Electrician installing a new smoke detector in a residential building.

What You Need to Know About Smoke Detectors

If a fire breaks out in your home, the difference between life and death could be a matter of minutes – perhaps even seconds. That’s why smoke detectors are so important – they’re your household’s first line of defense in the event of a fire. And when you consider the fact that some two-thirds of all home fire deaths occur in households without a working smoke detector, it underscores the importance of having these simple – yet potentially life-saving devices – properly installed in the right places.

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about smoke detectors – from the types of detectors to where to place them in your home to how to properly care for and maintain them. Here’s a closer look:

Types of Smoke Detectors

Before we get into some of the other information you need to know about smoke detectors, let’s cover the two main types of detectors on the market today: hard-wired and battery-powered.

  • Hard-wired smoke detectors plug into your home’s electrical system and are known for their safety, efficiency and ease of maintenance. Most models also come with battery backups, so they will still work even if you were to lose power.
  • Battery-powered smoke detectors rely on batteries for their operation. These smoke detectors are just as effective as their hard-wired counterparts when installed correctly. However, homeowners need to be sure to change the batteries on occasion. Unless you purchase a model with a lifetime, 10-year battery, it’s suggested to change the batteries on your detector at least once a year.
  • Dual-purpose smoke detectors: Some newer models of smoke detectors will detect more than just smoke, but carbon monoxide as well. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, scentless, colorless gas that can be deadly in high enough concentrations. These dual-purpose smoke detectors come in both battery-powered and hard-wired models.

Where to Place Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors aren’t a case of “less is more” in your home. Remember, these simple devices are your first line of defense against a home fire. Ensuring they’re installed in the appropriate locations and working properly can initiate activation sooner and give you and your family more time to safely evacuate the property.

With this being said, it’s suggested that smoke detectors are installed on every level of the home, in every bedroom of the home, and in hallways outside of sleeping areas. If you’re installing them on ceilings, they should be mounted at least 4 inches from the closest wall. If you’re installing them on the wall, they should be placed at least 4 inches from the ceiling (but no more than a foot from the ceiling).

How to Maintain Them

There are a few best practices when it comes to maintaining smoke detectors. While these devices tend to be somewhat taken for granted in the home, it’s important to ensure that they’re ready to sound in the event of an emergency. Here’s a look at what you should be doing to properly care for and maintain them:

  • Test your smoke detector once a month. Do this for both hard-wired and battery-powered models. Look for the test button and hold it down. If the alarm sounds, the smoke detector is still operating properly. If it doesn’t, there’s likely a problem with it.
  • If you have battery-powered smoke detectors in the household, make sure to change the batteries at least once a year. Pick a date that’s easy to remember, like your birthday or anniversary, or the end of daylight savings time. Don’t wait to hear the constant chirping sound that indicates a low battery – be proactive.
  • Dust your smoke detector at least once a year. Dust, cobwebs, and other debris can make it harder for the sensor to detect smoke.

Finally, replace your smoke detectors after they hit a decade of age. To see how old your smoke detector is, remove it from the wall or ceiling and look for a label on the back. This label should indicate its date of manufacture. If it’s been 10 or more years, it’s time to invest in a new device. Like any device or appliance, smoke detectors don’t last forever.

Contact Tidal Today

For more information on smoke detectors, where to place them, and how to properly maintain them, contact Tidal today. As full-service electricians, we specialize in smoke detector inspection and installation so you can ensure that you’re keeping your family members safe. Contact us today for more information and to schedule your appointment.