such computer servers or engines. FE-36 is also safe to use on Class A fires involving materials such as paper and wood as well as Class B for combustibles such as petrol or diesel. The gas floods the enclosed area and starves the fire of oxygen thus extinguishing it completely. FE-36 gas is the replacement for Halon. It is safe for the environment and so is a perfect ‘green’ option.
FE-36 automatic extinguishers come in a range of sizes from companies such as Fireblitz in the UK and are commonly seen in 1kg, 2kg, 4kg and 6kg sizes.
The other type of automatic model available is a powder based one for use on Class A, Class B, Class C and electrical fires. It is popular due to being far less expensive than its FE-36 cousin and ranges in size from 1kg all the way up to 10kg. They work in the exact same way as the gas versions and are used commonly in similar areas such as boat engine compartments or areas where chemicals such as petrol or diesel are stored.
Both units work by being placed in an enclosed space and depending upon the extinguishers size are rated to cover a certain area of space cubed. They are fitted with a temperature bulb that will bust at a preset range such as 79 degrees centigrade and then the extinguishing agent will flood the compartment and tackle the blaze.
An example of their use is on boats where a fire may not be detected quickly enough in an engine room to be dealt with before putting the vessel and its crew at great risk. Remember, at sea there is little chance of the fire service attending your boat fire quickly like they would on land. The automatic unit will set itself off and extinguish the fire before any major damage is done or the fire spreads. They are often used in conjunction with a fire alarm system on ships.
So to finish off, they are the perfect device to be used where people are concerned about unsupervised areas that present a significant risk of fire. Be prepared and install automatic extinguishers in your premises or vehicles so as to buy you that extra peace of mind and time.