Smoke Alarm / Smoke Detectors how to choose one

 how to choose a smoke alarm /smoke detector

smoke alarm / smoke detector

A smoke alarm / smoke detector could save as many as 3000 lives each year.

We explain the different types of smoke alarm types and where they should be placed.

How to choose a smoke alarm / smoke detector  and maybe save your life.  This is the first post in our series of home improvement and maintenance  tips.  Whether you own an older home or a new home I am positive you will enjoy our plain language explanations of many common problems found in the home.  Please feel free to comment on this post and offer suggestions for future posts.

We all know a smoke alarm / smoke detector saves lives.

But did you know every year there are approximately 300,000 residential fires in the United States. Roughly 3000 people will die in these residential fires and most deaths will occur while the occupants are sleeping. The vast majority of these deaths are from smoke inhalation and not the actual heat of the fire. According to the U.S. Fire Administration “the risk of dying in a home fire can be cut in half in homes with a working  smoke alarm / smoke detector”

Smoke alarms / smoke detectors come in three styles. Battery powered for older homes, wired directly into the house wiring (hard wired) and wireless. Hard wired alarms come with a battery backup and have been required in new homes by most building codes since 1988. Interconnected detectors have the advantage of sounding all alarms in the home at the same time.  This warns someone sleeping in an upstairs bedroom that an alarm is energized in the basement. Both styles are available as an ionization smoke alarm smoke  / detector,  a photoelectric smoke alarm / smoke detector and a combination of both.

Choose from two types of smoke alarms

Just as there are two types of smoke alarms / smoke detectors, just as there  there are two types of fires. The first fire is usually defined as fast burning with visible flames and a limited amount smoke but large amounts of particulates. The second fire is a slow burning smoldering type that produces lots of smoke but not much fire. Smoldering fires are usually found in mattresses or furniture but may be found anywhere.

An ionization smoke alarm / smoke detector will respond faster to the open burning faster moving fire. Giving more time to escape fast moving flames. The photoelectric smoke alarm / smoke detector responds faster to the smoldering fire. Smoldering fires produce lots of smoke and not much flame or heat. The ideal situation then would be to have a combination type detector. Combination detectors combine the ionization and photoelectric sensors in one detector. The down side to this is these systems are more expensive than either single sensor smoke alarm / smoke detector. Battery powered Ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms / smoke detectors start around $5.00. Combination units start around $15.00, hard wired units usually cost a little more.

Hard wired detectors can be identified by the three wires coming out the back of the detector. The advantage of interconnection is now available for older homes. Wireless interconnected detectors are available starting at $25.

For those of us who cannot seem to remember to change our smoke alarm batteries when we change from daylight savings time to standard time there is a solution. Some smoke alarm / smoke detector units now come with a 10 year battery. In any case detectors should be replaced after 10 years of service even if they are still working.

How to decide where to place a smoke alarm / smoke detector

So now you know what kind of smoke alarm / smoke detector you want how many do you need?  Every home is different but there are common rules for all.  A smoke alarm should be placed;

• In each sleeping room
• Outside of and within 15 feet of all sleeping rooms
• On each level of the home

Follow the manufactures instructions for proper location and installation and check your smoke alarm monthly.

Just because you have a smoke alarm / smoke detector, do not be lulled into a false sense of security.  A smoke alarm / smoke detector only functions when common sense and good maintenance fail. Check your home for fire hazards and have a fire escape plan for your family.

Follow the manufactures instructions for proper location and installation and check your detector monthly.

• Check your home for fire hazards
• Have a fire escape plan for your family.
• Make sure all sleeping rooms have two avenues of escape (current codes require this)

Ninety three percent of American homes have at least one smoke alarm /smoke detector. Unfortunately it is estimated that thirty percent of these homes have their smoke alarm / smoke detector disabled because of old age, dead batteries or batteries that were removed by the occupants.

Do not be part of the thirty percent.  Get up and check those detectors right now, don’t wait another minute.

for more information on common home inspection questions visit our website

Some information in this post came from the following sources.

Smoke alarms – NFPA – National Fire Protection Association
Smoke alarm outreach materials – US Fire Administration

Smoke Alarms – Consumer Product Safety Commission

Smoke detector – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

check us out at :

the Better Business Bureau

The State of Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation


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