All About Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers

dry powder fire extinguisher nz

Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers

Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers are the most common fire extinguishers in New Zealand.

Often referred to as Dry Powder, Dry Chemical or ABE Fire Extinguishers, they contain a dry chemical powder as the extinguishing agent.

How to Identify A Dry Powder Fire Extinguisherdry powder extinguisher sign nz

Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers are a red cylinder with a white band running all around the top. Older, outdated models were an entire white cylinder. You can often see the words Dry Chemical printed on the front.

Where To Use A Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher

Due to their versatility, dry chemical fire extinguishers can be used in many different settings. They are suited for around the home, in the office, large factories and many other types of businesses.

There are two kinds of dry chemical fire extinguishers on the market.

ABE Fire Extinguishers

As the name suggests, ABE fire extinguishers can be used to fight fires of class A, B, and E.

This covers a wide range of hazards, including fires involving paper, wood, petrol, as well as electrical fires.

Although not included in the rating, ABE fire extinguishers are also capable of extinguishing class C fires – flammable gases.

BE Fire Extinguishers

BE Fire extinguishers, although not as common as ABE can be used to handle fires of classes B and E, which include flammable liquids such as petrol and diesel, as well as electrical fires.

Also, BE extinguishers appear identical to ABE extinguishers at first glance. The only way to tell the difference is by reading the label at the front of the extinguisher.

How Does A Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher Work?how does a dry powder extinguisher work

ABE fire extinguishers are filled with the chemical powder, monoammonium phosphate (MAP), which acts as an extinguishing agent. This chemical spreads easily and melts over the flames to cover the fire in the case of class A and E fires, and thus puts it out.

With class B fires, the powder smothers the base of the fire and blocks the vapour from escaping, which extinguishes the fire immediately.

BE extinguishers contain a different type of dry chemical powder which doesn’t melt over the flames. It cannot be used to put fight class A fires.

Dry Powder Sizes

The most common Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher sizes found in New Zealand are

  • 1.0kg – Home, Caravans, Boats, Cars
  • 1.5kg – Home, Buses, Caravans, Boats, Cars
  • 2.0kg – Home, Buses, Caravans, Boats, Cars
  • 2.5kg – Office, Storefront, Industrial sites, Residential buildings, Vehicles, Home
  • 4.5kg – Shop front, Office, Industrial sites, Residential buildings, Carpark buildings
  • 9.0kg – Construction sites, Trucks, Industrial sites, Residential buildings, Carparks, Cargo ships


Advantages Of Dry Powder Extinguishers4.5kg ABE powder fire extinguisher nz

These extinguishers can be used on a broad range of different types of fire. So, it’s relatively safe even in tricky circumstances such as electrical fires.
These are quite powerful and efficient in extinguishing fire straight away.
A wide range of sizes are available, so you should be able to find a good size for your needs.
These powder fire extinguishers can cover large areas, thus providing more protection.
Dry Powder fire extinguishers are cheap and easy to maintain. Once a year or so, turn your extinguisher upside down and give it a shake to loosen the powder. You should be able to feel it freely moving inside the cylinder.

Disadvantages Of Dry Powder Extinguishers

Cleaning up after use can be a tedious task because of the how fine the powder is.
In confined space visibility can be reduced dramatically while using this extinguisher. Making it hard to see where to point the nozzle or where an escape exit is.
Once the powder has entered the head, all the nitrogen will leak out. So even if you use just a small puff, you will need to get your extinguisher recharged.

How To Use A Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher

Like all other fire extinguishers, you need to remember the PASS-word.

Pull the Pin
Aim at the base of the fire.
Squeeze the handle.
Sweep from side to side.

Fire extinguisher PASS method

See our guide on How to Use a Fire Extinguisher.