Monitored and Non-Monitored Smoke Alarms

Monitored and Non-Monitored Smoke Alarms

One of the many advantages of a monitored, low voltage smoke detector is that it is monitored through your existing burglar alarm system.  In the event of a fire, or the presence of smoke, an activation signal is sent immediately to your Central Station.  Additionally, a signal is also sent to our Central Station to indicate that the detector has lost power or is operating on a back-up battery.

By contrast, when a regular 120 volt smoke detector trips, it makes a loud noise to warn the occupants of the presence of smoke.  If the power goes out, it will only last as long as the battery that you have installed in it (assuming it works).

Oftentimes, you will see homes that have two smoke detectors side-by-side… one is to meet the city codes and the other is connected to the alarm system (either hardwired or wireless).

120 volt smoke detectors can be monitored, but are not the best way to go.  While devices exist that allow these detectors to be connected to your alarm system, this practice is not recommended.  The reason being, when your Central Station receives a signal, there is no way to determine the exact location of or which detector has been activated.  This is because 120 volt detectors are “daisy-chained” when wired.  This means that each detector is connected to a single cable.  With low voltage detectors, each device is wired directly to the control panel (or sends a wireless signal to the control panel) without any “sharing”.

This can create a lot of frustration and wasted time for homeowners, the fire department and alarm technicians when trying to troubleshoot why an alarm occurred with any devices that have been “daisy-chained”.  We only know that there was an alarm, but not the specific location where it originated from.

By contrast, with monitored, low voltage detectors, our Central Station knows immediately that an alarm is coming from the master bedroom,, the garage, etc.  We then provide that information to the fire department when dispatching them to your home.  This helps direct the fire departments efforts to save your home and your precious belongings.

False Alarm Issues

One of the most common reasons for a smoke detector tripping is something burning on the stove, and homeowners invariably end up disconnecting the 120 volt smoke detector closest to the kitchen.  This is the very reason we recommend that those “regular” smoke detectors not be connected to the alarm system.

Instead, low voltage monitored smoke detectors should be installed outside of each bedroom, on the second floor, etc. and not near the kitchen.

What Should You Do?

  1. Determine if your existing smoke detectors are monitored or not (call your alarm company to ask).
  2. If your smoke detectors are more than three years old, consider replacing them… if they are more than five years old, definitely replace them.
  3. If you only have 120 volt smoke detectors installed, consider adding monitored low voltage smoke detectors to your alarm system.  They can be hardwired or wireless.

Smoke Alarms

A smoke alarm, also known as a smoke detector, is a device that detects smoke and issues an audible sound and/or a visual signal to alert residents to a potential fire.

Facts and Figures

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • Although most newer homes have smoke alarms, about one-third of all deaths in house fires in 2011 occurred in homes that lacked working smoke alarms. 
  • Older homes are more likely to lack an adequate number of smoke alarms because they were built before requirements increased.
  • In 23% of home fire deaths, smoke alarms were present but did not sound. Sixty percent of these failures were caused by the power supplies having been deliberately removed due to false alarms. 
  • Every year in the United States, about 3,000 people lose their lives in residential fires. Most of these deaths are caused by smoke inhalation, rather than as a result of burns. 

Smoke Alarm Types

Ionization and photo-electric are the two main designs of smoke detectors. Both types must pass the same tests to be certified to the voluntary standard for smoke alarms, but they perform differently in different types of fires. Detectors may be equipped with one or both types of sensors — known as dual-sensor smoke alarms — and possibly a heat detector, as well. 

These sensors are described as follows:

  • Ionization smoke sensors are the most common and economical design and are available at most hardware stores. They house a chamber sided by small metal plates that irradiate the air so that it conducts electricity. When smoke enters the chamber, the current flow becomes interrupted, which triggers an alarm to sound. These sensors will quickly detect flaming-type fires but may be slower to react to smoldering fires. 
  • Photo-electric smoke sensors use a light-sensitive photocell to detect smoke inside the detector. They shine a beam of light that will be reflected by smoke toward the photocell, triggering the alarm. These sensor types work best on smoldering fires but react more slowly to flaming fires. They often must be hard-wired into the house’s electrical system, so some models can be installed only in particular locations.

