The leading cause of deaths and injuries to children at home is
accidents. Fires are one of the most dangerous of such accidents.
Most fatal home fires occur at night, while people sleep.
If you are asleep or become disoriented from toxic
gases produced by a fire, you may not even realize that there is a
fire. A smoke or heat detector can sound an alarm and alert you to
the danger in time to escape.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that
is made by many household appliances (furnaces, dryers, ranges,
ovens, and heaters). Usually, carbon monoxide and other gases are
vented to the outside.
But, if something goes wrong and carbon monoxide
leaks into your home, it could be deadly. The alarm of a carbon
monoxide detector will go off in time to get out before a normal
adult starts feeling sick.
The following are some common questions and answers
about smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Q. What are the types of
alarms or detectors?
A: There are three types of detectors:
- Heat detectors, which sound an alarm to warn of
an abnormally high temperature near the detector.
- Smoke detectors, which sound an alarm at the
first trace of smoke.
- Carbon monoxide detectors, which sound an alarm
if the carbon monoxide level in the home is too high.
- Q: What is the power
source for these detectors?
A: Some detectors operate on batteries. Others are
either plugged into a wall outlet or wired directly into the
- Q: What are the pros and
cons of the battery- poweredalarms?
A: An advantage of battery alarms is that they are
not affected by a fire that cuts off the electricity to the house.
Also, they can be put anywhere, even where there are no electrical
outlets or wires. The disadvantages are that the batteries need to
be changed about once a year and the beep signaling a low battery
can be annoying.
- Q: What is the best type
of battery to use?
A: Lithium batteries can last up to five or six
years, reducing the chance that the detector will have a dead
battery when you need it most. However, lithium batteries are a lot
- Q: What are the pros and
cons of the detectors poweredby
A: You do not have to change batteries and there is
no annoying beep when the battery is low. However, fires that
affect the household current will make the alarm not work. Also,
detectors must be placed where wiring or outlets are available.
- Q: Do I have to do
anything to maintain my detectors?
A: Yes. You should test them once a month by
holding a candle six inches away and blowing smoke toward the
detector. The alarm should sound in 20 seconds. Some alarms have
test buttons, but to be sure the detector works, you must use the
To test your carbon monoxide detector, just use the test button.
For all types of detectors, replace batteries at least once a year
and when they are low. Use the correct kind of battery. You must
clean the unit at least once a year by vacuuming the detector.
Never paint the detector.
- Q: With so many brands of
detectors on the market, howdo I
A: Be sure to buy a detector that has the label of
a testing laboratory. For example, Underwriter's Laboratory (UL).
Follow the installation and maintenance recommendations of the
manufacturer. Buy the type that best suits your household needs and
- Q: How many smoke, heat
or carbon monoxide detectorsshould I buy for my house?
A: Install a smoke or heat detector outside each
bedroom area and one on each floor of the house. For extra
protection, you can also put them in bedrooms, the dining room,
furnace room, utility room, attic, garage and hallways. Carbon
monoxide detectors should be just outside of or in each
- Q: Where should the
detectors be placed?
A: All types of detectors should be mounted on the
ceiling. Smoke rises so to detect the first traces of smoke a
detector could also be mounted high on a wall (four to 12 inches
from the ceiling).
- Q: How much will it cost
to install smoke, heat, orcarbon
A: You can buy detectors for about $7 to $60 each.
Packaged fire detection systems may cost $300 and up.
The extra time provided by a detector alarm may
allow your family to escape unharmed from a fire or carbon monoxide
poisoning. The extra time and money spent on buying, installing,
and maintaining your detectors could save your lives.