Smoke detectors…… Do They Make Your Home Safe?

In Smoke/CO Detectors on October 31, 2011 at 5:38 pm

There is a lot of truth to the statement that having a smoke detector doesn’t make your home safe. If properly maintained, in the right location, and operating properly, they will alert you if there is a fire. Hopefully, and usually they will provide you and your family enough time to get out of your burning house.

Now comes the “If properly maintained” part.

The battery should be replaced annually. Don’t wait until it starts chirping constantly. Don’t wait until the battery is dead. If you hear a periodic beeping or chirping it means replace the battery.

Many, if not all hard-wired detectors also have back-up batteries that require annual replacement. Never remove a battery without immediate replacement.

Smoke and fire detectors can also lose effectiveness if bugs, spiders or dust gets into them. Periodically, vacuum each detector in and around the unit to suck out dust and debris.

Detectors have test buttons or sensors, which enable you to see if they are operating. They should be tested monthly. The test verifies that the circuit, horn and battery are operating as designed.

If the horn fails to sound when testing the unit, replace the battery. If it still doesn’t operate, replace the unit. Do not attempt to repair it.

Never paint a detector. Remove or protect detectors when painting around them.

Location, Location, Location

For a detector to alert you, it needs to be able to detect smoke first. To do that they have to be in the proper location and you need to have enough of them.

  • There should be a smoke detector in every bedroom.
  • One should be installed at the top of every stairway.
  • Every hallway should have a smoke detector. Especially outside of sleeping areas.
  • Any room with a fireplace or space heater should also have a detector.
  • Do not install a smoke detector in or just outside of a bathroom. The steam from bathing/showering could easily set off false alarms or the humidity could damage the unit. Relocate the unit away from that immediate area.
  • Many people have nuisance alarms when installing a detector in the kitchen. Install a heat detector in the kitchen along with a photoelectric smoke alarm. The photoelectric is not quite as sensitive to smoke as the ionization type.
  • Install detectors in the basement.
  • Never install a detector close to a heating and cooling supply register or return. The air movement could prevent the alarm from activating.
  • Detectors should be installed on the ceiling or high up a wall. If installed on a ceiling, it should be a minimum of 4-inches from the nearest wall. If you are installing the detector on a wall, it should be a minimum of 4-inches, but no more than 12-inches from the ceiling.
  • If the room has a cathedral ceiling, install the detector between 4-inches and 36-inches from the peak.
  • Smoke detectors may not operate properly in unheated buildings.
  • Garages are also not a good location for smoke detectors. Combustion gases from your car could cause nuisance alarms. A better alternative would be to install a heat detector.
  • Never install a detector out of reach. You need to easily change the battery and test and vacuum the unit.

Smoke detectors have been around since the 1960’s. The battery-powered units we are familiar with came on the market in the 1970’s. Smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detectors do what they claim to do. They detect smoke, fire and carbon monoxide. They save lives. The lives they save could be yours or your families.

All you need to do is install them in the proper location and periodically maintain them. That’s a small price to pay for saving a human life.



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