There is a global push toward the conservation of our environment which has affected virtually every area of life. Scientists and companies have developed new and innovative products that are safer for the environment, and fire extinguishers have not been left behind.
Fire extinguishers have traditionally contained water or some form of gas. These traditional extinguishers have been improved upon in order to reduce their effect on the environment. Here's a look at how they work.
1. Water Mist Fire Extinguishers
These are also referred to as 'dry' water extinguishers. They have supersonic nozzles that turn water into minute particles which are attracted to the fire. These particles then cool the fire and gradually put it out. The water particles also absorb the heat from the fire, thereby protecting the user of the extinguisher form the effects of this heat.
While traditional extinguishers can only handle fires involving ordinary combustibles (Class A fires), mist extinguishers handle Class A fires as well as fires involving:
- Flammable liquids (Class B fires)
- Combustible gases (Class C fires)
- Electrical equipment (Class E fires)
- Cooking oils and fats (Class F).
The mist is contains de-ionized water which prevents conduction of electricity, and since it doesn't form puddles, there is no further chance of electricity being conducted during or after the fire has been put out.
The supersonic nozzles in the mist fire extinguishers turn water droplets into water molecules. This way, much less water is used to extinguish a fire when compared to traditional water extinguishers or water sprinklers. As using less water is one of the ways to conserve the environment, mist extinguishers are good for the environment.
2. Gaseous Fire Extinguishers
These extinguishers are preferred in airplanes, computer rooms, data centres and other areas where water or dry-chemical extinguishers would cause damage. They also have an added advantage of leaving no residue, which makes for a quick and easy post-fire cleanup process.
Carbon dioxide and Halon were commonly used gases in these extinguishers but studies found that they had damaging effects to the ozone layer. In order to improve on this, there are two types of gaseous extinguishers that have been developed: those containing inert gases and those containing synthetic gases.
Extinguishers with inert gases include nitrogen, carbon dioxide, argon, or a combination of these gases. These gases are considered safe for the ozone layer and safe for the environment.
Synthetic gases are regarded as safer than chlorofluorocarbons, but they can still cause some damage to the ozone layer. They are also referred to as synthetic green house gases, and they are used in small amounts that are effective in suffocating various kinds of fires.