Smoke alarms. I know it’s not exciting and I know this isn’t the most original topic for a blog but boy is this important. A properly maintained and fully functioning smoke alarm could save your life…really.
So why are so many of us uninterested in something that is so important? Seriously, I’m asking you…I have no idea why.
Regardless of what our reasons are - I’m here to tell you that we all need to do a better job and maybe save some lives while we’re at it.
First, before we talk about the different types of smoke alarms and where they should go let’s get something straight. Smoke alarms do not last forever. They need to be completely replaced every 8-10 years. Why you ask? Because over time the sensors lose sensitivity due to dust build-up and age. Yes, your house is dusty – so is mine – get over it.
Now that you are enlightened about how long smoke alarms last you’re no doubt thinking “where should they be installed in my house”? Well building codes vary depending on location but a general rule of thumb is there should be a smoke alarm in each bedroom, one generally outside of each sleeping area, and one on each floor.
OK, now don’t roll your eyes at me. I realize that’s a lot of smoke alarms but listen to what I’m saying - what’s more important than your life and why go cheap on something so important? Seriously, look at how much you’re spending a week on that daily Starbuck’s venti iced skinny hazelnut macchiato with two shots of sugar free syrup, light ice, and no whip. Why not spend some money on something that will possibly save your life and what in the world do they put in sugar free syrup?
Here’s the cool part for all you folks out there who like to know how things work. There are basically two types of smoke alarms…ionization and photoelectric.
Ionization smoke alarms have a small amount of radioactive material (don’t worry it’s a tiny amount) between two electrically charged plates, which ionizes the air and causes current to flow between the plates. When smoke enters the chamber it disrupts the flow of ions, thereby reducing the flow of current and activating the alarm. Ionization alarms are probably the most common here in the good ol’ USA and are generally more responsive to flaming type fires.
Photoelectric smoke alarms aim a light source into a sensing chamber at an angle away from the sensor. Smoke enters the chamber, reflecting light onto the light sensor and presto change-o sounds the alarm.. Photoelectric alarms are generally more responsive to fires that begin with a long period of smoldering.
So, which type is best? Well, it’s hard to know because we have no way of knowing what the future holds so when in doubt buy a duel sensor smoke alarm.
By the numbers:
• In 2007-2011, smoke alarms sounded in half of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments.
• Three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
• No smoke alarms were present in more than one-third (37%) of the home fire deaths.
*Above according to the National Fire Protection Association
So folks I’ve said it all... perhaps I’ve said too much. But this is really important stuff and your life may very well depend on your action or inaction when it comes to maintenance and proper placement of your smoke alarms.