Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors: What You Need to Know

Any homeowner’s worst nightmare is finding a fire within their home. But oddly enough, a smoke detector is one of the most often overlooked safety devices in the home. You likely only take notice of this ceiling-mounted contraption when it’s screeching to warn you of potential danger. Smoke detectors are one of the most essential tools to keep you and your family safe – but they can only do so when they’re kept in proper working condition.

How a Smoke Detector Works

Smoke detectors are always mounted on the ceiling because smoke rises, making it the easiest way to detect a possible fire. The most commonly used types are called photoelectric and ionization detectors:

  • The photoelectric detector uses beams of light located inside the device to determine the presence of smoke in the air. When there is no smoke in the air, the light shoots in a straight line; when smoke is detected, it scatters the light and triggers the alarm.
  • Ionization detectors contain a chamber with an electrical current; when smoke is detected within this chamber, it changes the level of ions in the air, causing the current to drop, sounding the alarm.

Maintaining Your Smoke Detector

Regularly making sure that your smoke detector is working is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the safety of your home against a fire hazard. Below are a few tips on what you can do to keep it in good shape.

Test Your Smoke Alarm

Making sure that your smoke alarm actually works is one of the easiest, and also the most easily overlooked of household tasks. Your smoke alarm should be tested about once a month to verify that the battery is still functioning and operating properly. When performing the monthly test, hold down the “test” button until you hear a loud tone – this will indicate that the alarm is working. With some models you may need to press the button again to turn it off.

Replace Your Batteries

If you’ve started to hear a short, loud beeping noise every few minutes, that’s a firm indicator that the batteries in your smoke detector need replacing. On most models the batteries will need to be replaced yearly; however, not all models have replaceable batteries, to be sure to read the instructions first.

Replace the Unit When Necessary

Smoke detectors work around the clock to monitor the air in your home, so over time they naturally collect allergens like dust, contaminants, and even insects. Many models come with an expiration date so that you know when it needs to be replaced; but if yours does not, make sure to replace the entire unit every 10 years or so. At this stage, the device is much less reliable due to the aging mechanical components.

Carbon Monoxide Detector: Why You Need One

Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that can be emitted from every-day household appliances, such as your heating system and oven or grill. When energy sources such as wood, gasoline, oil, natural gas and others are burned in a confined space, such as a kitchen, basement, or garage, and they fail to burn completely, it releases this hard-to-detect toxic gas into the air.

However, if you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, it can easily save your life. It quickly detects the presence of CO in your home, and will alert you to danger similar to the way a smoke alarm does. They are affordable, and easy to install, and it’s recommended to have one on every floor of your home.

If you need an inspection in the Montgomery County MD area, call Frederick Home Inspection Services!

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