What's the one item in your house that could save your life and costs only about $30 to purchase? A smoke detector. Every home should have at least 1 smoke detector installed so that just in case there is a fire, it can sound an alarm and keep you safe. Smoke detectors are lifesavers and your local fire department can give you buying advice if you need it. Many home improvement stores like Lowes or Home Depot sell them as well as general department stores like Target, Kmart and Walmart. Online stores like Amazon.com are a great source for buying smoke alarms since you an quickly find the best sellers and read up on owner reviews to see which ones perform the best.
When you go to the store or online to buy a smoke detector, your choices are limited to the two types - photoelectric and ionization models. Ionization smoke alarms are better at sensing flaming fires than they are at detecting smoky fires. Ionization smoke detectors are also cheaper than the photoelectric models and many people end up buying a 2nd unit (photoelectric) for another location in their house. Radioactive material that is sent out by the ionization smoke detectors conducts electricity between 2 electrodes. The fire alarm will sound when the smoke from a fire interacts with the current of electricity. The photoelectric smoke detectors are best at sensing smoky fires although they can have more false alarms than the ionization smoke alarm systems. The photoelectric units rely on a light sensor and beam of light to function properly. When the light beam senses smoke in its line, it will set off the light sensor which sounds the fire alarm and hopefully wakes you up in time to get out of the house and get help. Some owners claim that the photoelectric alarms give off plenty of false readings with simple household dust or insects that get in the way of the light beam. Perhaps the safest route is to get a smoke detection system that includes both types of alarms (dual sensor). They are sold and the First Alert SA302CN is a top rated option. I grew up with battery powered smoke detectors but my current home has a hard wired unit with a battery backup in case of a power outage. Some of the newer smoke detectors run on a lithium battery that lasts up to 10 years which is a good thing since many people forget to keep the batteries in their detectors working properly. Look for a detector with a basic test button which allows you easily test the unit once a month. Some consumers note that a hush button is a necessity on all smoke detectors since things like burnt food (non threatening) can cause your alarm to sound off and annoy everyone in the house. The hush button is a quick way to stop the alarm from sounding and give you ample time to get rid of the excess smoke from things like cooking. My parents bought a smoke alarm with a remote control which allows them to test the unit periodically without having to climb up on a stool or ladder. The more expensive systems are those that are essentially interconnected throughout the house and when one alarm goes off the others do as well. Not a bad idea if the kids rooms are far away from yours and you want everyone to be on notice if a fire breaks out in only one section of the house. Lastly, the placement of any smoke detector is critical and experts say they should be installed in hallways outside of bedrooms, near sleeping areas, and on every floor of your house, apartment or condo. Lots of home builders are trying to make newer houses safe by installing smoke detectors in every bedroom. The leading brands are First Alert, Kidde, BRK, Firex, and KidSmart. Get smoke alarms and install them today. If you currently have detectors in your home, go around today and check the batteries to make sure they are not dead and test each unit often. For reviews we always consider Consumer Reports, but they don't have much up to date info that we could find, so we turned mostly to Amazon.com and we also questioned our local fire department to see what they recommend.
Best Smoke Detector:
As we mentioned above, there are 2 types of smoke detectors and it's best to have both kinds in your house. The Kidde PI9000 Battery-Operated Dual Ionization and Photoelectric Sensor Smoke Alarm ($24) gives you 2 types of fire sensors - smoke and flames in one product. You get full protection from slow, smoldering fires and those that are fast, flaming fires. Nuisance alarms can quickly be silenced with the use of the Hush button. This type of dual sensor alarm gives parents piece of mind knowing their families are protected from all types of fires that might occur in a house. You can find full details on this product online at the Kiddeus.com website. They offer a user manual and product description on PDF files HERE and HERE. You can buy it on Amazon.com or in stores like Home Depot or Lowes.
Top Rated Ionization Smoke Detector:
First Alert has an excellent name in this field of home safety and the First Alert SA340CN Smoke Alarm with Lithium Battery ($22) is another excellent choice for homeowners. This tamper proof smoke alarm features a 10 year lithium battery so you never have to replace any batteries to keep it running. You can test the alarms functioning power at any time or mute off false alarms with the simple push of a button. The ionization smoke detector from First Alert will sense flaming fires quickly. Amazon.com carries this product and they have owner reviews you can read up on. Firstalert.com also has information on this product located at their website.
Photoelectric Smoke Alarm:
The First Alert SA302CN Double Sensor Battery-Powered Smoke and Fire Alarm ($26) is a dual sensing photoelectric and ionization battery operated smoke alarm has a great remote control function that takes the hassle out of testing and silencing the unit. The SA302CN is able to detect large, flaming fires and smoldering, smoky fires as well. The alarm sounds at 85 decibels making it plenty loud no matter where you are in the house. A 9 volt battery is included with the First Alert smoke detector and it gives you a 10 year limited warranty on the product. The low battery warning is a nice feature so that you can always have the smoke alarm up and running properly. Some recent purchasers of this product on Amazon claim that some of the units are defective with more false alarms than normal. You can see all the details of this product online at First Alert HERE. It's available on Amazon.com HERE. If there are recalls of any of these units you will be able to read about them at the Consumer Product Safety Commission website at CPSC.gov.
Talking Smoke Detectors:
One product we heard about quite a bit in our research for smoke detectors and fire alarms was the KidSmart Vocal Smoke Detector ($90) which is unique in that it is a parental voice on the alarm instead of the "beeping" that normally sounds. Studies have shown that children can actually sleep through an 85 decibel alarm sounding off but they are more likely to awake to the sound of their own parents voices. This product allows parents to record their own warning and have that message come on when the alarm goes off. This photoelectric smoke detector was available at the time of this article on Amazon.com but when we checked the website of the company that produces this unit, it no longer existed. Not sure if it was a temporary outage, but we would suggest researching similar products if you do choose to buy a "talking" smoke detector.