There is no question that a smoke detector is a must-have item for office buildings and homes – in many cases, it’s a legal requirement. Laws aside, having functional, well-placed smoke detectors in your home is a common sense safety practice every family should follow.
Unlike carbon monoxide detectors, which detect dangerous levels of the invisible gas carbon monoxide, smoke detectors are designed to detect smoke and other indicators of a fire. There are many potential causes of home fires, from faulty wiring to unattended candles, cooking appliances, malfunctions with heating systems, and more. A smoke detector, placed in the right locations throughout your home, will warn you of a fire whether you are awake or asleep.
The good news is smoke detectors are inexpensive, life-saving gadgets. Proper installation and regular maintenance ensures that they’re in good working order to help keep your pets and loved ones safe.
Smoke alarms are, by far, the best method for providing an early warning of a fire. When correctly installed and maintained, they can prevent property damage, but more importantly, save the lives of your loved ones.
There are still some guidelines for buying, installing, and maintaining smoke alarms. For starters, there are three types:
- Photoelectric: Detects fire particles that are visible.
- Ionization: Detects invisible fire particles.
- Dual-Sensor: Combines ionization and photoelectric capabilities.
An ionization sensor has a small amount of radioactive material that sits between two electrically-charged plates. This ionizes the air and produces and electrical current. When smoke enters, it disrupts the electrical current which then prompts the alarm.
A photoelectric sensor can detect smoldering fires even before flames burst. It works bey generating a light beam inside its chamber. When smoke enters, the light beam is redirected, which triggers the alarm. Each of these types are effective, and you might consider installing a dual-sensor for an added layer of protection and peace of mind.
Where to Place Smoke Detectors
The placement of your smoke detectors is also critical. As a general rule of thumb, smoke detectors should be placed:
- On every level of the home (including the basement)
- Inside every bedroom
- Outside of every sleeping area
If there are levels of your home without bedrooms, install a smoke detector in the living room, den, or family room, near all stairways to upper or lower levels, or both. In the basement, smoke alarms should be installed near the ceiling near the stairs that lead to the main living levels.
Avoid Drafty Areas and Cooking Appliances
To minimize false alarms, place smoke detectors at least 10 feet from cooking appliances. In general, install smoke alarms on ceilings or high on walls (no more than 12 inches from the ceiling) – because smoke rises, this allows for prompt detection. However, you should avoid placing smoke detectors near windows, doors, or other drafty areas (such as near ducts), as drafts can interfere with proper functioning.
You might be wondering why you need so many smoke alarms. Well, one on each floor and in various living spaces gives you more time to either put out a growing fire or escape. Experts suggest that in the event of a large fire, there’s a window of approximately three minutes to escape after a smoke alarm goes off.
Smoke Detector Maintenance
When it comes to maintenance, it is recommended to replace smoke alarms every 10 years. If you’re not sure how old your smoke detector is, look at the manufacture date printed on the back. Since devices can lose their sensitivity over time, the newer, the better.
Some smoke detectors may need to be replaced before the 10-year mark – this is where testing is significant. Smoke detectors all come with manufacturer’s instructions on how to test the alarm.
Regular Testing is Key
You should test your smoke alarms every month. Smoke detectors often come with low-battery warnings, indicating that the batteries should be replaced immediately (in many cases, the low-battery alarm continues to sound until the batteries have been replaced, ensuring that you’ll comply with this all-important safety measure). Never use batteries from toys or other devices to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors – always use new batteries. For smoke detectors, you want to look for the Underwriters Laboratories Standard (UL) label. This means the smoke alarm meets the Underwriters Laboratories Standard. Experts suggest replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors every six months, even if the low-battery warning hasn’t sounded.
It’s still important to conduct monthly tests, however, to make sure that the alarm is functioning properly and that family members can hear it clearly throughout the home. Get into the habit of regular testing by setting a specific day, such as the first Saturday of every month, to test your smoke detectors.
Sometimes dust and debris can affect the performance of your smoke alarms. In the event of a failed test, use a duster or vacuum to remove dirt from the alarm’s sensor and re-test to confirm.
Avoid Disabling the Alarm
There may be instances where your smoke alarm goes off at the hint of smoke. Some people disable the alarm since the sound can be jarring, but the real problem arises when you forget to re-enable the alarm. So, even if your smoke alarm rings when there isn’t a fire, avoid the temptation to disable it – or set a reminder to ensure that you don’t neglect to turn it back on.
The Top 5 Smoke Detectors
Now, let’s go on with five of the best smoke detectors on the market today.
This is a smoke detector that uses both ionization and photoelectric sensors to alert you of both fast-burning and smoldering fires immediately. It goes off at 85 decibels, which is loud enough for everyone to start evacuating. In addition, it is hardwired with a battery backup.
Yet, you can also connect it to your other alarms to ensure they all go off at the same time. Many users write that the alarm is easy to install and user-friendly.
It helps that it also features a low-battery latch to ensure it is easier to maintain. Moreover, it comes with anti-theft features and a single-button test component. It has a 10-year limited warranty and two silencing features. It even works during a power failure.
2. Nest Protect
This is a top pick as a forward-thinking smoke detection device. It also comes with carbon monoxide detection and a split-spectrum sensor. Plus, you can choose from either a battery-operated version or a hardwired version. You can also get both.
What makes this gadget different is it comes with an app that sends alerts to your mobile device. If you have several alarms, you can sync them to tell you where the smoke is emanating.
In addition, the device self-checks 400 times per day to ensure it is working properly. Also, it has a low-battery warning. This is a photoelectric and LED hybrid where you can also silence the alarm.
This smoke and carbon monoxide detector also comes with a voice/verbal warning instead of a sensor. It is an ionization unit so, it will quickly detect fast-flaming fires. Many users like this alarm since it offers specifications whether it detects carbon monoxide or fire. It will also tell you when the battery is low, allowing you time to replace them before it’s too late.
What is nice about the verbal siren is it is not as annoying as a traditional and piercing siren. Yet, you can still silence the alarm in a non-emergency situation.
Furthermore, it comes with a test mode and LED indicators. Not to mention, installation is easy. And, you get two AA batteries with purchase.
You get two units per pack, giving you extra value for your investment. Since the Kidde 1275 is hardwired, you don’t have to worry about buying and replacing batteries.
Even though this is a hardwired smoke detector, it offers a quick-connect wiring option so that they are easy to install. You can place each smoke alarm in places where a lot of electricity is being used or where candles are lit.
The good news is you can wire these alarms with other units in your home, such as other Kidde units. It also comes with a battery backup. And, you can’t beat a five-year limited warranty.
This smoke detector is similar to the Nest alarm since it offers both smoke and carbon monoxide detection. And, it provides 400 self-checks every day to ensure the device is well-maintained and always ready.
If you wish to get alerts on your mobile device, all you have to do is download the Apple compatible app. This alarm uses a photoelectric detector, which means it quickly detects smoldering fires.
You can sync it to other alarms so that they all go off at the same time. The Onelink comes with a built-in battery and was designed to last 10 years. If the battery dies, you must buy a new gadget. As a result, you won’t ever have to change the battery.
The app also lets you control sound from your mobile device. Plus, it uses a human voice instead of a loud beep so that the alerts are not annoying.
The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from a fire is with a smoke detector. You can’t be expected to stay up 24/7 sniffing for smoke. So, let a smoke alarm do that for you. It is your only bet against escaping from a fire before it gets out of control. Isn’t your life worth the investment? Visit the National Fire Protection Association for more fire safety tips.