Smoke Alarms: How To Install And Maintain Your Smoke Detector

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Smoke Alarms: How To Install And Maintain Your Smoke Detector

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The What’s What Of Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms are crucial in detecting a fire in the early stages, giving you more time to get you and your family to safety. Smoke alarms can sometimes be forgotten about or overlooked. You might know you have one, but do you regularly test your fire alarm or maintain it? 

Let's start at the beginning; there are different kinds of smoke alarms available, each with different purposes and benefits:

Ionisation smoke alarms detect small smoke particles produced by flames, even before the smoke thickens. Although they are sometimes set off by burnt toast when located near the kitchen, they are fairly inexpensive and suitable for hallways and stairwells in homes or offices.

Heat alarms work by detecting high temperatures rather than sensing smoke. Heat will trigger the alarm at around 58°C. By comparison, intumescent strips in doors and frames will be activated anywhere between 110-180°C (depending on the materials used in the strips). Alarms are so important as they react at the early stages of a fire before a room fills with smoke or reaches a very high temperature. Heat alarms are safe for kitchens and burnt toast, but they don't cover large areas so you may need to have more of them installed. This type of alarm can also be suitable for garages.

Optical smoke alarms (also known as photoelectric smoke alarms) are less sensitive to quick flaming fires, rather they work by detecting larger particles of smoke. This alarm works by using an infra red LED which pulses a beam of light into a chamber to check for smoke particles every few seconds. This type of alarm would better detect slow burning fires which typically produce more smoke, such as overheated cables or upholstery. Ideal for bedrooms, living rooms and offices.

Also available are combined, or multi sensor, alarms. These alarms save space as you only need to fit one unit to serve several purposes and they best utilise the features of other alarms to intelligently monitor your space for risks. 

Consider which alarms will best meet your needs, and always read the manufacturers guidance and instructions. 

How To Fit A Smoke Alarm

First, it's important to consider how many smoke alarms you'll need. One in each room will provide maximum protection. An absolute minimum would be one per floor, to ensure safety at each level of the home (though larger sized homes will certainly need more than this). If you're unsure, it's best to get professional advice for your property rather than guessing.

Utilising different alarm types in different areas can be really beneficial. Placing smoke alarms in bathrooms and kitchens can often be frequently activated accidentally due to steam and cooking so consider the different options available to you to make sure you get good coverage for these areas.

The process of fitting an alarm is usually very similar regardless of brand or model. It’s best to check specific fitting instructions for the unit you have, but if you've misplaced those, here are some general rules:

  • Mark up on the ceiling where the alarm will go - this should be close to the centre of the room but at least 30cm from the nearest light fitting or wall. It should be located where it can be heard throughout the building, especially when you are sleeping.
  • Hold the base plate as a template to mark up where you will drill. 
  • Drill the holes - if screwing straight into plaster, remember to reinforce the holes with anchors before driving in screws.
  • Drill the base plate into the holes - and ensure it is secure.
  • Fit the battery into the unit before attaching the unit to the base plate on the ceiling - after fitting press the test button to ensure it is working as expected.

Maintaining Your Smoke Alarm

Test your alarm once a month. You can’t be too careful with fire safety and this process takes seconds, but could really give precious extra minutes in the case of a fire.

When vacuuming, gently clean the alarm with the soft brush attachment, removing dust and build up that may be present. This can minimise the risk of false alarm, particularly with optical alarms, which aren't suitable for dusty environments.

Replace your alarm after 10 years. Don't rely on an old and possibly ineffective alarm to do its job, be proactive in replacing old alarms to maximise fire protection.  

Remember!

Smoke alarms save lives. However, in the event of an emergency, your doors (or door frames) should be fitted with Intumescent Strips, to effectively prevent the spread of fire in emergencies. Features such as Intumescent Glazing SealsLetterplates and Ironmongery Protection can also prevent the spread of fire and increase the time you have to get to safety.

Got questions? If you want to know more about smoke alarms or how they work with intumescent products, get in touch. We'd be more than happy to help you find the perfect solution for your property.

Published October 2017

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