Smoke Detectors Save Lives
As part of your normal home inspection you should check your smoke detectors once a month. Simply push the test button and see if the alarm sounds. If you have a home built in the last 10 years, hold the button for about 5 seconds and see if all the units go off. This method only verifies battery and horn function, but does not test the sensor unit. Testing the sensor with real smoke over and over again can reduce the sensors sensitivity and cause the unit to fail if there is an actual fire.
Fire Administration reports more than 3,500 people die in fires each year. Deaths from fires and burns are the fifth most common cause of unintentional injury deaths in the United States and more than 66 percent of residential, fire-related deaths occur in homes without a working smoke alarm.
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends that smoke alarms be replaced every 8 years. This is because dust can collect on the sensor and prevent it from going off when it should.
This is also a powered unit and like most things that are powered, they wear out. That must be why they put test buttons on them.
Change the batteries in your smoke detector
Even smoke detectors that are hard wired to a power source in the home have a battery back up in case the power is off when there is a fire. When the batteries get low the unit will beep about every 5 minutes.
It seems they always start this beeping late at night while you are trying to sleep. To avoid this replace the batteries in your electric smoke detector at least once a year. If you have battery powered smoke alarms you may want to replace the batteries about every 6 months.
Most units take a 9 volt battery so I recommend counting how many units you have in your home and getting more batteries than needed. I say more because you want at least one on hand if a unit starts beeping at 3 AM.
How Many Smoke Detectors do I Need?
The National Fire Protection Association recommends smoke detectors be 110 volt, connected to each other, installed in each bedroom and within 15 feet of all bedroom entry doors. Arizona home inspectors are required to check this during home inspections.
Make sure alarms are placed either on the ceiling or 6-12 inches below the ceiling on the wall. Locate smoke alarms away from air vents or registers; high air flow or dead air spaces are to be avoided. Dead air spaces are often at the top of a peaked roof, or in corners between ceilings and walls.
Most building codes require installation of hard wired units on older homes if a permit is pulled for remodeling work.
Some people are upset by this, however it is for your own safety.
Smoke Detector Testing tips
If the unit is to high to reach use a broom stick or a extendable painters pole to reach the test button. It is a lot easier than dragging a ladder through the house. I use a painters pole during my home inspections.
Most units connected to alarm systems do not have test buttons.
At the same time you replace your smoke alarm batteries, replace the batteries in your Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm. CO is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced when any fuel is incompletely burned. About 150 people die each year from non-fire, carbon monoxide poisoning associated with home fuel-burning heating equipment. For more information on CO, see CPSC Publication #466.
According to Scott Warga, an Arizona Residential and Commercial General Contractor, “If you don’t have any carbon monoxide alarms I recommend installing them. Almost every house has a fuel burning source.” This is good advice that could make the difference between life and death.