6 Things to Know about Smoke Detecors
For homeowners, safety is a top priority. Along with alarm systems, smoke detectors are a crucial safety feature for your family and your house. Like with everything, there’s a huge market for smoke detectors and picking the right one is just as important. Whether you’re building a new house or just replacing old detectors, here are six things you should consider.
Shopping for the right one
Shopping for smoke detectors can be like shopping for bread. When you look at them, they all essentially look the same, but there are lots of different types and models that do different things and picking the right one can be a huge decision. Many smoke detectors are powered by battery while others are wired directly into your home’s electrical system.
Another key factor to consider is what type of smoke detection you want. There are two main types are ionization and photoelectric. Ionization detectors respond better to flaming fires. Ionization works by having a small portion of radioactive material between two charged plates. That ionizes the air flow so when smoke enters the chamber, it disrupts the air flow, triggering the alarm to go off.
The photoelectric works better for smoldering fires. These detectors work by aiming a light at an angle away from the censor. When smoke enters the chamber, the light is then reflected back onto the censor, setting off the alarm.
For the best protection, the National Fire Protection Association recommends using both types in your home. Some newer models use both kinds of technology.
How many should you have and where should you put them?
Depending on the size of your home you may need more or less. Fires can start anywhere and so you may need more than you currently have. Placement suggestions are important to follow but keep in mind that you may need even more than what is recommended.
The optimal places for smoke detectors, according to the NFPA, are; inside every bedroom, outside every sleeping area, and on each level of the house. For alarms placed in the kitchen, make sure that they are positioned at least 10 feet from any and all cooking appliances. Showers and tubs generate steam as well which can accidentally set off an alarm, so keep bathroom detectors at least 3 feet away from them. Alarms in rooms should be placed high leaving no more than a foot between the top of the alarm and the ceiling.
How often should you replace them?
Like any electronic appliance, you will at some point need to change the battery. Maintaining your smoke alarm is just as important as having them. The general rule of thumb is that you should change the batteries twice a year, every six months. Daylight savings is a great time to do this and you can simply change your clocks and smoke detector batteries at all once. Others choose to do the first of January and July, either works as long as you remember to change them every 6 months.
In addition to change the batteries, eventually you may need to also replace the detector itself. Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years from the manufacturing date. To check how old your detector is, simply remove it from the ceiling and look on the back to see the manufacturing date. FEMA recommends testing your alarms every month. If it does not sound, replace the detector.
Do NOT paint over your alarms
Some may be tempted to paint over their fire alarms, do not ever do that. Pain can cause restricted airflow and result in the alarm being insufficient in detecting fires. Most detectors come with the words “do not paint” printed on them.
Have a professional install them
For many things such as resurfacing cabinets or changing your car’s oil, you are fine doing it yourself. Smoke detectors however, should be done by a professional. Your safety is of the utmost importance and you never want to risk your family’s safety by incorrectly installing them yourself. Always hire a trained professional to install them for you.
Look into combination alarms
As noted, there are multiple different kinds of alarms each with different features. One of the more popular and recommended models nowadays are the combination alarms. While fires are very dangerous, perhaps even more dangerous is carbon monoxide poisoning. Odorless, and tasteless, carbon monoxide is very toxic and with long exposure can be fatal. If you are replacing your detectors, rather than buying both separately, look into alarms that have both.