Cold Truths

Since we were young, we have all been taught about the importance of smoke detectors in our homes.  But how much of that do we truly know and how much do we remember?  More importantly, how much do we actually put in to practice?  Every year in the U.S. there are over a million building fires, approximately one third of these fires are residential fires in single and double occupancy resident.  Resulting from these fires are an average of three thousand deaths each year, this is a staggering number, some possibly many of which could potentially be avoided. 

All too often we find homes with no or a limited number of smoke detectors, detectors with no batteries, or detectors that have been taken down for a variety of reasons.  Reasons for not having adequate protection from detectors varies from “I set it off cooking” to “I just didn’t think about it”, but we need to think about how important it truly is to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  We have all set them off while cooking, forgotten to check the batteries until they give us the chirp telling us the battery is low, but we need to be proactive. 


Placement of smoke detectors is vital, often people get a smoke detector and place it in their kitchen thinking this is the most likely place for a fire to start and believe that is sufficient to protect them.  It is true that a majority of residential fires do start in the kitchen from cooking, placing a smoke detector there is not enough for your home.

Every home should have multiple smoke detectors.  It used to be said that at a minimum have one on each floor of your home however, that is not even sufficient.  With modern construction materials, home fires burn hotter and faster than they ever and you need every second you can get to evacuate your home in case of fire.  Many people also feel that putting a single detector in the hallway outside bedrooms is also sufficient, which is an outdated thought plan as well.

1.  In each bedroom
2.  Outside bedrooms in vicinity‚Ķ. In other words, in the hallway our open area near bedrooms
3.  Kitchen
4.  Basement
5.  Attic space
6.  Other liveable spaces- family rooms, tv rooms, game rooms
7.  Garage

We are sometimes asked if it is acceptable to have the detectors on walls or if they have to be on the ceilings.  It is preferable to have them on the ceilings as that is the best location due to how smoke travels and gathers.  As we all know smoke rises, hence it travels to the ceiling gathering there building a larger cloud over time.  The best placement is on the ceiling, however if you have a vaulted ceiling or some sort of peak in the room, it is best that you don’t put it all the way at the peak, pull it away from the peak about 12-18 inches.  Corners of rooms, are not a good location either, air tends not to  travel well in and around corners of rooms, near the center the best you can is preferable.  It is acceptable to place detectors on walls about a foot below the ceiling as well, but as stated, it is preferable to have them on the ceilings.

What Kind

There are many different manufacturers producing smoke detectors, probably two of the most known names are Kidde and First Alert.  Individuals will have to look and determine which one they prefer and can purchase, we do not make any endorsements of one brand over another.  What we do suggest though, is look at the specifications of them and keep that in mind.  Some have integrated batteries that say they are guaranteed for many years, and each make has something special they boast to entice you to purchase their brand.  

We have been asked if wired detectors are better than ones you must replace the batteries in.  This is a double edged sword that has both a yes and no answer.  As long as the detectors have a consistent source of power, they can potentially be more reliable, but if they lose power then they are useless.  These types of detectors do have battery back ups, but you have to keep that in mind as you do with all other detectors and need to check the batteries and make sure the batteries are maintained.

A good practice is to check the batteries in your smoke detectors in spring and fall when the clocks change.  You should also replace the batteries one of those times each year.

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