Smoke Detectors 


One of the most important safety features you can have installed in your home is the smoke detector and they are now required by law.  In the event of a fire, it could save the lives of you and your loved ones.  Smoke detectors provide the early warning needed to prevent fire fatalities. 

The U.S. Fire Association (USFA) reported 397,650 fires between 1998 and 2007.  Annually these fires caused 3,040 civilian deaths and 14,960 civilian injuries.

In the United States most state and local laws require that smoke detectors be present any place there is human habitation.  These laws require that smoke detectors be near every bedroom in the house and in some cases they must be present in stairways, halls and garages.  In addition, new construction laws require that smoke detectors be hooked up to the electrical wiring, be interconnected and have a battery backup system in place. 

The National Fire Protection Agency highly recommends replacing your smoke detectors every ten years because as the system ages the electrical components become less reliable. 

Don’t put yourself at an increased risk; call Mr. Electric to update your smoke detectors today!

Different Kinds of Smoke Detectors 
There are two main kinds of smoke detectors – ionization and photoelectric.  Both types of smoke detectors effectively sense smoke and both are required to pass the UL certification.  However, there are key differences in the way they operate and in how they respond to smoke. 

Ionization: This type of detector has continuous current running between two electrodes and when smoke goes into the unit, the current is interrupted and the alarm sounds.  The drawback to this type of smoke detector is that it cannot tell the difference between steam and smoke. This makes ionization smoke detectors subject to false alarms when placed near kitchens and bathrooms.  They have a tendency to respond to things like burnt toast and hot showers.  The advantage of ionization detectors over photoelectric detectors is that they are less expensive and they respond more quickly to flaming fires.  In addition, when the battery starts to fail, these detectors will alert you to change the battery because the alarm will sound.

Photoelectric: This type of detector responds to a reduction in light reaching an internal photocell.  When smoke goes into the unit, the light is scattered and the alarm sounds.  These detectors respond more quickly to smoldering fires than ionization smoke detectors.  In addition, because these detectors are less likely to send out a false alarm, they are less likely to be a nuisance.  However, this type of smoke detector will not alert you when the batteries are dead. 
Whichever smoke detector you decide to use, both should have their batteries changed annually.  Mr. Electric recommends picking a day every year that you will remember, like New Year’s Day or your birthday, and go around the house to test your detectors and change the batteries. 

Smoke Detector and Fire Safety Tips
Here is a list of tips to follow to help keep you and your family safe.

  • Have at least one smoke detector on each level of your house.
  • Check the operation of your smoke detectors and alarms every six to twelve months.
  • Be sure to have battery powered back-up in your smoke detectors (rechargeable batteries are not recommended).
  • Avoid placing smoke detectors near drafts, doors and windows.
  • Be sure that your smoke detectors are centered on the ceiling and they are at least six inches away from the wall.  If you have a wall unit, make sure that it is at least one foot below the ceiling.
  • The best location for smoke detectors is near bedrooms, in hallways and at the top of stairwells. 
  • To keep dust from building up within the smoke detector, lightly vacuum the detector annually.
  • Do not pull the unit from the wall to try to turn off a false alarm.
  • Do not remove the batteries except to change them. Thirty percent of smoke detectors don’t work because the user has removed the battery and forgotten to replace it.
  • If you cannot afford smoke detectors, please contact your local fire department.  They will let you know about local programs to help the elderly and the poor.
  • Keep at least one fire blanket somewhere in your home.
  • Keep at least one fire extinguisher somewhere in your home.
  • Establish an emergency exit plan with your family.
  • Once you exit your home, DO NOT return! Many people have lost their lives going back into their home.  Wait for firefighters to arrive.

How do I test my smoke detector?
First, push the test button on the smoke detector to see if the alarm sounds.  This will let you know if the battery is working or if the electrical power is connected.  Second, test the smoke detector by placing a lit match or a lit candle 6 inches below it to see if the alarm will sound.  If the alarm does not sound, blow out the candle or match and see if the smoke sets it off.  If the smoke detector still does not go off then you may need to replace the unit.  It is important to remember that just because the power is working it does not mean the smoke detection device is working.  Be sure to check them both.


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