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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.