Halon Fire Extinguishers

Halon used to be the extinguishing agent of choice for companies looking to protect computer equipment and other high tech facilities. The green portable fire extinguishers containing halon 1211 (pronounced “twelve-eleven”) were popular because they could be used on any type of fire, and particularly on delicate electrical equipment, as Halon 1211 did not damage high tech equipment.

Halon extinguishers contain a halogenated hydrocarbon agent forced
into a liquid state by pressure. The most common halons for portable extinguishers are Halon 1211 (bromochlorodifluoromethane) and Halon 1301 (bromotrifluoromethane).

This type of extinguisher is available in several sizes from 1.5 to 22
pounds (0.68 to 9.9 kilos). Discharge times range from 8 to 30 seconds. Discharge range is from 9 to 15 feet (2.7 to 4.6 meters). These extinguishers are also available in 150-pound (68 kilo) wheeled units which have discharge times of 30 to 35 seconds and a range of 10 to 18 feet (3 to 5.5 meters).

Halon extinguishers have several advantages. They can be used on class B or C fires, and larger units are also approved for use on class A fires. Halon leaves no residue, so cleanup is not a problem. The units are not subject to freezing, so they can be placed outside or in unheated areas. Generally, they offer more effective fire control than carbon dioxide extinguishers.

Halon extinguishers also have a number of disadvantages. For example, the smaller units are not suitable for class A fires, and halon is expensive. Recharge costs can approach or exceed the initial purchase price. Halons have also been identified as contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer in the atmosphere. Regulations governing the use of halons are likely to become more restrictive.

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