Time to Fall Back (and Check Your Smoke Alarms)
October 15, 2021
This month marks Daylight Savings time when we “fall back” an hour. A general rule of thumb is to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors when Daylight Savings Time ends and begins (unless you have a special detector – more on that below). In addition to replacing your batteries, here are some guidelines that are smart to follow when checking/testing smoke alarms:
Smoke alarms should be maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions, so look over and keep the instructions.
Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button.
Make sure everyone in the home understands the sound of the smoke alarm and knows how to respond.
Smoke alarms with non-replaceable 10-year batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away.
Smoke alarms with any other type of battery need a new battery at least once a year. If that alarm chirps warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
When replacing batteries, refer to the manufacturer’s list of batteries on the back of the alarm or in the manufacturer’s instructions. The manufacturer’s instructions are specific to the batteries (brand and model) that must be used, and smoke alarms may not work properly if the specified batteries aren’t used.
Replace all smoke alarms in your home every ten years, as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Did you know you should use two types of smoke detection technologies in your home? The two most commonly recognized smoke detection technologies are ionization smoke detection and photoelectric smoke detection. For best protection, use both of these types:
Optical detection – photoelectric smoke alarms combine a light source and a sensor. As smoke passes between the two and interrupts the beam, it goes off. The NFPA says, “photo-electric smoke detection is generally more responsive to fires that begin with a long period of smoldering (called smoldering fires).” These are considered to provide adequate protection for smoldering fires, but not so much for flaming fires. However, over time, the lens gets dusty and the unit is less and less likely to “see” smoke. Typically, this type is generally used for large rooms.
Physical process – ionization smoke alarms are very sensitive, capable of detecting smoke that is not visible to the eye. This type has a radioactive element which passes a constant current through an ionization chamber between two electrodes. Any particle that enters the chamber, like smoke, interrupts that current and sets off the alarm. This type of detector is generally cheaper to manufacture but more prone to false alarms.
FYI…combination alarms that include both technologies in a single device are available.
When you change your clocks this weekend, why not take the time, for everyone’s safety, to check your smoke detectors, too? Please be sure to change your batteries and make it a habit twice a year in conjunction with Daylight Savings Time. And for safety’s sake, consider replacing any smoke detector units over ten years of age!