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Smoke detectors
Old 11-24-2014, 01:50 PM   #1
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Smoke detectors

Was reminded of a task we did last year that most people don't think about. Most of us know to change our smoke detector batteries about every six months or at least every year. New models are out that last years with a permanent battery.

One thing many of us are old enough to have, without being aware of it, is outdated smoke detectors. A smoke detector life, depending on model, is about 10 years and some only 7. So, even if you replace the battery, the detector itself may no longer function. We swapped all of ours this year to the type with the permanent battery. Some of our detectors were over 15 years old.

Just a small PSA.
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Old 11-24-2014, 02:31 PM   #2
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I had never heard that before.
Looking at the NFPA website, they say you only need to replace ones with non-replaceable 10-year batteries.

The kind most of us have, with replaceable batteries (usually 9-volt), shouldn't need replacement (except the battery every year).

Installing and maintaining smoke alarms - NFPA
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Old 11-24-2014, 02:35 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by braumeister View Post
The kind most of us have, with replaceable batteries (usually 9-volt), shouldn't need replacement (except the battery every year).

Installing and maintaining smoke alarms - NFPA
No, they say every 10 years. From a text box at the site you linked to:

Quote:
Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old. To determine the age of your smoke alarm, look at the back where you will find the date of manufacture. Smoke alarms should be replaced 10 years from the date of manufacture.
It's cheap insurance.
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Old 11-24-2014, 02:52 PM   #4
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When purchasing rental property we have found smoke detectors with the radioactive emitters. Those were phased out in the '80s I think. Don't know if the half life of the emitters would be the limiting factor in those?

Most other electronics the limiting factor is often the electrolytic caps. They do dry out over time. I'm sure they could make ones without that issue now but it would cost a few cents more so I suspect they will do it as cheap as possible even if it limits the life of the product.
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Old 11-24-2014, 03:43 PM   #5
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No, they say every 10 years. From a text box at the site you linked to:
Thanks! I completely missed that.
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Old 11-24-2014, 04:59 PM   #6
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All of ours were "smoked" by a near-miss lightning strike last spring so I replaced them then. They were due anyway.

When we repainted FIL's house a few years ago we found that his was over 25 years old! I doubt it would have gone off if we'd put it in a fire.
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Old 11-24-2014, 05:30 PM   #7
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For me, I test mine before and after I replace the batteries (twice a year) I use the test button and the smoke from a candle. I'm not sure that's a "bullet proof" test but if they don't pass, then I replace them immediately. And I've found a few that failed the test after a few years in service. If I ever stay in the same house for ten years, I guess I'll need to think about replacing them all.
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Old 11-24-2014, 05:33 PM   #8
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When purchasing rental property we have found smoke detectors with the radioactive emitters. Those were phased out in the '80s I think. Don't know if the half life of the emitters would be the limiting factor in those?
They contain americium, I think the isotope responsible for making smoke detectors work has a half-life of over 400 years. So, it was probably the capacitors that cause those detectors to crump out, too.
I hadn't heard that they were no longer available. Last advice I heard was that these "ionization" detectors were useful in some places where the "photocell" ones weren't.
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Old 11-24-2014, 06:01 PM   #9
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I tested mine last week while cooking.
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Old 11-24-2014, 06:34 PM   #10
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I tested mine last week while cooking.
Yes, when my wife cooks we rely on them to tell when dinner is ready.

Another thing while we are on the topic is that carbon monoxide detectors also have a finite working life and you should determine when that is. Ours are centrally wired and beep when they die. Not sure if they all do, but worth a look.
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Old 11-24-2014, 06:39 PM   #11
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We recently had all of our replaced under warranty so we're good to go for another 10 years.
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Old 11-24-2014, 08:40 PM   #12
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The OP makes a good point, and it isn't mentioned very often (I think I only know because I read and research this stuff and might actually read the manual). Journalists should bring this up when they mention battery replacement with the time change - check the age also. But then...

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I tested mine last week while cooking.
Yep.

