Smoke alarms save lives, so it is a no-brainer when it comes to ensuring safety in homes and offices. However, while there is legislation around having them fitted, some people are not clear on smoke alarm maintenance and care. The choice of photoelectric smoke alarms on the market may also be a little confusing but having all the information in one comprehensive guide will ensure you make the right choices for your property.
Types of Smoke Alarms
There are four main types available for consumers to buy which are:
- Photoelectric (or optical) smoke alarms
- Heat alarms
- Ionisation smoke alarms
- Combination smoke alarms
The photoelectric alarms are very effective when it comes to detecting the smoke particles that are given off by slow burning fires. These are the fires that are not immediately visible to the eye and can go undetected. Smouldering foam(?) in soft furnishings or overheated wiring are two good examples of these types of fires.
Heat alarms are usually found in commercial kitchens or areas with high dust such as warehouses and garages because they detect increase of heat from fire and are less prone to false alarms due to dust. Quick burning fires, such as paper, give off smaller smoke particles that are picked up by ionisation units. There are combination units which intergrate heat alarms and photoelectric smoke alarms,or are a mix of photoelectric and ionisation. There are also units which combine carbon monoxide and photoelectric detection.
Smoke alarms can be powered by mains wiring or batteries, they also can have a combination of both with a battery providing backup. Finally, smoke alarms can be standalone units or work as interconnected alarms depending on the type of property, the legal requirements of the state or territory and the needs of the household or office block. Note it is important to check the legal requirements where you live and speak to your home safety specialists who will be happy to give guidance on this.
Installing Smoke Alarms
There is legislation in place which differs across the states and territories but usually installation of hardwired 240 photoelectric smoke alarm has to be installed by a licensed electrician. Follow the instructions given by the supplier of photoelectric smoke alarms who will be able to provide you with further guidance on who should be able to safely install these types of alarms. Battery alarms are relatively easy to set up but again always check with your home safety expert.
Positioning the alarms is very important so they should be installed in every hall, every bedroom and in the living area of the home. Particularly where there are children’s sleeping areas and for houses that have more than one level, alarms should be fitted in the areas where people move from one level to another. If you have an adjoining garage or workshop, there should be an alarm fitted there as well. Again, each state has different smoke alarm legislation as to locations of smoke alarms. For example, in Queensland you must have a smoke alarm in every bedroom, however in Victoria it is sufficient to have a smoke alarm in the hallway outside the door of the bedroom.
Smoke Alarm Maintenance
Test and check the smoke alarm on a monthly basis (use a broom handle if you cannot reach it easily) and annually test it with using real smoke using a smoke detector tester can. Twice a year, vacuum cobwebs and dust around the unit. Ensure that batteries are replaced on daylight saving.
Preventing False Alarms
Make sure that along with cleaning and maintenance the smoke alarm is positioned in a dry and not humid area (bathrooms and laundry or near air conditioning/heating units) and minimize exposure to cold air returns. Check all the electrical connections and look for signs of wear and tear so the alarm can continue to perform correctly.
Changing Smoke Alarm Batteries
For smoke alarms that are mains powered they will also have batteries that need checking and changing. This is one area that people tend to forget and even those alarms that have 9VC replaceable batteries, these will need changing on an annual basis. Good practice would be to check and replace once a year, and if you link this in with the annual cleaning and maintenance schedule noted above, then you can clean and change batteries at the same time. If buying from a reputable supplier of photoelectric smoke alarms, they will be more than happy to give you advice around changing the batteries and recommended manufacturers guidance on timings as well.
Smoke Alarms for People with Impairments
Smoke alarms emit a noise which, if you are hearing impaired, could be difficult to detect. Today’s alarms can come with visual or vibrating warnings and with extra loud warning sounds. Children and adults with autism do not react well to loud unexpected noises so alarms with visual indicators may be more suitable.
Contact your home security experts and talk through your requirements to keep your home and your family safe from fire.
For a wide range of mains powered and battery operated smoke alarms solutions, as well as no smoking smoke alarms, check out the links in this article.