Five Quick Facts about Smoke Detectors

Fire departments always emphasize the need for smoke detectors. There are several things worth noting in regards to how they work and how to make sure they keep you protected.

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Though the exact laws vary by state, all residential homes are required to have smoke detectors in every major room. We all know the importance of testing them regularly and making sure they have fresh batteries. Even with that, there are still a number of noteworthy facts about their structure and maintenance which will help you fully understand how they can keep your home safe.

1. You Need to Keep Them Clean

In addition to changing its batteries, you also need to clean the smoke detector twice a year. Dust can collect inside the casing and affect the sensor, causing it to go off falsely or not go off at all. Use the soft brush attachment on a vacuum cleaner to clear away the particles.

2. Not Every Room Should Have One

Smoke detectors will not work properly in extreme temperatures, so they are not recommended for rooms without any temperature control, such as an attic. Rooms where smoke and dust are commonplace also should not have a detector. For example, exhaust fumes from a car could either cause false alarms or clog the sensor, so a garage is not a good place for one.

3. There Are Two Different Kinds

Smoke detectors work in one of two ways. First, an ionization detector uses electrically charged particles called ions to detect the presence of smoke. When smoke particles enter the sensor, there is a shift in the electrical balance, and if the shift is big enough, the alarm will sound. The second type is photoelectric, and uses a beam of light to detect smoke. Unwanted particles will deflect the light and cause it to shine backward onto a sensor. If enough light hits the sensor, it will trigger the alarm.

4. You Can Avoid the Unwanted Kitchen Alarm

Many people complain that their kitchen smoke detectors constantly go off when they cook. Particles from cooking smoke are smaller than the particles from a smoldering fire, but still big enough to cause an electrical imbalance, setting off an ionization detector. The problem can be fixed by replacing it with a photoelectric sensor, which is less sensitive to smaller particles, or installing a detector containing a “silence” button. Another strategy is to move the detector away from the stove so the particles will spread around and be less detectable.

5. About One in Three Homes Has a Broken Detector

It simply cannot be overemphasized how smoke detectors save lives. The frequency of death from residential fires has noticeably dropped in recent years. Unfortunately, more and more homes are found to have at least one nonworking or disabled smoke detector. This tendency needs to be stopped or the death rate is sure to change direction. Take care of your smoke detectors, so they can take care of you.

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