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Smoke Detectors and CO Alarms: Is Your Home Safe and Protected?

You care for your family and your household. You protect them in any way possible.

You lock the doors at night. You drive safely and follow traffic laws. You keep harmful cleaning chemicals aware from children. If you have a pool, you make sure kids don’t have access when adults are not around.

But when was the last time you checked the smoke alarms? Do you even know where to find the home’s carbon monoxide detector?

It might seem like an inconvenience, but checking the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your house can save a life.

We may not be alarm and detector experts, but we’ve worked in the housing industry long enough to know that these simple devices are a basic safety step; one that is crucial at all times, not just when you are buying and selling a home.

Smoke Detectors

These are must-have devices for every home. A large portion of fire-related deaths are preventable; according to the National Fire Prevention Association, 57% of fire-related deaths occur in locations with either no smoke alarms or smoke alarms that were not working.

While they can’t prevent a fire, they provide a life-saving warning if a fire occurs.

What are the Different Types?

There are two main categories of fire alarms. The first is an ionization detector, which is better for detecting fast-moving fires with large flames. The second type, a photoelectric detector, is better for slower, smokier fires. Some of the more modern devices have both types in one; most believe this is the best option for a home.

How Many, and Where Should They Be Installed?

The placement of smoke detectors is crucial for keeping your family safe.

Whether you have ionization detectors or photoelectric detectors, proper placement is key. The total amount will depend on the size of your home, the number of bedrooms, and the overall layout. There should be working smoke detectors in each bedroom, on each level of the home, and outside each sleeping area.

For example, if you have a two-story home with two bedrooms that share a hallway on the first floor and two bedrooms on the second floor that are far apart, there should be smoke detectors in these locations:

  • The first-floor bedrooms (2)
  • One outside the first-floor bedrooms
  • The second-floor bedrooms (2)
  • Outside each second-floor bedroom (2)

This means a minimum of 7 detectors should be in the home.

Because smoke rises, detectors should be placed on the ceiling or high on a wall. Preferably they should be about 1.5 feet from any ventilation ducts or fan blades.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death. For a variety of reasons, CO can build up in a home and poison people and animals in the house. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting can occur, and carbon monoxide poisoning can, in severe situations, cause the loss of consciousness or death.

Carbon monoxide is a natural byproduct of burning fuel. Gas-powered vehicles and machines, as well as gas stoves, heaters, and dryers all create carbon monoxide. When this chemical is allowed to build to high concentrations, the results and be deadly. Common sources of carbon monoxide include:

  • Gas-powered space heaters
  • Furnaces
  • Gas stoves
  • Vehicles
  • Generators
  • Gas-powered equipment

According to the CDC, roughly 430 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s critical that your home has carbon monoxide detectors.

How Do They Work?

Carbon monoxide detectors will sound an alarm if it detects the chemical in the air. It may use three different sensor types, including electrochemical sensors, biometric sensors, or metal oxide semiconductors. Each type can be used to detect CO in your home and sound an alarm, warning you if the dangerous chemical is present in the house.

How Many, and Where Should They Be Installed??

Local and state laws often designate how many carbon monoxide detectors are needed in the home. Check your state and local laws to understand how many you need, as some areas require CO detectors in each bedroom, while others require a carbon monoxide detector within a certain distance of each bedroom.

At the very least, there should be a carbon monoxide detector at each level of the home, including the basement. There should also be a detector near each bedroom and near the entrance to the garage.

Smoke rises to the ceiling, which is why smoke alarms are placed high in the room. Carbon monoxide, on the other hand, lingers at about any level. It essentially mixes with the air and doesn’t rise. For this reason, carbon monoxide detectors should be placed somewhere between knee and eye level. In bedrooms, the best place is right at bed level.

This will ensure you maintain a safe environment for yourself and your family. With carbon monoxide detectors, you’ll be better protected and have a safer, happier home.

Do I Need Professional Installation?

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are generally easy to install. However, some smoke-alarms systems operated on a connected network; they are essentially wired together through a system that runs through the home. If one smoke alarm goes off, they all sound the warning, waking everyone in the home. If you want a connected system in your home, you’ll likely need to hire a professional.

Otherwise, most people can install a smoke alarm. With little more than a drill and the right bits, you can install these devices on your own.

However, if you have any concerns about placement or installation, hire a professional. The risk that comes from improper placement or faulty installation is too great, so when in doubt, hire an expert.

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