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Out with the old in with the new

Posted: Fri Jun 01, 2018 6:50 pm
by Hardover
Paka'a, our GK29, came complete with no less than three fire extinguishers. The ubiquitous ABC powder variety. Installed in just about every boat and caravan in the UK. They are very effective in controlling most classes of fire joe public is likely to come across. BUT they do have a downside. The extinguisher needs to be shaken on a regular basis to ensure the powder doesnt become compacted. If it does they wont work. If it does work they create one hell of a mess. That powder gets everywhere. In fact British Standards withdrew their approval of ABC fire extinguishers for use in confined spaces way back in 2012. I guess the interior of a yacht pretty much fits that description. The reasons behind their decision was that the copious amount of powder produced when they are deployed affects your breathing and your eyesight and could "hinder your escape and/or rescue". Despite that, they are everywhere. To top it all, the powder can destroy your engine too.
We've replaced those ABC extinguishers with the latest in fire extinguisher technology - the Class E fire extinguisher.
Originally developed to deal with fires arising from commercial deep fat fryers, they can knock down just about every class of fire. They are the first "one fire extinguisher does all" including electrical fires. There biggest plus is that there is absolutely no colateral damage and they reduce smoke damage.
They utilise de-ionised water which forms a very fine mist, dry to the touch. The droplets absorb oxygen and cool at the same time. Eliminating two sides of the "fire triangle". The fire is extinguished with the minimum of fuss and drama.
Is there a downside? Unfortunately yes, but only a small one. They are double skinned which means they are larger than normal fire extinguishers. A 1ltr Class E is equivalent in size to a 2kg ABC. They are more expensive too but worth it!

Re: Out with the old in with the new

Posted: Fri Jun 01, 2018 7:49 pm
by TyroSailor
I've seen some of these (or something of the type) at the Boat Show and did wonder about them. I've never liked the idea of the dry powder ones for the reasons you give above, yet I have four on board - because they're the usual ones, and they're also relatively cheap.

Has anyone used the new ones in anger?

Re: Out with the old in with the new

Posted: Fri Jun 01, 2018 11:19 pm
by Jolly Roger
These fire extinguishers do sound wonderful, but they do require an annual service. Knowing roughly how much this will cost, I doubt if many owners would be prepared for this extra yearly expense and require replacement between 5 and 10 years decided by the service engineer. Balance this with the probability of having to use an extinguisher, which is very slight. Insurance policies would cover any damage from using an extinguisher, so I shall keep with my existing extinguishers until an insurance company says they are no longer acceptable.

Re: Out with the old in with the new

Posted: Sat Jun 02, 2018 10:08 am
by Hardover
Class E's have been around for over 5 years now. They were prohibitively expensive but the price is dropping as they become more widely recognised. The UK distributor is a company called Jewel Saffire. They have several videos on their website showing them in action tackling various classes of fire.
Roger, every fire extinguisher should be serviced/inspected on an annual basis to comply with British Standards and a certificate of compliance issued. The Class E is no exception. Every 5 years the extinguisher should undergo an extended service - discharged/new o rings/refilled and repressurised - and again the appropriate certificate issued. Assuming the extinguisher is still capable of functioning and is not rusted/battered or the instructions illegible, there is no reason to withdraw it from service and in theory it can have an infinite shelf life. Of course the cost of an extended service may be well over the purchase price of a new extinguisher.

Re: Out with the old in with the new

Posted: Sat Jun 02, 2018 10:58 am
by Jolly Roger
The difference between an owner checking his fire extinguishers and paying for a qualified service engineer is considerable. With the Class E, you have to employ an engineer. From my experience with dealing with a number of companies for servicing fire extinguishers, they treat "customers" as cash cows, they just turn up when they feel like to do a service - sometimes months later than they should, have long term contracts that are extremely difficult to break, etc. So trying to arrange for them to call at a boat, or your home if you remove them for service (might be breaking your insurance rules if it became extended), and as to the charges for minor parts - I thought marine items were expensive! Too much of the extinguisher business does not have any competition, so large companies act as a cartel in conjunction with the demands of insurance companies to print money. How do I know? Been caught by this in the past, so I now shy away from annual inspections from fire extinguisher companies. I could go into great detail but it is not appropriate for this forum.

Re: Out with the old in with the new

Posted: Sat Jun 02, 2018 7:52 pm
by Hardover
I am one of those service engineers, its one of several companies my partner and I operate - its how I can afford to sail!
OK. How to service your own fire extinguisher:
1. visual inspection. The extinguisher should be in good shape. No rust, no dents and all the instructions on the extinguisher should be legible. Check the hose. Take it off and bend it in all directions. It must be intact. Any abrasions or cuts then it has to be replaced. Blow through it to make sure it's not blocked. Put it back on with a new O ring (pennies from ebay). Don't over tighten. Take out the pin and check the handle is not rusted up and/or stuck. Don't press it too hard or the extinguisher will discharge! Replace the pin.
2. Weigh the entire extinguisher. It should have a service label showing the weight. If it's within 10% you're good to go.
3. Check the valve. It's not enough that the pointer is in the "safe" zone. A fire extinguisher can loose pressure over 12 months at such a slow rate that the valve doesnt register. If you look closely you'll see a small hole in the plastic covering. You need to blast some air into that hole. (bicyle pump?). The needle should jump and then come to rest in the safe zone. If it doesn't buy a new extinguisher.
4. Put a new anti tamper tag on (again from Ebay). Fill out the service label (Ebay) with the date you checked it, the date it needs to be rechecked (12 months on) and the weight.
5. the extinguisher will have a manufacture date stamped on it. Add 5 years to that and put the date on the service label.
6. When that date is reached buy a new one (Ebay).

The only thing to add is that ABC powder extinguishers must be shaken at least monthly to ensure the contents are not compacted.

Your extinguishers wil not be compliant but at least you'll know they stand a good chance of working if you ever need them.

If you decide that a Class E is of interest then I can supply them at cost to Westerly owners.