Homeowner’s Guide to Smoke Detectors

Every home should have several smoke detectors installed throughout to properly warn residents of a potential fire. Whether you rent or own a home, having working smoke detectors is a crucial part of ensuring your safety. These devices are designed to detect the presence of smoke in a room and then sound a loud alarm to alert you of a possible fire. It’s important to know where to place them, how to ensure that they’re in working order, and what functions they need to have to keep you safe.

Smoke Alarm Placement

There should be one smoke alarm in each bedroom of your home. There should also be a smoke detector installed near but outside of the sleeping space, such as in a hallway or directly above the bedroom door. Every kitchen should have a smoke detector, since this is where fires are most commonly started. In kitchens, install the alarm at least 10 feet away from appliances in order to avoid setting it off by accident while cooking.

If your home has a basement, you should have a smoke alarm installed there as well. The alarm should be installed near the bottom of the stairs. On any floor of a multistory home without a bedroom, place a smoke detector in the main room, near the stairs, or in both places.

Smoke Alarm Maintenance and Testing

It’s very important that your smoke alarms are working at all times, since fires can happen anytime without warning. Ideally, you should test them once a month to make sure that they’re working properly. It’s also a good idea to plan on testing them and changing the batteries twice a year: A good way to remember to do this is to change the batteries whenever you change the clocks for daylight-saving time.

Some smoke alarms work on battery power, while others are hardwired. Make sure that you have the owner’s manual so you know how to test yours and look for any malfunctions. Most smoke detectors have a test button that you can simply press and hold down to listen for the alarm. If no alarm sounds, it may be time to change the batteries. Be sure to test each alarm in your home individually so you can tell if each one is audible.

Most modern smoke detectors have a lifespan of approximately ten years. Write down when you purchased yours, when they were installed, and when you last tested them so you can be sure they’re in proper working condition at all times. Some local fire departments will perform free smoke detector testing to ensure that the community is using them correctly and staying safe. You can check with your local fire department for this service if you need help testing yours.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Another important type of safety device you need in your home is carbon monoxide detectors. These alarms can detect the presence of carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas that can be fatal. If this gas leaks, you need to know about it right away so you can escape the home and get fresh air. With the help of an alarm, you and your family can be alerted to the problem as soon as possible. Any fuel-burning device, such as a heating system or dryer, can produce carbon monoxide if it is leaking or not properly maintained. Problems with carbon monoxide are more common during winter, when people are using gas heat as a heating source in their homes and keeping the doors and windows closed to keep the heat inside.

You should install at least one carbon monoxide detector on every level of the house, especially near any potential sources of gas. They can be installed down low or up high depending on the style you choose and your individual needs. Just like smoke detectors, your carbon monoxide detectors should be tested and maintained frequently to ensure that they’re working properly. This deadly gas can quickly spread throughout your entire home without anyone noticing it, so it’s extremely important to have alarms that work and are installed in enough places in your home.


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