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How Do Smoke Detector Systems Work?

Simply put, smoke detectors devices are used to detect traces of smoke with the intention of indicating a fire. A commercial smoke detector communicates with the control panel of a fire alarm by sending out a signal. This is the way a fire alarm signal works. A residential smoke detector used inside a household is best known as a smoke alarm and it issues either a visible or an audible from the detector or from various detectors dispersed in multiple smoke detectors connected to one another.

How Do Smoke Detectors Work?

smoke detectors

Smoke detectors are built inside enclosures made of plastic and they are normally round in shape. They have a diameter of around 6 inches and they measure one inch in terms of thickness. However, different smoke detectors from different manufacturers will have various sizes and shapes.  These devices can detect smoke using ionization or photoelectricity and a single device can use one or another, or both. A sensitive smoke alarm can also play the role of identifying and deterring smokers in areas where smoking is not allowed. A smoke detector located in a large-sized commercial facility is normally tied to a main fire alarm system.

A residential smoke detector can take the form of a unit powered by an individual battery or it can be powered by several interconnected that rely on backup batteries. Once any of the interconnected units detects smoke, it will automatically cause all the alarms to be triggered. This will occur in spite of the fact that the electrical power inside the house has been disrupted.  A household that has a functioning smoke detector installed is one where the risk of death by smoke inhalation or fire is cut by 50 percent. According to data from the US National Fire Protection Association, there are 0.53 deaths per every one hundred home fires in households with working smoke alarms compared to 1.18 deaths in households where there are no smoke detectors installed or running.

Residential Smoke Detector Systems

  • These smoke detectors are smaller in size and more affordable compared to their commercial counterparts.
  • They are normally used in a residential environment and they can be found as standalone devices or they can be interconnected to other units.
  • Residential smoke detectors trigger loud audio signals to alert occupants of the impending danger of a fire inside the house, usually 85 dBA at ten feet, or 3200 Hz for persons who suffer from hearing problems. There are also models that feature warning strobe lights, as well as spoken voice alarms, candela outputs, and even tactile stimulation in the form of bed and pillow shaking that are excellent at waking you up from your sleep at night in case of a fire.
  • There are also detectors that rely on temporary silence options for the temporary silencing of these alarms at the push of a button without having to remove the batteries. These models are suitable for installation inside kitchens where the risk of false alarms triggering often is high.  It is best to use a detector in every room of the house that is used by you and other household members.
  • These devices run on electrical current and they also rely on disposable and rechargeable batteries as a backup. They can be tied together with the help of wires or they are found in their wireless form.
  • Household residents in some US jurisdictions are legally required to install them.

Maintenance Tips For Smoke Detectors

The US National Fire Protection Association has issued clear recommendations for home-owners in terms of the frequency at which they should replace the batteries on their smoke detectors. This should be done at least once every 12 months or whenever they hear the detector chirping. This is a special warning signal letting them know that the battery is low and about to die. Also, whenever the smoke detector fails an NFPA-recommended monthly test, the batteries should be changed.  Some smoke detectors feature lithium batteries that cannot be recharged as a backup, which will normally last for a decade. After ten years, it is advisable to replace the smoke detector system. It is also possible to use disposable lithium batteries measuring 9 volts that can be replaced and which last twice as long as their alkaline counterparts.

Proper testing and replacement of batteries is a must for ensuring these smoke alarm systems can fulfill the purpose for which they have been installed.  It is also essential to periodically clean the smoke alarm systems to ensure there are no false alarms triggered by potential dust build-up or insect infestation. This is even more important for optical alarms that tend to be more sensitive to these influences. Rely on a simple vacuum cleaner to keep your residential smoke detector clean.

Home Smoke Detector Installation

Home smoke detectors should be installed on every floor of a building, and in each living area and bedroom. Most US states and local governments require residents to install a certain number of smoke detectors in clearly indicated placement areas, according to the standards issued by the NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.

Depending on where you live, you will be subject to different laws regarding the installation of your smoke alarm systems. However, you will need to have a smoke alarm installed on all habitable levels, including any attics. For newly built homes, smoke detectors need to be must directly connected to the electrical wiring, be intertwined, and use backup batteries. Some local fire codes will require residents to install the smoke detectors either in the stairways, outside or inside the bedrooms, in the main hallways, or inside garages.