While heat detectors are not technically classified as smoke detectors, they are useful in certain situations where smoke alarms are likely to sound false alarms. Dirty, dusty industrial environments, as well as the area surrounding cooking appliances, are a few places where false alarms are more likely and where heat detectors may be more useful.

Location

Individual authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) may have their own requirements for smoke-alarm placement, so homeowners can check with their local building codes if they need specific instructions. The following guidelines, however, can be helpful.

Smoke alarms should be installed in the following locations:

  • on the ceiling or wall outside of each bedroom; 
  • in the basement, preferably on the ceiling near the basement stairs; 
  • in the garage, due to all the combustible materials commonly stored there; 
  • on the ceiling or on the wall, with the top of the detector between 6 to 12 inches from the ceiling; and/or 
  • in each story within a building, including basements and cellars, but not crawlspaces or uninhabited attics.

Smoke alarms should not be installed in the following locations:

  • near heating or air-conditioning supply and return vents; 
  • near a kitchen appliance; 
  • near windows, ceiling fans or bathrooms equipped with a shower or tub; 
  • where ambient conditions, including humidity and temperature, are outside the limits specified by the manufacturer’s instructions; 
  • within an unfinished attic or garage, or in other spaces where temperatures can rise or fall beyond the limits set by the manufacturer; 
  • where the mounting surface could become considerably warmer or cooler than the rest of the room, such as an inadequately insulated ceiling below an unfinished attic; or 
  • in dead-air spots, such as the top of a peaked roof or a ceiling-to-wall corner.

Power and Interconnection

Power for the smoke alarms may be hard-wired directly into the building’s electrical system, or it may come from just a battery. Hard-wired smoke detectors are more reliable because the power source cannot be removed or drained, although they will not function in a power outage unless they also have batteries for backup. Battery-operated units often fail because the battery can be easily removed, dislodged or drained, although these units can be installed almost anywhere. Older buildings might be restricted to battery-powered designs, while newer homes generally offer more options for power sources. If possible, homeowners should install smoke alarms that are hard-wired with a battery backup, especially during a renovation or remodeling project.

Smoke alarms may also be interconnected so that if one becomes triggered, they all sound in unison. Interconnected smoke alarms are typically connected with a wire, but new technology allows them to be interconnected wirelessly. The National Fire Protection Agency requires that smoke alarms be protected by arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs).

More Tips:

  • Parents should stage periodic night-time fire drills to assess whether their children will awaken from the alarm and respond appropriately. 
  • Never disable a smoke alarm. Use the alarm’s silencing feature to stop nuisance or false alarms triggered by cooking smoke or fireplaces. 
  • Test smoke alarms monthly, and replace their batteries at least twice per year. Change the batteries when you change your clocks for Daylight Saving Time.  Most models emit a chirping noise when the batteries are low to alert the homeowner that they need replacement. 
  • Smoke alarms should be replaced when they fail to respond to testing, or every 10 years, whichever is sooner. The radioactive element in ionization smoke alarms will decay beyond usability within 10 years.
  • Smoke detectors should be replaced if they become damaged or wet, are accidentally painted over, are exposed to fire or grease, or are triggered without apparent cause. 
  • Note the sound of the alarm. It should be distinct from other sounds in the house, such as the telephone, doorbell and pool alarm.

Closet Lighting

closetlighting

People don’t often think about the fire risks posed by the light in their clothes closet, but it’s one of the few places in the house where a source of high heat can get too close to flammable materials.  I come across this problem often in early 20th century homes.  Back then, is was all too common to see a lone incandescent light bulb with a pull chain in a closet.  Today, lighting must be installed safely, with adequate separation from clothes, boxes and other flammables stored in the closet.  We can also choose the quality of the light, as well as bulb efficiency.

According to the 2009 International Residential Code,  closet lighting should be surface mounted with lamps completely enclosed with a clearance from any combustibles of, 12 inches for incandescent or LED lights, and 6 inches for florescent lighting.

