Changing Our Clocks is Also the Time to Check and Replace Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
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Changing Our Clocks is Also the Time to Check and Replace Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

All Alarms should be tested every month and batteries should be replaced at least once per year to maintain a safe home in case of fire or carbon monoxide danger

March 10, 2021

Daylight Saving Time is about to begin and it's the perfect time to check the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. It's also the right time to replace any alarms that have reached the end of their lives, don't work reliably, or have questionable reliability. While you're doing your rounds, make sure that you add alarms if you don't have enough, which can save your life later.

Working Alarms Save Lives

Each year, more than 2,300 people die in more than 366,000 home fires and about 500 people die in carbon monoxide (CO) incidents. Many people have died because there were no alarms in the home or because the alarms were not functioning properly or at all. Taking time now to ensure your home has the proper number of functioning alarms can mean the difference between life and death.

Daylight Saving Time is the Perfect Opportunity to replace

Even if the batteries in your alarms don't drain quickly, they should be replaced at least once per year. The beginning of Daylight Saving Time is a great opportunity to replace them since it's a great reminder. If you replace the batteries each year at this time, it will be harder to forget when you changed them last.

Should be Properly working with fresh batteries

You should be testing your alarms at least every month, but now is a great time to test them again and to make sure they have fresh batteries. If the old batteries still have a good amount of juice and you plan to use them in other devices, make sure to mark them so they don't get used in smoke alarms in the future, such as placing some masking tape around them. Smoke and CO alarm batteries should always come from a fresh package.

Many homes don't have Carbon Monoxide Alarms

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 95 percent of homeowners report having a least one working smoke alarm, but only about 42% report having a working carbon monoxide alarm, which will alert you to dangerous levels of the colorless, odorless, and deadly gas. Carbon monoxide is called the invisible killer because you can't see or smell it. This poisonous gas can come from a variety of sources, such as malfunctioning heating systems and idling cars, and very quickly incapacitates and kills.

Placement of Alarms

At least one smoke alarm should be placed on each level of the home. One should be inside each bedroom and one should be outside sleeping areas. This is to ensure that fires that start in one area of the home don't burn undetected for an extended period of time. CO alarms should be placed throughout the home in the same way you place smoke alarms. If you have children or older family members, consider placing an extra CO alarm near their rooms for added security.

If your heating source, water heater, etc. is electric, it won't produce CO. But that doesn't mean you won't have CO in your home. CO can also come from idling cars in garages, which can seep into the home. If you have a solid fuel furnace/heating source, a CO alarm should be placed nearby. If your water heater isn't electric, it also needs to be near an alarm. Don't forget to place one in your laundry area if you have a gas clothes dryer.

If you place a CO alarm in your garage because a solid fuel device is located there, avoid idling your car more than necessary. Otherwise, you may have a high number of alarms that result, which might have you thinking of removing the alarm.

Alarms need to be replaced periodically

Many people aren't aware that their smoke and CO alarms also need to replaced after a certain amount of time, not just the batteries. Depending upon your product, you might have to replace anywhere from every five years to ten years. It's often from the date of manufacturer, too, not just when you place it into use. Your device will have product information that specifies how often it should be replaced. Newer smoke alarms can detect not only raging fires, but also smoldering fires that can go undetected for hours.

Replace your alarms if:

  • You aren't sure how long its been in use.
  • It's close to its expiration date.
  • You believe that the device has been exposed to contaminants, such as if they weren't removed or covered during home renovations producing heavy dust.
  • Your alarms chirp even after replacing the batteries.
  • The alarm goes off for no reason.
  • Testing the alarm produces no results or inconsistent results.

Use your phone to set a schedule

Why not put your smartphone to good use when it comes to testing your alarms and replacing your batteries? Set up a monthly reminder on your phone to test your alarms. If you don't replace your batteries when Daylight Saving Time begins, set up a battery replacement reminder, as well. A phone is also a great way to set up a replacement reminder for the devices themselves, especially if you don't replace them all at the same time.

Smoke and Carbon monoxide 'Combined' units

If you're looking to add or replace smoke alarms, consider getting an integrated unit. Various manufacturers combine smoke and CO alarms into one unit, which cost a little more than traditional alarms but are more cost-effective than buying separate units. Even better, many alarms that detect CO can also detect explosive gas, such as the kind that can seep into your home from a broken gas line or from the sewer. If your home uses natural gas, seriously consider one of these units.

'smart' devices

If your home uses wired detectors that all work together, you have an advantage. If an alarm goes off in one location, the other alarms can also sound, giving you additional warning. But if you use battery-operated devices, you don't have this benefit. Enter 'smart' technology. Some 'smart' battery-operated devices can communicate with each other via WiFi and Bluetooth and even have batteries that last for the life of the device. They cost more, but the added benefits could be worth it. You can also get and silence alerts on your smartphone, be notified of battery replacements, and perform monthly testing with a swipe. Some of them even function as night lights.