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Knowing where, what and how to install smoke detectors in your home can save not only your life but the lives of your family as well. Although in most states smoke detectors are mandatory for rental properties these tips will help you to know if additional detectors are needed for the safety of your home.
Halls leading to any sleeping areas should always have smoke detectors installed. They should also be installed at the head of any stairs that leads to living areas. When you are installing smoke detectors you should avoid areas where there are air currents from vents or radiators, dead air corners and the end of hallways. If you install your smoke detector on the ceiling it will need to be at least twenty inches from any wall. If the detector is installed on a wall it will need to be between 15 and 30 inches below the ceiling to work properly.
There are two different types of smoke detectors on the market today. One is called an ionization detector and contains a tiny amount of shielded radio active material which breaks the air down into charged atoms, allowing a small current of air to flow through. When smoke disrupts this flow the alarm will be set off. The other type of smoke detector is called a photoelectric detector. These use a small light beam that is impinging on a light sensitive photo cell. When smoke interrupts the light beam the alarm will sound. With this type of detector the light bulb that produces the beam will usually last approximately three years before it must be replaced.
The ionization detector will respond more quickly to the fumes of any fast burning fire while the photoelectric type works good with smoke from a smoldering fire. The photoelectric smoke detector is much less prone to false alarms from innocuous kitchen fumes but it is wise to use both types in your home. Both types of smoke detectors are powered by either household current or batteries. If you use the battery powered smoke detectors you will need to be aware that the detector will signal with intermittent beeps when the batteries are low. Always change batteries immediately when they are low and yearly even if they are not low.
If the smoke detector runs on house current it can, in most cases, be plugged into a receptacle or wired directly into a circuit. Be sure if you use the plug in type that the receptacle is not one that can be switched off. Try to choose a detector that has a battery backup just in case the power goes off. In some cases even a slow burning electric fire will take out the power before smoke has entered your home. Be sure to test all your smoke detectors once each month to be sure they are working properly. Clean no less than once a year to remove any dust, grease or other debris that might have collected. All smoke detectors come with instructions from the manufacturer that will explain installation and maintenance. Follow the directions carefully to get the maximum benefits from your detector. In most cases installation is simple. Most smoke detectors come with a plate that is attached to the wall. In the case of battery operated detectors, the battery will attach to this plate with the cover snapping over the top.