1. #1
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    Question Smoke alarm( Detector) question

    A resident called me today with a problem. he bought a house in the area, and replaced the hot air oil furnace. Now sometimes when the furnace Blower cuts in the smooke alarms at the bottom and top of the stairs go off. he has replaced the batteries and cleaned them. Still go off. He thinks it is the fast air movement. I'm wondering about the furnace instalation. What to suggest?

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    I would say maybe he should try moving them farther from the furnace or something to that extent.
    Firefighter/EMT Mitch Cowen
    Hose Co. 1 1st Lieutenant
    Randolph Fire Co. Inc

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    They are not near the furnace. But you do get air movement up and down the stairs. Why would air movement cause them to go off? OR, is it something in the air?

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    Are the detectors near any vents??? if so move them. Are the detectors old.??? if so replace them or try another detector in the smae place to see if you get the same results. the velocity should not make them activate, in fact in some places you hace to have a detector that can handle higher veloicities for them to work right. Also, if you have a wand to detect co and o2 you might see what the readings are, and also maybe the heater or ducts need a very good cleaning.

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    Update
    The alarms were new cheap ones. He replaced them with more expensive ones and they haven't gone off since.

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    My first question would have been the the installation of the new furnace. Was it a "handyman special" installation or done professionally? Was the heating system inspected for acceptance? (here in Massachusetts, any new oil burner/furnace and tank installations are inspected by the local FD's for compliance with the code..in my community, we have the oil burner techs on scene when the inspection is done so they can answer any questions we might have. We also use a guideline put out by the State Fire Marshall for inspecting oil burners. Natural gas installations are inspected by the Building Department's plumbing inspector. The Building Department also inspects wood stove installations.)

    The location of the detectors might have had something to do with the detectors going off.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    Thumbs up Smoke Detectors

    Smoke alarms that operate on the ionization principle (as opposed to the photoelectric type) become more sensitive as they get dirty. They also become more sensitive as the air velocity that passes by them increases. Household type smoke detectors, especially the ionization type cannot be easily cleaned. Since the replacement detectors are not alarming, you probably have solved the problem until the new detectors get dirty.

    I suspect that some of the air is returning to the fan unit via the stairwell. This is not necessarily a good thing from an energy efficiency point of view.

    The source of combustion air for the furnace is important too, but I'll leave that discussion for another time. I would want to get a CO reading in the basement, just in case the furnace was experiencing a slightly delayed ignition and blowing some products of combustion back into the house. Peace of mind thing.

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    Thumbs up

    Thanks for the suggestions. I will pay him a visit.
    Gonzo-It was professionally installed, but you never know.

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    Some really good points.

    Professional installation does not always equate with correct installation. I wouldn't want to count how many times I had to demand that "professional alarm installations be changed/fixed/corrected,etc.
    An incorrectly operating (bad fuel nozzle, incorrect timing, etc.) furnace can put out a significant amount of carbon monoxide and carbon residue. Those airborne carbon particles can trip a detector very easily.

    How old were the smoke detectors that were giving the problem? Many people use the set it and forget it method of installing smoke detectors without any consideration to their functional life. Residential detectors should typically be replaced every ten years even if they seem alright. Same philosophy as changing your oil before the engine seizes.

    The comment regarding cleaning is very important. You wouldn't believe the crap that builds up inside hot air ducts. A number of years ago, we actually had a serious house fire that was attributed to a dust explosion that occurred in a residential hot air duct system. It actually blew all of the ductwork off the cellar ceiling.
    Lead by example...
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    The movement of air in the stairwell, is it heated air or air that is being drawn to the unit for combustion? If this is the only avenue of combustion air for the heating equipment, outside venting for the device should be considered. I don't know how many CO calls I have been sent on from inadequate venting of equipment for combustion air resulting in a downdraft of flue gasses.

    JLucky

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