Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

$12.99 Can save your life Buy Smoke Alarm here today

I had a devastating fire in my home in the West Nine Laguna Niguel, California in 2003. I returned home after work to find the yellow police tape lines around my front door and piles of charred wreckage. This incident has left me with a fear of fire during the night. Every month I test our smoke detectors and annually change the batteries before I put up the Christmas tree.

At Laguna Niguel preview today I learned valuable information from Bill Parker, of  Home Inspection Services that my older ionization alarms might not be good enough or fast enough to warn us to wake up and get out in a fire.

I purchased four photoelectric alarms today because they detect smoldering fire, and smoke much faster than the ionization type. They cost two dollars more. I’m suggesting you don’t throw away your older battery powered smoke alarms in each bedroom and each floor level, but add the photoelectric ones in every bedroom. California law requires sellers of homes to add carbon monoxide detectors. These can be mounted behind doors that are usual left open during the daytime to not have quite so many additional white plastic Frisbees in your bedrooms.  

You may have the type that is hard wired into the home’s electrical system. Smoke alarms are powered by battery or they are hardwired. If the smoke alarm is powered by battery, it runs on either a disposable 9-volt battery or a non-replaceable 10-year lithium (“long-life”) battery. A backup battery is usually present on hardwired alarms and may need to be replaced. You might need assistance in installing the newer hard wired alarms, but I’m pretty handy and there are videos on utube to do everything from install a new toilet to making rocket fuel. I am not suggesting you are a licensed contractor or have the skill set to take this on yourself, but it isn’t difficult.

These batteries must be tested on a regular basis and, in most cases, should be replaced at least once each year (except for lithium batteries).

A few tips on housekeeping:

Test the alarms monthly, Replace the batteries at least once per year. The entire smoke alarm unit should be replaced every 8 years.

The ionization alarms are sensitive to shower steam or cooking smoke where the photoelectric ones are not. Statistics on deaths in fires show that even though an alarm was present, often the unit did not sound off because of dead battery or disconnected alarm because of the constant screaming sound when they fry food, or their teen takes a thirty minute shower.

( In a smoldering fire, a photoelectric smoke alarm outperforms the ionization type by sounding much quicker.. The other reason is that ionization smoke alarms will outperform photoelectric alarms in the event of a fast moving fire. The faster reaction time can be measured in tens of seconds, but in the event of a fast moving fire, these are precious seconds. )

Smoke alarms are an inexpensive investment and can save your family’s life.



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