Answers to 4 Common Questions First-time Homeowners Have About Smoke Alarms 

When you buy your first home, you may look forward to having a place of your own, putting down roots in your community and building on that initial investment. But if you're a first-time homeowner, you may not anticipate all of the maintenance tasks required to keep your property safe and liveable.

One of the most frequently overlooked appliances is the smoke alarm. In this blog, we answer four common questions that homeowners in your position have about this important appliance.

1. Are There Different Alarm Types? If So, Which Works Best?

There are currently two types of smoke detectors on the market: ionization and photoelectric. The difference between the two types is what sets them off.

Ionization smoke alarms contain a detector chamber that captures particles from the air in your home. Fires release electrically charged, or ionized, particles. When these ionized particles enter the detector chamber, the alarm sounds. Ionization alarms work most precisely when dealing with fast-moving fires characterised by open flames.

Photoelectric alarms have a different sensor in their detector chamber. The sensor consists of a beam of light. When the light beam reflects off of smoke particles in the chamber, the alarm goes off. Photoelectric smoke alarms detect smouldering fires, which may produce more smoke than flame, better than ionization alarms.

In most situations, you should install a photoelectric alarm. However, many experts recommend placing both alarms throughout your home for optimised detection.

An electrician can help you decide the best alarm configuration based on your home's floor plan.

2. How Many Alarms Does Your Home Need?

Like alarm type, there is no definite answer to how many smoke alarms your home requires. For the best coverage of your home, consult with a trained electrician.

However, in most homes, you should install at least one alarm in each of the following areas:

  • Inside each bedroom
  • Just outside each sleeping area
  • On each level of the house

In addition to these important placements, you may also need smoke alarms in the living area or hallways.

3. How Should You Handle New Alarm Installation?

Based on the information in the previous two sections, you may want to replace some of your current alarms or add a few new ones to your current setup.

Position and installation technique must follow specific guidelines to ensure that your new alarm works as it should. For this reason, a certified electrician should handle all installations.

In addition to new alarm installation based on the criteria listed above, you must also replace your alarms when they age. Most smoke alarms have a warranty of approximately five years and a total lifespan of 10 years or less.

If you didn't oversee installation of the current models in your home yourself, you may be able to determine an alarms age by looking on the bottom of the unit. Some units have stamped expiry dates to help homeowners remember to replace outdated alarms.

4. What Kind of Maintenance Do Alarms Need? And How Often?

Smoke alarms require simple, regular maintenance to continue working properly. Most alarms need the following:

  • Battery replacement every six months
  • Cleaning to clear away any obstructions, such as cobwebs, as needed
  • Monthly homeowner testing using the test button

If you notice an issue with your smoke alarm, your electrician may conduct other tests and maintenance to restore the unit to full functionality.

If you have a question about your smoke alarm that we didn't answer in this article, reach out to your trusted electrician.

As you make decisions about placement, upkeep and type of smoke alarms in your home, keep the information provided above in mind.

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