I've only recently replaced the original AC powered alarms in our house (I also have a battery type in each bedroom, and the basement. So they were ~ 28 years old, and they still seemed to work fine up to that point (the one near the kitchen would alarm with high temp oven settings or aggressive frying). I replaced the one near the kitchen with one with a silence button, and replaced the other while I was at it.

I've had a couple CO ( not CO2 ) detectors as well. They say those are good for something like 7 years. One was ancient, but still alarmed with the prescribed smoke test. The other is ~ 8 years old, I think I'll replace that soon. When I replaced the ancient one with the same model as my ~ 7 year old one, I found they updated it to actually display a message that it is non-functional after ~ 7 years. Pre-programmed obsolescence, but I guess it makes sense.

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Old 11-24-2014, 09:02 PM   #13
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I just bought a CO and Propane detector for my motor home. It is to be replaced at 5 years from the date of manufacture. It will start going off at that time.
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Old 11-24-2014, 09:03 PM   #14
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T
I hadn't heard that they were no longer available. Last advice I heard was that these "ionization" detectors were useful in some places where the "photocell" ones weren't.
Still in use, Smoke Detectors and Americium

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Old 11-24-2014, 11:07 PM   #15
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I replaced all of our smoke and CO detectors last year. I change out the batteries twice a year, whether they need it or not. I figure a new battery is the cheapest insurance I can buy.
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Old 11-25-2014, 06:23 AM   #16
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I had some mice in the refrigerator compartment of my camper. I stuck my weed eater exhaust into the vent to smoke them out and / or kill them. I was amazed that the smoke alarm went off inside the camper before the CO detector.
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Old 11-25-2014, 06:59 AM   #17
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I replaced the hard wired smoke detectors the builder installed when they were ~12 yrs old. I was pleased to find a combination model (smoke and CO) that was plug n play. I was surprised to find the builder had installed the wiring to activate all alarms when any unit is triggered. The old alarms did not use this feature. The new ones yell "FIRE!" or "CO!" throughout the house when any unit is tested or triggered.
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Old 11-25-2014, 07:34 AM   #18
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I replaced the hard wired smoke detectors the builder installed when they were ~12 yrs old. I was pleased to find a combination model (smoke and CO) that was plug n play. I was surprised to find the builder had installed the wiring to activate all alarms when any unit is triggered. The old alarms did not use this feature. The new ones yell "FIRE!" or "CO!" throughout the house when any unit is tested or triggered.
We have a total of 8 talking hard wired detectors, 9 including a heat sensor in the garage in our (4year old) townhome, 5 of those are CO/smoke while the others are smoke only. They are all connected so when one goes off they all do. I replace the batteries every Fall and I test them every two months or so. I was having problems with annoying false alarms and when I called the manufacturer First Alert they said that combination alarms should be replaced every 5 years and smoke only detectors every 10 years from date of manufacture. Apparently the builders had them in stock for a couple of years before installation so I plan to replace the combination alarms in the spring or after the next false alarm whichever comes first.
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Old 11-25-2014, 08:17 AM   #19
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We have a total of 8 talking hard wired detectors 9 including a heat sensor in the garage in our (4year old) townhome, 5 of those are CO/smoke while the others are smoke only. They are all connected so when one goes off they all do. I replace the batteries every fall and I test them every two months or so. I was having problems with annoying false alarms and when I called the manufacturer First Alert they said that combination alarms should be replaced every 5 years and smoke only detectors every 10 years from date of manufacture. Apparently the builders had them in stock for a couple of years before installation so I plan to replace the combination alarms in the spring or at the next false alarm whichever comes first.
Our units are made by Kidde and they recommend replacement at 7yrs. They also have an audible end of life alert. I replace the batteries when the unit detects a low battery condition. In the past when I have replaced batteries, they still have decent voltage for use in other non-critical applications.
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Old 11-25-2014, 10:30 AM   #20
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Thanks for the heads up, looks like I'm long overdue in replacing the 16 year old smoke detectors in my house.
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