man putting in a Smoke Detector

Where there is smoke, there is fire.

Smoke Detectors can save your home and your family.

It is true. Most people don't think about whether or not their home is up to code regarding smoke detectors. They have one in the hall way that has not been checked in years or one downstairs and one upstairs. The fact of the matter is, that it is not enough. The average house fire takes 2 minutes to become fully involved. That is fire talk for, in 2 minutes the best you can do is get out. Almost all of the homes that we service are not up to code regarding smoke detectors. We aim to change this and protect families. In this article, I am going to break down where you need them, where you do not need them, and why you have absolutely no excuse not to fix this issue TODAY! Also, I'm going to do all of this and save you a ton of money. Yep. So here we go.

Where do we need smoke detectors?

Well I can bore you with International Residential Building Code requirements, or we could just skip all of that and get in to the everyday person language part where I tell you what you want to know:

  • Every bedroom
  • Outside of every bedroom (usually one in the hallway will do, larger hallways can have multiple)
  • Every floor of your home (first, second, third, etc.)
  • Must be on the ceiling or on the wall no more than 12" from the ceiling
  • Must be installed within 36" of the high side of a sloped ceiling
  • Must be on the highest part of a tray ceiling
  • Within 36" horizontally of the peak of a ceiling, but not closer than 4" to the peak
  • Smoke Detector Placement Diagram

Where do you not want smoke detectors?

Well, the short answer is read the manufacture's instructions as they can vary with the type of detector. Some detectors work off of ionization and detect fast flame type of fires, where others are photoelectric and detect smaller smoldering fires. For instance, you would want a photoelectric smoke detector in your kitchen vs an ionization detector to limit the amount of false alarms. For this article we are going to focus on the more common everyday type: Ionization Detector.

When installing Ionization Smoke Detectors adhere to the following:

  • Keep at least 3' away from any ceiling fan, air vent, or air return. The movement of air can slow the detection.
  • Do not install within 3' of a doorway that leads to a bathroom containing a shower or tub. The steam can trigger false alarms and also condensate the electronics within the detector.
  • Do not install within 10' of a fixed cooking appliance (photoelectric for this purpose). Again, it can give out false readings.

So what are your options for making your home safer from fires?

Smoke detectors are required to communicate with the rest of the detectors in the home. If one goes off, they all go off. In the past, this was done by running a cable between them all in order for the detector to send a messenger signal alerting the other detectors. Not a problem with a new construction home. However, for a older home, this is very costly. You have to cut drywall, run cable through the walls and ceilings, install the detector, hire a drywall crew to fix the walls, hire a paint crew to make it like it was before. A major undertaking for something that, in a lot of homeowners minds, is just not worth it. Something like this could cost upwards of $2k-$5k to get it all done.

Well not anymore. Today we can get this all accomplished for hundreds, not thousands. You can even...DO IT YOURSELF!

This is a phrase we don't utter in the electrical industry because, most of the time you should never do it yourself. Honestly, on average it costs more to do it yourself than to hire someone to do it right the first time. But in the case of bringing your homes smoke detectors up to code...you got this.

So here's how its done:

  • Your going to buy smoke detectors that communicate via a mesh network to each other. This is not via WiFi. Think about it. You need an independent network for your detectors to communicate over so that if you lose power or internet, your not in an unsafe situation. Don't know how to set up a mesh network? We will cover it in a minute.
  • Install the correct product. If you have a wired connection you need a wired detector. If you do not have a wired connection, you need a wireless detector. Remember install your new detectors per our article here.
  • Once you have all the detectors in place, they are ready to communicate via mesh network.
  • Follow the manufactures instructions but they should sound something like this: push the button to search for other detectors.
  • Your done.

It really is that simple. I have this same system installed in my own home and it took around 2 hours to install 7 detectors and program them. As a professional, I could not be more impressed with the system. As a husband and father, I can sleep a little better at night knowing we are covered. Also, it was not bad on the wallet. Total investment: $290 and completed inside of 2 hours.

If you have questions about smoke detectors or are unsure if your home is up to code, reach out to the professionals at Hutton Power & Light. We provide electrical and heating & air conditioning service to Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth an Suffolk Virginia.

Stay tuned for our next article regarding home fire safety where we will cover another newer technology: Arc Fault Circuit Breakers.

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