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Can a CO2 tank be used as a fire extinguisher?

Discussion in '80-Series Tech' started by Beowulf, Sep 26, 2003.

  1. Beowulf

    Beowulf

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    Several of us have CO2 tanks we use for compressed air. CO2 fire extinguishers are fairly common, but expensive. Assuming you could rig up a hose and a nozzle/horn, could the Power Tank be used as a fire extinguisher?

    What I am envisioning is:
    Fire extinguisher hose & nozzle/horn attached directly to the tank valve (no regulator.) Tank would be held upside down and tank valve opened to spray liquid CO2 on the fire.

    To use as an air tank, just remove the fire extinguisher hose and attach the regulator. It would normally be stored in the fire extinguisher setup for quick emergency access.

    Anyone out there that knows CO2 fire extinguishers?
    Has anyone done this or decided it can't be done?

    Here's a pic of a horn/hose/nozzle assembly:

    [​IMG]

    -B-
     
  2. fj40crusher

    fj40crusher

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    Not sure, but I am liking the idea :beer:
     
  3. alia176

    alia176

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    I've seen people use propane bottles for this somehow. I don't know the safety factor and all that for these vessels. FYI.
     
  4. cruiserdan

    cruiserdan SupportingVendor Emeritus Moderator

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    Now THAT is an oxymoron. Propane bottle fire extinguisher. :rolleyes:
     
  5. Pskhaat

    Pskhaat

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    [quote author=alia176 link=board=2;threadid=5703;start=msg45270#msg45270 date=1064612418]
    I've seen people use propane bottles for this somehow
    [/quote]

    Isn't the standard propane tank only good to like 110-150 psi?
     
  6. Scamper

    Scamper

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    Hmmmm...would not recommend using a propane bottle as a fire extinguisher. Think about it... :-[

    However, using a tank of compressed CO2 vs using a CO2 fire extinguisher is not quite the same thing. If you've ever used (or even seen) the fire extinguisher version, you'd have noticed that cloud of white "smoke" coming out of the extinguisher. That's becuase the extinguisher uses a siphon tube that pulls the liquid CO2 from the bottom of the tank, and releases it in a denser form which should blanket the fire and put it out. It's like shooting very fine dry ice on the fire. (tanks of CO2 contain liquid CO2, not compressed gas like a tank of air...the tank maintains a 625 psi pressure as the CO2 boils off when bled--much like a tank of propane behaves).

    Contrary to this, the typical CO2 tank has no siphon, so would just push out CO2 gas which is far less efficient at putting out fires, though given enough of it, you can extinuish a fire. What you'd want to do here is to invert the tank so that the liquid CO2 is pushed out, in essence, making it similar to the extinuisher version.

    There is one catch: when you push liquid CO2 out thru the valve (or any large volume of compressed gas for that matter), it gets mighty cold, and so you can actually freeze up the valve, resulting in no flow, and maybe growing fire as a result... I don't know if the extinguisher tanks have some means of avoiding this, but it's something to beware of.

    Tom
     
  7. CruisinGA

    CruisinGA

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    Thats why B stated that he would hold the powertank upside down when spraying, that would in effect accomplish the same goal as a siphon that CO2 fire extinguishers have. It's like the old school extinguishers that you had to hold upside down. I really see no reason why it wouldn't work, provided the valve didn't freeze (although I don't see that happening, exept maybe freezing in the open position.)
     
  8. DanKunz

    DanKunz SILVER Star

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    With no regulator and a hose attached I would INSIST on iy being upside down...

    I see some issues with gasses rapidly expanding in the airspace in the tank with no regulation...


    --------------------------------------------------(==)

    weeeeeeee
     
  9. Trunk Monkey

    Trunk Monkey Moderator

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    I can't really contribute to the mechanics of CO2 extinguishers, but I can tell you that a full CO2 tank, laying on it's side, when it pops it's relief valve, puts out about a two foot cloud of FREEZING cold vapor. It's pretty exciting too :p
     
  10. PHAEDRUS

    PHAEDRUS

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    My tow cents would be how do you plan on starting the flow of co2 from the extinguisher? the standard valve will be difficult to turn on and even harder to trun off as it will frost up like mad. also how are you planning to attach the bell to the tank here I have a little info to help oyou on your way.
    you would need the following.
    c02 inlet (wes c02-6)
    co2 nut (wes c02-5_
    a few spare teflon washers (wes cs-6_
    the good washers will have prongs out on their sides so they do not fall out of the nut when you take the nozzle off the bottle. hope my memory is ok on the part numbers its been a few years since I sold that stuff but that should get you to a 1/4 " npt male nipple coming off of the bottle. the parts listed shoud be found at any good welding supply house and the wes refers to western regulator equipment.
    enough of that in my opinion it is easiet to have a 10# dry chem in the back of the truck.
    Dave
     
  11. Beowulf

    Beowulf

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    AvEd,

    Do you know if they sell something like a fire extinguisher handle that you would squeeze to release the C02? It would look like a big version of a standard compressed air nozzle. If they did then I could put that upstream of the above hose+horn (bell?) assembly. That would avoid some of the issues with turning the valve off.

    FYI, I *do* have a dry chem bottle and that would be the first line of defense; especially if it was someone else's truck on fire. ;) I have heard the dry chem creates quite a mess and that CO2 is better because the CO2 crystals evaporate very quickly.

    The idea came up after I copied the CO2 tank bracket posted by Chris Geiger a few months ago. Mine is similar to his but I designed it long enough to put two Power Tank brackets back-to-back mounted vertically, or one tank horizontal. I planned to carry a spare CO2 tank or a 10# fire extinguisher. Then I thought, "why not a dual purpose unit?" That's when I started thinking...