Metal pull chains on old ceramic closet fixtures may be dangerous as well; if the base cracks, the chain can become electrified.  Should you be standing on a hardwood floor barefoot after a shower, you may get the surprise of your life.

Homeowners should replace lighting in their clothes closets if the light has the potential to ignite flammable materials in the closet. 

For other helpful tips on how to improve your home and keep your family safe, check back often.

Feel free to share with friends and colleagues!

Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
Home Run Inspections
405-905-9175
homeruninspections@icloud.com
We cover all of the bases!

Serving the Oklahoma City metro and surrounding areas including Edmond, Guthrie, Cashion, Yukon, Moore, Norman, Chickasha, Midwest City/Del City, Bethany, El Reno, Shawnee, Harrah, and more.

Schedule Inspections Online at:
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Part 4 of 4 – Carbon Monoxide Detectors

familyinhome

How can I prevent CO poisoning?

  • Purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors with labels showing that they meet the requirements of the new UL standard 2034 or Comprehensive Safety Analysis 6.19 safety standards.
  • Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes. Have the heating system professionally inspected by an InterNACHI inspector and serviced annually to ensure proper operation. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
  • Never service fuel-burning appliances without the proper knowledge, skill and tools. Always refer to the owner’s manual when performing minor adjustments and when servicing fuel-burning equipment.
  • Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool either in or near an enclosed space, such as a garage, house or other building. Even with open doors and windows, these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build to lethal levels.
  • Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.
  • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
  • Never use gas appliances, such as ranges, ovens or clothes dryers to heat your home.
  • Never operate un-vented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
  • During home renovations, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris. Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are complete.
  • Do not place generators in the garage or close to the home. People lose power in their homes and get so excited about using their gas-powered generator that they don’t pay attention to where it is placed. The owner’s manual should explain how far the generator should be from the home.
  • Clean the chimney. Open the hatch at the bottom of the chimney to remove the ashes.  Hire a chimney sweep annually.
  • Check vents. Regularly inspect your home’s external vents to ensure they are not obscured by debris, dirt or snow.
In summary, carbon monoxide is a dangerous poison that can be created by various household appliances. CO detectors must be placed strategically throughout the home or business in order to alert occupants of high levels of the gas.
Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
Home Run Inspections
405-905-9175
homeruninspections@icloud.com
Serving the Oklahoma City metro and surrounding areas including Edmond, Guthrie, Cashion, Yukon, Moore, Norman, Chickasha, Midwest City/Del City, Bethany, El Reno, Shawnee, Harrah, and more.

Schedule Inspections Online at:
www.Home-RunInspections.com
Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/homeruninspections
Follow us on Twitter: www.Twitter.com/HomeRunInspect2

http://www.home-runinspections.com/

#homesafety #codetectors #internachi

Part 3 of 4 – Carbon Monoxide Detectors

COdetectorplacement
CO Detector Placement

CO detectors can monitor exposure levels, but do not place them:

  • directly above or beside fuel-burning appliances, as appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon start-up;
  • within 15 feet of heating and cooking appliances, or in or near very humid areas, such as bathrooms;
  • within 5 feet of kitchen stoves and ovens, or near areas locations where household chemicals and bleach are stored (store such chemicals away from bathrooms and kitchens, whenever possible);
  • in garages, kitchens, furnace rooms, or in any extremely dusty, dirty, humid, or greasy areas;
  • in direct sunlight, or in areas subjected to temperature extremes. These include unconditioned crawlspaces, unfinished attics, un-insulated or poorly insulated ceilings, and porches;
  • in turbulent air near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, fresh-air returns, or open windows. Blowing air may prevent carbon monoxide from reaching the CO sensors.

Do place CO detectors:

  • within 10 feet of each bedroom door and near all sleeping areas, where it can wake sleepers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) recommend that every home have at least one carbon monoxide detector for each floor of the home, and within hearing range of each sleeping area;
  • on every floor of your home, including the basement (source:  International Association of Fire Chiefs/IAFC);
  • near or over any attached garage. Carbon monoxide detectors are affected by excessive humidity and by close proximity to gas stoves (source:  City of New York);
  • near, but not directly above, combustion appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, and fireplaces, and in the garage (source:  UL); and
  • on the ceiling in the same room as permanently installed fuel-burning appliances, and centrally located on every habitable level, and in every HVAC zone of the building (source:  National Fire Protection Association 720). This rule applies to commercial buildings.

Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
Home Run Inspections
405-905-9175
homeruninspections@icloud.com

We cover all of the bases!

Serving the Oklahoma City metro and surrounding areas including Edmond, Guthrie, Cashion, Yukon, Moore, Norman, Chickasha, Midwest City/Del City, Bethany, El Reno, Shawnee, Harrah, and more.

Schedule Inspections Online at:

www.Home-RunInspections.com
Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/homeruninspections
Follow us on Twitter: www.Twitter.com/HomeRunInspect2

http://www.home-runinspections.com/

Part 2 of 4 – Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Potential Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Any fuel-burning appliances which are malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of CO, such as:
  • furnaces;
  • stoves and ovens;
  • water heaters; Cars should never be left running in a garage
  • dryers;
  • room and space heaters;
  • fireplaces and wood stoves;
  • charcoal grills;
  • automobiles;
  • clogged chimneys or flues;
  • space heaters;
  • power tools that run on fuel;
  • gas and charcoal grills;
  • certain types of swimming pool heaters; and
  • boat engines.

 

PPM % CO
in air
Health Effects in Healthy Adults Source/Comments
0 0% no effects; this is the normal level in a properly operating heating appliance
35 0.0035% maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
50 0.005% maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift               OSHA
100 0.01% slight headache, fatigue, shortness of breath,
errors in judgment
125 0.0125% workplace alarm must sound (OSHA)
200 0.02% headache, fatigue,
nausea, dizziness
400 0.04% severe headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion; can be life-threatening after three hours of exposure evacuate area immediately
800 0.08% convulsions, loss of consciousness;
death within three hours
evacuate area immediately
12,000 1.2% nearly instant death

Read more

Part 1 of 4 – Carbon Monoxide Detectors

CarbonMonoxideDetector
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that forms from incomplete combustion of fuels, such as natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood or coal.

Facts and Figures

  • 480 U.S. residents died between 2001 and 2003 from non-fire-related carbon-monoxide poisoning.
  • Most CO exposures occur during the winter months, especially in December (including 56 deaths, and 2,157 non-fatal exposures), and in January (including 69 deaths and 2,511 non-fatal exposures). The peak time of day for CO exposure is between 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Many experts believe that CO poisoning statistics understate the problem. Because the symptoms of CO poisoning mimic a range of common health ailments, it is likely that a large number of mild to mid-level exposures are never identified, diagnosed, or accounted for in any way in carbon monoxide statistics.
  • Out of all reported non-fire carbon-monoxide incidents, 89% or almost nine out of 10 of them take place in a home.

Physiology of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

When CO is inhaled, it displaces the oxygen that would ordinarily bind with hemoglobin, a process the effectively suffocates the body. CO can poison slowly over a period of several hours, even in low concentrations. Sensitive organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs, suffer the most from a lack of oxygen.

High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes. At low concentrations, it will require a longer period of time to affect the body. Exceeding the EPA concentration of 9 parts per million (ppm) for more than eight hours may have adverse health affects. The limit of CO exposure for healthy workers, as prescribed by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, is 50 ppm.
If you don’t have a CO detector in your home, please pick one up today.  They are more affordable and readily available then ever before.  Many smoke alarms are also CO detectors so read the label.
Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
Home Run Inspections
405-905-9175
homeruninspections@icloud.com

We cover all of the bases!Serving the Oklahoma City metro and surrounding areas including Edmond, Yukon, Moore, Norman, Midwest City/Del City, Bethany, El Reno, Shawnee, Harrah, and more.

Schedule Inspections Online at:
www.Home-RunInspections.com
Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/homeruninspections
Follow us on Twitter: www.Twitter.com/HomeRunInspect2

http://www.home-runinspections.com/