Do Your Yellow Smoke Detectors Really Work??
I can’t help myself. It is pretty rare for me to walk into the house of a neighbor, friend, or family member and not look up at the ceiling. Specifically, at the smoke detectors. Maybe it is because I am 6′ 4″… maybe it is because I have a degree in Fire Protection Engineering… maybe it is because I am a Captain in the career fire department… maybe it is because I am a licensed home inspector… or maybe it is because my house literally burned to the ground when I was 15 years old. Honestly, I think it is because I don’t want the pager for my hometown volunteer fire department to go off for an address I recognize with people that I care about still inside.
Seriously though – just changing the batteries or pressing the TEST button on your smoke detector doesn’t mean a whole lot if they are ancient. Studies have shown that the sensors inside of smoke detectors aren’t considered reliable after ten years. In fact, the State of Maryland enacted a law two years ago that says that no smoke detector in a home should be more than 10 years old. Not only that, but the technology in the detectors themselves has come a long way.
I had a discussion last night with a friend who didn’t realize until I brought it up at the dinner table that the hardwired smoke detectors in his house lacked a backup battery. That’s right – if the power went out they wouldn’t work. I’m guessing that those detectors were original to the house which was built in 1987 (a similar age to many in this area). Time for them to go!
Newer detectors don’t just have AA or 9V backup batteries that need changed twice per year. For a few extra bucks, you can get one with a sealed lithium battery that lasts for the entire life of the detector and never needs to be changed.
Start off your new year with a resolution that is a little less fun… check the date sticker on the bottom of your detectors. If they are more than ten years old, are battery-only without a 10-year sealed lithium, or are hardwired and don’t have a battery backup, you should spring for some new ones. As a side note, battery-only detectors should never be installed in place of a hardwired detector.
Here is my favorite one – it has a 10 year sealed battery, is also a carbon monoxide detector, has voice technology, and is about $40: Kidde i2010SCO
Let me know if I can help.