Smoke alarms are a life-saving device that are too often neglected. Many homes have one fitted but forget to test it periodically and replace the batteries yearly. Some houses don’t have any alarms installed, or do have them, but have removed the batteries. Smoke alarms should be replaced every ten years and whenever you move into a new build house, you need to ensure that you get the alarm checked as some people are relying upon smoke alarms which could many years overdue for replacement.

Did you know?

  • Every year, fire and rescue services are called out to over 600,000 fires.
  • These fires result in over 800 deaths and over 17,000 injuries.
  • About 50,000 of these are started in the home and kill almost 500 people and they injure over 11,000, many which could have been prevented if people had smoke alarms that are installed correctly and working.
  • The 1992 building regulations have required that at least one smoke alarm is wired directly to the mains in every new property.
  • Building Regulations are the minimum standards set for the design, construction and alterations to buildings. They are regularly changed and updated by Government, they are then approved by Parliament.
  • In England the minimum protection law states that we need to have fire alarms in all dwellings (the landing and hall) which also means having one fire alarm on every storey of the house and all alarms must be interlinked in some way.
  • You are 4 times more likely to die in a fire if you don’t have a working smoke alarm.
  • Your home can be engulfed by flames in less than 4 minutes.
  • Smoke is by far the biggest killer in household fires.
  • One in every eight house fires attended by the fire brigade have inoperable smoke alarms and, inevitably, they have the highest number of fatalities.

Types of smoke alarms.

Ionisation: Ionisation alarms are the cheapest and most cost effective of the three alarm systems. These alarms are designed to be sensitive towards the fires that are fast with big flames however, this also means that on the negative side, they are ineffective when it comes to the slower types of fires with the larger amount of smoke. These specific alarms are not ideal for kitchens as they have been found to be overly sensitive when it comes to cooking errors such as burning food. The price of these types of smoke alarms vary between the prices of £10 – £80.

Optical: Although this sort of alarm is more expensive, this alarm is more sensitive to the slower fires with larger amounts of smoke which funnily enough, means that they’re inefficient to the fast-bigger flames fires with smaller smoke amounts. Although this alarm can’t be placed in the kitchen, this alarm can be close to the kitchen and it less likely to go off every time you burn a piece of toast. The pricing’s of the optical alarm vary between £13 – £123.

Heat: these alarms are insensitive to smoke and detects fires through the heat of the fire itself. This type of alarm is best placed in the kitchen however, this alarm covers such little surface area, you would have to put several of these guys in for them to be effective throughout the whole kitchen. The pricing of these are the most expensive as they tend to cost between £17 – £131. There is a more expensive option of this alarm comes to a whopping £383! However, this alarm is designed to help prevent a cooker fire from starting by using Intelligent heat sensors to monitor the cooker top temperature. If the temperature rises too much, the control unit cuts off the electricity supply to the cooker.

Some people find their alarms are frequently set off when they are cooking or when the toast burns. An alarm installed inside the kitchen must be a heat alarm rather than a smoke alarm. Just outside a kitchen in hall or dining room, an optical smoke alarm or, even better, a combined smoke and heat alarm should be installed, as these are less sensitive to false alarm.

Which smoke alarm should I choose?

The general rule is quite easy;

  • Kitchen and Garage: Heat Alarms
  • Landings: Ionisation smoke alarms or combined optical smoke and heat alarms
  • Bedrooms, living rooms and hallway: Optical smoke alarms or combined optical smoke and heat alarms.

Your smoke alarm is more useful when it works!

Once again, there are several things you can do to look after your smoke alarm and make certain it is always in good working condition. These are:

  • Test your alarms once a week using the test button.
  • Replace the batteries yearly.
  • Change the whole unit at least every 10 years.
  • Vacuum any accumulated dust from the detector 6 monthly with the vacuum extender tube.

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