    -B-
     
  12. Outback

    Outback

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    With all my research into CO[sub]2[/sub] systems in the last few years I have often considered their use as fire extinguishers.

    Several of you have already covered the pros and cons of using an Outback Air :D CO[sub]2[/sub] system as a fire extinguisher -- and I agree, so I'll only add what has not been discussed yet.

    Not sure who said this, but you are correct in saying that gaseous CO[sub]2[/sub] is not very efficient at putting out fires and the liquid form does better. BUT, gaseous CO[sub]2[/sub] will displace oxygen and smother the flames if you can put enough of it on the fire. Now, that said, we're talking about small fires here. If your whole engine compartment is aflame, you ain't gonna do much with a CO[sub]2[/sub] tank and the air nozzle you use to re-seat tire beads! I also agree with whoever said you SHOULDN'T turn the tank upside down to use it. If you run it wide open to be effective the valve will freeze up within seconds. The siphon tube and valve of a fire extinguisher is sized to not let too much out at one time and freeze up.

    My suggestion for a fire extinguisher application using an Outback Air CO[sub]2[/sub] system would be this: Make up a dedicated fire extinguisher "stub hose". This would be a 2 foot piece of polyurethane coated shop hose with a quick connector on one end and a "valve" (for lack of a better term) with a "cone" attached if you want. This valve should be non-restrictive and insulated from the cold so you can hold it longer. You can keep this hose attaached to the regulator and quickly detach it when you want to air up your tires.

    USING AN Outback Air CO[sub]2[/sub] SYSTEM AS A FIRE EXTINGUISHER SHOULD ONLY BE CONSIDERED A "SUPPLEMENTAL" FIRE EXTINGUISHING DEVICE. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CARRY AN APPROVED FIRE EXTINGUISHER IN YOUR RIG AND USE IT FIRST.

    I have considered developing and testing this kind of fire extinguisher "stub hose" but have not had time recently. Since there is interest, I'll put a bit higher priority on it and let everyone know what I come up with. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

    Jody.
     
  13. Beowulf

    Beowulf

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    Jody,
    Just to clarify, you're suggesting the best approach is to use the CO2 gas (not liquid), in as high of volume as possible, to extinguish a fire?

    What happens if the tank *is* used upside down and the valve freezes up? Does the CO2 liquid flow stop or is it difficult to turn off the frozen valve?

    I like your "stub hose" idea and that is basically what is shown in the pic in the initial post in this thread. What is the reason for attaching the stub hose to the regulator? This would be the best if that can be done because I keep a quick connect on my static pressure (150psi) regulator.

    -B-
     
  14. PHAEDRUS

    PHAEDRUS

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    _b_
    Hey just out of curiosity do you have a larger (think 15-20#) fire extinguisher that you are willing to sacrifice? When I was younger and had less respect for anything we would convert these into squirt guns. just curious if you could use the handle off of one of these units with the cone housing and attach that to the co2 bottle. you would still get some frost issues on the tank handle but that is really inevitable. The old school valves are going to be less likely to freeze up and then it would be possible to quick couple it on.
    Dave
     
  15. Safado

    Safado

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    Interesting question, I have no scientific argument one way or the other...just second had experience. My best friend had to sit helpless on the side of a mountain road and watch his truck burn to the ground after the extinguisher that he had wasn't enough for the job. There's a risk involved that might not be worth the expense and "convenience" of a 2 in 1.

    Food for thought.
     
  16. Outback

    Outback

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    I'll reply in-line below Beowulf...

    [quote author=Beowulf link=board=2;threadid=5703;start=msg45577#msg45577 date=1064721709]
    Jody,
    Just to clarify, you're suggesting the best approach is to use the CO2 gas (not liquid), in as high of volume as possible, to extinguish a fire?

    Yes.

    What happens if the tank *is* used upside down and the valve freezes up? Does the CO2 liquid flow stop or is it difficult to turn off the frozen valve?

    Both. The valve will freeze up and block the flow of liquid CO[sub]2[/sub] AND you won't be able to turn the valve off easily until it begins to defrost.

    I like your "stub hose" idea and that is basically what is shown in the pic in the initial post in this thread. What is the reason for attaching the stub hose to the regulator? This would be the best if that can be done because I keep a quick connect on my static pressure (150psi) regulator.

    You would want to keep it attached for convenience and safety. The 150 psi. regulator will flow enough volume to be effective and not freeze up completely during use.

    -B-
    [/quote]

    Jody.
     
  17. Beowulf

    Beowulf

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    ** Update **

    Got a stub hose and fire extinguisher nozzle. The assembly is all 1/4" NPT so all that was necessary was putting a male quick connect on the end.

    [​IMG]



    Here is the tank with the nozzle attached.

    [​IMG]

    Tested it today and it works! Here is a short video (3.8MB) showing a flammable liquid fire being extinguished in less than 3 seconds.

    Here is the tank mounted in the truck on the bracket built using Chris Geiger's idea. This version will allow 2 tanks back-to-back or 1 tank mounted horizontally. A mag light clamp fits perfectly around the plastic nozzle but I haven't decided where to mount it yet.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    -B-
     
  18. CDN_Cruiser

    CDN_Cruiser

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    B:

    Very nice, looks like a great set-up (I can't seem to get the vid to run). If you used the cake pan for a flash pan =, you can do better than that :eek: When I used to do fire training, we would light a flash pan with diesel (careful with gas) and oil that was 4x8' and trained to put this out with a small dry chem unit.

    PS, don't try this at home, this was at a fire station, so if things got out of control there was some back-up

    Cheers, Hugh