One important consideration when purchasing a fire resistant safe is what degree of protection your valuables require and which fire rating will most closely correspond to your needs.
In order to make the most out of your safe it’s a good idea to know what you will be storing inside and also the approximate burn temperatures for your valuables. Here we’ll look at some common items and the maximum temperatures they can reach before they auto ignite, melt, or are otherwise rendered inoperable.
Thanks to Ray Bradbury’s famous novel about censorship most of us know the temperature that will make paper will autoignite. The number he gave us is 451 degrees Fahrenheit and is a pretty accurate number to go by. There is a bit more variation, however, and it can often depend on some of the physical qualities of the paper. Typically, paper will autoignite at temperatures between 424 and 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Some things to consider is the amount of time that paper is exposed to such high levels of heat as well as the thickness and composition of the paper.
For the most part you shouldn’t have anything to worry about when you are storing precious metals in your fire resistant safe. While they won’t combust they can melt at high temperatures. This can devalue jewelry but the raw material will still retain its value and technically nothing will be lost. For example the melting point of silver is about 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit while gold is about 1,950 degrees Fahrenheit. Metals on the lower end of the spectrum are tin which will melt at only 450 F, lead at 620 F, zinc at 790 F, and aluminum at 1200 F. To put this into perspective an average house fire will usually burn at a temperature somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit though this is pretty variable depending on the combustible materials present in your home.
This is where you start needing a much more specialized fire safe because electronics, especially those with magnetic components, can be rendered inoperable at relatively low temperatures. The base line for most data media safes is 125 degrees Fahrenheit which will ensure that all magnetic and optical electronics will not be damaged due to the heat. Also worth noting is the melting point of celluloid (used in photography and film) which is only around 150 degrees Fahrenheit.