How Often Do I Replace My Smoke Detectors?

It’s that time of year again! On Sunday, November 6th 2016, at 2:00AM, Daylight Saving Time ends. So we all set our clocks back one hour before going to bed Saturday night (or we spend part of Sunday wondering why everyone else is late!) Many have the habit of also replacing the batteries in their smoke detectors the same day. Perhaps for that reason National Fire Prevention Week is scheduled at this time of year, today being the last day for 2016.

Clearly you and I are interested in protecting our families from any potential threats to their health and safety. So we here at GAMA Air are going to take a break from our typical topics related to central heating and cooling systems, and consider the topic of Smoke Detectors.

First, let’s start off by assuming that your house has at least one smoke alarm. (If it doesn’t then stop what you’re doing right now and write the following at the very top of your to-do list: “Install life-saving smoke alarms in my house”.) Now for some facts: According to the National Fire Protection Association the risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms. Did you notice the key-word: “working”? 

Another statistic they provide is that 21% of all deaths due to home fires were in houses that had a smoke alarm that was not working. That’s sobering to think about: 1 out of 5 home fire victims might still be alive today if their smoke alarm had been working.

So... what about your home? Now do you see why we’re taking the time to talk about this?

What Do I Do?

Install smoke detectors where they will alert you. Having one is better than having none. However, to really work in an emergency, a smoke detector should be installed close to where anyone in your family sleeps. The slogan of the US Fire Administration is “Hear the BEEP where you SLEEP.” But that’s not all. You should have one on each level of your home, including your basement. And they should be interconnected, so that if one detects smoke, then they all sound the alarm.

Replace your smoke detectors every 10 years. Smoke alarms have special sensors that will fail to work over time. So check the back of yours. When is the expiration date? Put that date on your calendar and plan to purchase and install new ones before they expire. Do yours not have any date on the back? Then make it a priority to replace them very soon. The graphic shown here can be downloaded from the website of the USFA.

Change the batteries every six months. Some smoke alarms are powered strictly with a battery. Others are wired to your home’s electrical circuit, but even those have back-up batteries. So replacing the batteries should be a part of your regular spring and fall routine.  In an earlier post we said: Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery! Maybe you’re wondering about new technology of smoke alarms, and the newer better batteries like lithium-ion type and thinking “why waste a battery by replacing it after only six months if it is supposed to last 5 to 10 years?” Two things: 1) The value of the life of your loved ones is worth way more than a few batteries. Yes, every six months is a replacement schedule out of an abundance of caution, but we’re not talking about a TV remote. Those devices are there to keep you and your family safe. 2) Use those batteries somewhere else. If you think they still have life in them, then use them in your kid’s remote control car, or in the TV remote, but not where your life depends on it.

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