Are Your Home’s Smoke Detectors Really Working?

We’re all accustomed to hearing you should change the batteries in your smoke alarm annually.

But it also may be well past time to ask whether your family’s safety hinges on your swapping out your existing smoke detectors for new ones.

If you’ve lived in your home tenor more years and haven’t installed new smoke alarms, the ones hanging on your wall could be as useless as a car without gasoline. It may look perfectly functional but it is really inoperable when you need it to work.

Even if you recently purchased your home, you should check the age of your home’s detectors. Smoke detectors have an air sniffer that degrades over time. Smoke detectors that are ten years old need to be entirely replaced to ensure they have the capacity to detect smoke in your home.

How can you determine the age of your existing smoke detectors? Simply unscrew one from its base and look at its bottom. Most will have a label printed with their date of manufacture.

Fortunately, replacing Westchase area homes’ smoke detectors takes little more than a ladder, a screwdriver and a trip to your local hardware store.

While old homes often have smoke detectors that operate independently and that are powered by batteries, most homes in the Westchase area have hardwired smoke detectors with battery backups (the battery enables them to still work during power outages). These detectors are wired together so that if one goes off, they all sound, notifying people throughout the house. These detectors may be wired directly into your smoke alarm system’s wires (if this is the case, an electrician will likely need to install the new ones). Fortunately, most Westchase area homes’ smoke detector wires have wired-in plugs that make for an easy swap.

For safety, turn off the power using the breakers in your garage before you do your work.

Replacement smoke detectors like First Alert (available at Lowe’s for under $20 per detector) come in two pieces, the base and the detector itself. Simply unscrew the existing detector from its base, pull its plug out and then, with a screwdriver, remove the old base from your ceiling or wall. The new base will likely have a universal configuration that will slide over your existing screws, which can be retightened, fastening the new base securely. Now simply check the plug coming out of your wall or ceiling to determine if it is compatible with the new detector. If it is, simply plug in the new detector and screw it on to the new base. If your existing plug doesn’t fit the new detector’s configuration, First Alert comes with at least three adapters that will serve as bridges between the home’s original plugs and the base of the new detector. Simply match them up, plug in the new detector and screw it on to the new base.

Even the most unskilled DIYer can change out a typical home’s 7-8 smoke detectors for less than $150 in about 90 minutes.

So don’t just stop with the battery this year. Ask yourself if it’s time to replace all of your smoke detectors. Your family’s safety may depend upon it.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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