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Everything You Need To Know About Smoke Alarms

How often would you say you actually acknowledge the smoke detector inside your house or give it a quick check-up for batteries and sensor functionality? When was the last time you heard it chirp or beep loudly? Were you ever on the verge of having to escape a fire at the workplace, in school, or inside your own home and you were saved just in time by the tiny smoke detector?  Most people tend to take smoke detectors for granted; luckily, these amazing smart devices look out for us even when we forget to check on them. Maintenance is simpler than you might imagine and there are no complicated installation or manipulation requirements to concern yourself with. You will get to enjoy the wondrous benefits of having smoke alarms installed around the house, the office, at the store you are running with minimum upkeep requirements and costs. Eager to learn more about the way smoke alarms and fire security systems work? 

How Does A Smoke Detector Work?

A smoke detector is a small, round plastic device with a diameter of 6 inches on average that is not usually thicker than an inch, which means finding the right space for its installation should never be a problem.  Basically, there are two main types of technologies incorporated in most smoke detectors you can currently find on the market: ionization and photoelectric technology.

Ionization Smoke Detectors

Smoke alarms that use ionization tend to respond better when it comes to identifying flames and smoke. They rely on small amounts of radioactive materials hosted in between two plates that are charged with electrical current. They ionize the air and trigger current to flow between the two plates. Once smoke reaches this chamber, it will automatically disrupt these normal ion flow and cut the current, while triggering the siren.

Photoelectric Smoke Detectors

These models usually react better to those fires that are initiated with a longer smoldering time.  They basically aim at a source of light inside a chamber at a certain angle, in a direction facing away from the sensor. Once smoke penetrates this chamber and starts to reflect the light on the sensor, the alarm will be triggered.  It is essential that a good home smoke alarm system is able to perform decently and effectively when it comes to smoldering fires, as well as flaming fires. This is important because the alarm should be able to can issue early warnings of impending fires 24/7, no matter if you are sleeping or wide awake.  Since there is no actual way of foretelling whether you are going to deal with a smoldering fire or a flaming type of fire, it is essential to find smoke detectors that rely on both types of technologies.

Where To Install Smoke Detectors

smoke detectors

Smoke alarms must be installed on the ceiling or on a wall, at least ten feet away from appliances that could trigger false alarms around the house, including the kitchen area, the laundry room, or sleeping areas. Smoke alarms can be installed either on the inside of a room or outside, in common areas, or outside bedrooms.  Each level of the house should have at least one smoke detector fitted for enhanced protection.  To install a smoke detector, there are certain guidelines that should be followed, including:

  • make sure you only buy and install smoke detectors that have been certified by Underwriters Laboratories, which means they comply with the strictest testing and safety standards
  • carefully read the manufacturer's manual prior to proceeding with the installation
  • know for sure if you are about to install a ionization or a photoelectric smoke sensor, or a home smoke detector that uses both technologies
  • if you plan on installing one or several smoke detectors on a wall, make sure you place them at a distance smaller than 12 inches away from the actual ceiling
  • you can consider linking together several smoke detectors whenever you need to and remember all sirens will be triggered and sound once any of the detectors will find smoke in the house
  • steer clear from smoke detectors installed on a sliding door or window as the airflow could prevent the sensors from pick up heat from smoke and fire
  • avoid installing home smoke detectors inside bathrooms and other rooms with high levels of humidity, inside garages, in rooms that are known to collect large amounts of dust, on porches, or right near a ceiling fan/air vent

Smoke Alarm Sensor Maintenance

According to the National Fire Protection Association, homeowners should replace some detectors at least once a year or when the alarm starts to beep, as this is a warning of the fact that the battery is running on low. Also, homeowners should concern themselves with running monthly tests on their smoke detectors and, provided they fail, the batteries should be replaced.  There are detectors that run on lithium batteries that are not rechargeable, and their lifespan is of 10 years on average. Once this time has passed, the entire smoke detector system should be replaced with a new one. Disposable lithium batteries can also be used and replaced, and they should normally last twice as long as alkaline batteries.

Dust, dirt, and debris should also be periodically eliminated off the surface of the smoke detectors, to prevent false alarms from being triggered.  Whether you would like to opt for a standard home smoke detector, one with voice alerts, nightlights, hundreds of safety checks, smart mobile alerts, wire-in strobe lights, voice alerts, two sensors, or one-touch silence buttons, the choice is yours. Just make sure you comply with the legal regulations concerning the installation of fire alarms and smoke detectors in your area and do proper maintenance on your detectors.