A Better Detector

by Josh on July 17, 2009 · 7 comments

in Ideas

Admit it.  When is the last time you changed your smoke detectors?  Not  just changed the batteries, but actually replaced the detectors themselves?

As part of my electrical upgrades, I had several new Kidde smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed.  Although these new ceiling warts look about the same as the detectors we’ve all seen for years, they are packing some technology that is anything but the same old thing.

New smoke detector

Manufacturers recommend replacing smoke detectors after 10 years of service.  I’m sure that lifespan is based in part on maintaining a market for these products, but there are several good reasons to consider upgrading your detectors.

  1. Go Hardwired.  Batteries wear down and unless you keep a supply of 9-volt replacements on hand you are bound to have gaps in your protection.  Hardwired detectors use batteries only as backups in case of power outages for improved security and greener, cheaper operation.
  2. Interconnect detectors.  Detectors can be interconnected with wires or even wirelessly with certain units.  The benefit of interconnection is that the detectors work as a system to sound an alarm across multiple floors and rooms simultaneously when any unit detects a problem.
  3. Add carbon monoxide protection.  Around here, CO detectors are now required in all sleeping rooms.  Unlike smoke, you can’t smell or see carbon monoxide, so new combination smoke/CO detectors are an essential safeguard against this silent killer.
  4. Start hearing voices.  In addition to the loud beeps they’ve always made, many new smoke detectors feature recorded voice alerts.  For houses with young children, a voice alert could help kids understand the emergency (“Fire!  Fire!”) and how respond in a way that a simple alarm beep may not.
  5. Visualize detector status.  Most new smoke detectors include LED status lights so you can see at a glance whether a unit is working properly.

If you upgrade your smoke detectors, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for installation and use.  And–particularly when it comes to interconnection– you should select just one brand and use their system throughout the house.

It can be easy to overlook an old smoke detector on the ceiling, but there are several compelling recent advances in the technology of these devices that should make detector upgrades a priority for many homeowners.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Reuben July 17, 2009 at 11:51 am

I really like the idea of hardwiring the smoke detectors & even hardwiring them together. I suppose this is standard business in new construction. I’m thinking about my 100 year old house, though, and I’m thinking it just isn’t going to be possible – at least not hardwiring them together – without cutting some serious holes in the wall to route cables… I’d probably have to go the wireless route. Great idea!


John Anderson July 20, 2009 at 7:24 am

It’s a reasonable option for old houses to go the wireless route. But it’s just a hassle to replace batteries once in a while. Only consider this route if you’re certain that you don’t want to make permanent changes to a room/house.

The recording voice alarms are great for residences with kids. Mom or dad could record a re-assuring voice to guide the kids during an emergency.


Home Plumbing Services July 20, 2009 at 7:27 am

Great post!

I think that smoke detectors should be installed in all homes by law!

Could save so many live…



Josh July 22, 2009 at 9:15 pm

@Reuben- I agree that the wireless option would be the way to go. You could probably manage to get some detectors hardwired even if the wires don’t interconnect.

@John- Thanks for your input– I agree that those recordable detectors are amazing and useful.


carlcaroll August 3, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Thanks for the ideas. Personally, a few years ago I went with hardwired detectors because I did forget to check on the batteries with my old system. Now, I just hope that I won’t have to need it . . .ever. It is an investment but even if the alarm comes only once, it will have been a good investment.


pgarcia August 4, 2009 at 11:59 am

I know it is not a big deal to check how the batteries are once in a while. However, in the house I just moved to, I got wired detectors and just makes life a little easier. Just one less thing to think about. I would just be great if we could teach those detectors to know when the smoke is because of our less than perfect cooking 😉


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