Choose the right devices to keep your home safe
Fires can quickly spread through your home, endangering lives and destroying property. Equally as deadly, but harder to detect, carbon monoxide can leak from fuel-burning appliances that have not received proper maintenance. This puts you and your household at risk for serious illness and, in some cases, death. Protecting yourself and your family against the threat of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning is easy with a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm. These helpful devices can be installed in key areas and alert you to the presence of harmful substances before it's too late. Before you purchase one, consider the following questions:
Power, Types of Alarms and Installation Considerations
Installing an alarm in your home provides added safety for you and members of your household, warning you of potential dangers associated with fire and carbon monoxide. Taking a few moments to place a unit in one or more areas of your home can mean the difference between life and death. With a variety of devices to choose from you'll want to find the unit that best meets your needs.
Power: Many smoke and carbon monoxide alarms rely on batteries for their operation while others are hard-wired directly to your home's electrical system. Hard-wired models run on electricity and feature a battery backup in case of power loss. Alarms that use lithium batteries, which last significantly longer, are also available.
Smoke Alarms: There are two basic types of devices based upon different smoke detection technologies, photoelectric and ionization. While each type detects smoke and provides the necessary escape time to most residential home fires, the technology each one uses may provide an earlier response to different types of fires. Because you cannot predict what type of fire might occur in your home, experts recommend installing both types of technology in your home. Regardless of the alarm you choose, make sure that it has been listed to the UL standard. Look for the "UL" mark on the packaging, which ensures it has been evaluated and tested to this independent standard. Some insurance policies require that the product be certified by Underwriters Laboratory (UL), an independent product testing company.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms: Carbon monoxide alarms monitor the build up of carbon monoxide levels in your home over time,and sounding an alarm if elevated levels are detected. The majority of carbon monoxide alarms use one of three basic sensor types, electrochemical, colorimetric and metal oxide semiconductor sensors.
Electrochemical sensors are the most accurate, consume less power and are more efficient and less sensitive to contaminants;
Installation & Safety Considerations: For both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, follow the accompanying manufacturer's user guide or instruction sheet to help you install, operate and maintain your devices. Be sure to keep this guide for future reference and hints for proper maintenance and care. The following chart offers added considerations to help you get the most out of your detectors.
|Installation & Safety Considerations||Smoke Alarms||Carbon Monoxide Alarms|
|Number of devices per house||At least one per floor*||At least one per household**|
|Recommended rooms||Inside and outside of every bedroom*||Outside of all sleeping areas**|
Each level of your home
|Placement||On ceiling, in center of room***||On a wall or desk in unobstructed area***|
|Recommended battery replacement||Twice per year or as recommended by the manufacturer||Twice per year or as recommended by the manufacturer|
|Test alarm||Monthly||Monthly for hard-wired models
Weekly for battery-powered units
|Recommended Alarm Replacement||Every 10 years||Every 5-7 years***|
* According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
** According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
***Refer to manufacturer instructions
Power Indicator: Most devices feature indicator lights that blink under normal conditions to show the device is receiving power and working properly.
Low-Battery Signal: Some alarms will emit a beep or "chirp" sound when the power is weak to alert you that batteries need to be replaced.
Battery Drawer: Some models provide a slide-open or pop-open battery drawer so you can replace batteries without removing the entire unit from the wall or ceiling. Also, some alarms provide a lock feature on the battery drawer to prevent tampering.
Missing Battery Tab: Some devices feature special guards or tabs that prevent the device from closing or attaching to the mounting brackets if the battery is missing.
Test/Silence Button: This button allows you to test the device to ensure the alarm is working. It also temporarily silences the device in case of a nuisance alarm.
Alarms: MUL-listed smoke alarms are required to have an audible signal of 85 decibels. In addition, there are special alarms or attachments available for the hearing impaired with flashing lights and other non-auditory signals. Some alarms are equipped with a voice warning that supplements the traditional beeping pattern. Also, if you travel frequently, you may want a device that notifies someone if the alarm is triggered.
Removable cover: Models with removable covers are easier to clean. Too much dust accumulation inside the unit can impact the sensors’ effectiveness.
Combo Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detector: This combination device detects both smoke and carbon monoxide. Many models contain a voice warning as well as an alarm to help identify the danger: fire or CO. The advantage to these units is that they save space and money, and require you to change and test batteries in one device instead of two.
Bring home extra batteries for your smoke or carbon monoxide detector for fast and easy replacement during routine care and maintenance.