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Smoke Alarm

Home Safety: Fire

Smoke Alarms

Features to look for
  • Photoelectric, ionization, or both? Ionization models are good at detecting fires that burn fast and move quickly, like kitchen grease fires. Photoelectric models are good for detecting smoldering fires, such as those caused by a cigarette. You can choose to install both types, putting each in its best location, or choose a model that utilizes both ionization and photoelectric sensors.
  • A silence or hush button so you can quickly silence false alarms caused by cooking smoke.
  • Strobe lights and/or extra loud volume for the hearing impaired.
  • Hardwired AC alarms with battery backup and an interconnectivity feature so that when one trips, all sound an alarm.

Where to install

  • Install at least one smoke detector on each level of the house, including the basement.
  • There must be one smoke alarm outside each sleeping area. Code for new home construction also requires a smoke alarm inside each bedroom—and that they all be hardwired.
  • Place smoke detectors either on the ceiling at least 4" away from the wall, or high on the wall, 4–12" from the ceiling.
  • Do not place a smoke detector in the kitchen where it will be easily tripped by smoke from cooking.

Testing and Maintenance

Just because it's there, doesn't mean it's working! According to the National Fire Prevention Association, smoke detectors in about one-third of the homes that have smoke detectors and experience fires aren't working. Here's what you can do to help keep your alarms from failing you in an emergency:

  • Test your alarms once a month; that goes for hardwired as well as battery-operated models.
  • Replace the batteries at least once a year. Keep spare batteries in the house so people won't be tempted to "borrow" one from the smoke alarm.
  • Vacuum out dust and cobwebs on a regular basis.
  • Replace your smoke alarms every 10 years.


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