Element Fire Extinguishers aren't going to fit the mold of a typical article that rolls out of my home garage, which, as of the start of the COVID-era, is becoming as much a part of producing content for the Super Street Network as my makeshift desk, positioned strategically at one end of my kitchen island. Increased horsepower, better handling, a more aggressive appearance—all things that you and I, along with every other car enthusiast on earth, typically focus on most with car building, but what we're all often ignoring is proper safety. There's a whole avenue of info you can quickly find online about harnesses, helmets and other essentials, including this article we did in 2016 on track-ready safety equipment, but more often than not fire safety isn't high on your list. It's a shame because as cliche as it might sound, you don't realize how much you really need an extinguishing device until a situation arises and by then it can be too late.
Having recently done quite a bit of cutting into my project car using an angle grinder that produced Superbowl halftime levels of spark in my overcrowded garage, I had a fire extinguisher at arm's length just in case things went bad. What I didn't realize until shortly after while taking a break is that the extinguisher I had was long expired.
I set out to find a few new extinguishers that would be ideal for securing inside my project car as well as one for the workspace as part of my garage essentials journey that began a few months ago. What I found was that there are far more specific types than I'd ever imagined, and I was torn on proper sizing. During my search I came across Element Fire Extinguishers, which looked nothing like the traditional canister style that I was used to—a style which really hasn't changed for several decades.
The first, most obvious difference between Element and a traditional extinguisher are its dimensions and weight. The E50 Professional model I acquired is only 11.75 inches tall and well under a pound. It can be mounted in any position, and being so compact, it can be stored just about anywhere inside your car or workspace. A little larger than a roadside flare, it's wrapped in bright red and capped with fluorescent yellow accents for maximum visibility.
In a "bigger is better" world, the Element extinguisher is an anomaly, offering a 50 second discharge which is four times more extinguishing time than a traditional 5-lb. canister. That means you've got far more available time to fight whatever fire you're dealing with. And that's another thing; having no education on fire extinguishers, I assumed the canister I had by my side would be fine for all fire types, and of course I was wrong, as there are multiple classes:
A - wood, coal & trash
B - flammable liquids & gases
C - electrical up to 100,000 volts
K - cooking oil & grease
Rather than offering coverage of one or two of the above listed classes, the Element E50 covers all of them. Their E100 model, intended for industrial use, offers that same coverage but is slightly larger and takes the discharge time up a few notches to 100 seconds. Both units leave no residue behind, are non-corrosive, non-toxic and won't wreak havoc on the environment. In addition, after initial spark, you'll only need one hand to fight a fire as there's no hose to handle and its zero-pressure discharge won't cause unwanted thrust that can ultimately push liquid-based fires around, further making things even worse.
Okay, so it's far more compact, covers all of the necessary classes and is easily mounted or secured just about anywhere, but I've left out one of the best parts: it doesn't require any sort of servicing. Unlike those old-style canisters, the Element extinguisher is 100-percent maintenance free.
So, what's in it?
The Element extinguisher uses a Potassium powder jet that actually vaporizes powder in the immediate environment, then follows that with condensation of its extinguishing substance. The science behind it is based on interrupting a fire's chain of reaction in order to kill the spread and, more importantly, the source. Element explains, "The produced aerosol jet is free of thrust and is essentially an inert salt that emits gas already present in the atmosphere." That gas, being heavier than the air around it, is quick to fill in any voids to help put out the fire and also prevent it from flaring back up.
For a complete explanation of the intricacies of the Element, the group has a very thorough breakdown right here.
How Does it Work?
Putting the Element into action takes but 4 motions:
1) Pull off the top cap
2) Remove the striker from the handle
3) Strike it against the exposed top and, in a split second, the chemical reaction comes into play and gas will start flowing from the unit immediately.
4) Hold the black handle, point it at the base of the fire and let the Element do its job.
Multiple Mounting Options
Element's website offers a number of mounting options beyond the plastic clip that's included with the E50. I opted for a Magnetic Mount to securely attach one to my OEMTOOLS cabinet so that it's easy to find and grab in case things get ugly while working in the garage.
The magnet is very strong and more than enough to hold the featherweight E50 under the cabinet or upright on its side. Give the extinguisher a tug and it unlatches quickly, ready for action.
Element's E50 also fits perfect with this Quick Fist mount—a heavy duty, rubber fastener that can be bolted in place.
The rubber surface helps keep the Element from sliding back and forth and the strap holds the extinguisher securely until you pull the retaining flap back and release it.
Laser cut and CNC bent, it's lightweight and powder coated in bright red for increased visibility. The angles on the back of the mount make it suitable for any roll bar type.
A set of band clamps and a Velcro strap come with the mount and installation take just a few minutes, once you figure out where you'd like it placed.
The clips are sturdy enough to keep the Element from popping off during extreme driving or braking, while the ends of the metal bracket are kicked on each side to help keep it centered even if the car were to take a hit.
If you don't have a roll bar or want to be a little more discreet, their Seat Rail Mount might be a better option for you. It's adjustable to suit various seat rail widths and can be mounted in front and underneath, or behind and underneath, to just about any seat. Or, if you want something a little more high-end, there's also a Carbon Fiber Mount with counter sunk mounting holes available.
Along with my garage and project car, I added one more E50, via magnetic clip, to my kitchen. My wife recently purchased a traditional fire extinguisher for our home but we later realized it's not "K Class rated," while the Element E50 is able to deal with cooking oil and grease. Mounted discreetly just out of the path of the exhaust hood over our stove, it's easily accessible and right where it needs to be, whereas with the 5lb. traditional-style extinguisher, we would've needed a solid mount somewhere in the kitchen that we wouldn't be bumping into it and two of the most curious kids on the face of the earth wouldn't be tempted to pick at.
It's rare that a product comes along and offers as many benefits as the Element extinguisher does without any drawbacks, and pretty remarkable to think just how well a universal product fits into our world.