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Nearly all homeowners know by now that smoke detectors are critical pieces of home safety equipment. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the rate of home fire deaths in homes without functioning smoke detectors is almost twice as high as that of homes with functioning smoke detectors.
Unfortunately, it can also be easy to take these devices for granted, and neglected or improperly installed smoke detectors could let you down when you need them. For the safety of your family, make thorough smoke detector maintenance part of your home care routine.
Make It Work
It only takes a few minutes per year to make sure your smoke detectors are always in good working order:
Test your smoke detector every month by using the test button and following the manufacturer’s instructions. If you find that your smoke detector isn’t functioning properly, replace it immediately.
Remove dust every month using a vacuum hose attachment, a duster or a can of compressed air.
If any of your smoke detectors are entirely reliant on batteries, always keep a fresh set of batteries on hand. If you ever hear the chirp warning you that the battery is almost dead, replace the batteries immediately.
All smoke detectors have an expiration date, and none are designed to last for more than ten years. Check for the expiration date on your model and replace your smoke detectors promptly when they expire.
Whenever it’s time to maintain your smoke detectors, be sure to use a sturdy stepstool or ladder, if necessary. Wear non-slip shoes and use caution.
Where It Counts
In addition to maintaining your smoke detectors, it’s important to consider how many you have, where they’re installed and how they’re powered. Upgrading your smoke detection setup can help you maximize your fire safety effectiveness.
There should be a smoke detector in every sleeping room, plus at least one additional smoke detector for every floor in the home.
Smoke detectors belong in the basement, too -- the ideal location is on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs.
Don’t install smoke detectors near windows or HVAC ducts, as the draft may dissipate smoke and delay a genuine alarm.
Ideally, smoke detectors should be hard-wired for power with a backup battery in the case of power outages. They should also be interconnected, so that if a smoke alarm goes off in one room of a home, it goes off simultaneously in all the other rooms.
Never paint a smoke detector to match the surrounding wall or ceiling, as this can interfere with its operation.
If you live in an older home that doesn’t have a smoke detector setup that meets these standards, consider calling an experienced electrician to bring your home fire safety up to code.