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  1. #1
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    Question New/old Smoke Detector

    I got an old (like from the late 70's or early 80's) GE smoke detector at a garage sale for 50 cents. It was still in a sealed box and the detector itself had never seen the light of day. Figured it'd still be usable since it was sealed in the box all these years, but opening it brought up a couple of questions.

    On the inside of this sucker it has a sticker next to where the 9 volt battery clips in that reads: "Use only Duracell or Mallory MN 1604 alkaline battery or Eveready 216 zinc-carbon battery. WARNING: Use of any other battery may have a detrimental effect on the detectors operation."

    My take on that is that GE was trying to scare you into buying batteries that were made by companies that they owned at the time and that a freakin' 9 volt batterty is a freakin' 9 volt battery when it comes to powering a smoke detector. Anybody think there really is some way that using a Ray-O-Vac (or any other brand for that matter) 9 volt battery in this thing will really honestly have a "detrimental effect" on it's operation?

    Second question: It's an ionization detector so it's got that chip of radioactive material in it (used to detect the smoke.) Would this have deteriorated while sitting in the box for 20+ years? I would think not, since the unit hasn't ever had power to it (sitting in a sealed box with no battery) but if anyone out there has some specific smoke detector knowledge I'd be interested in hearing their take on it.


  2. #2
    Member IJHumberson's Avatar
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    Exclamation Are you serious?!

    Despite the fact that the 2000 Edition of NFPA 72 requires that household smoke detectors be replaced after 10 years of service, I can't believe that you would seriously consider using a 20-year-old (+)detector - It's your LIFE, man!! "Pony up" a 5-spot and get over to your local Home Depot, Lowe's or other major hardware chain and buy yourself a good detector! While your at, it buy one for each bedroom, one for just outside the bedrooms and one for each other level of your house - don't become one of tomorrow's statistics by trying to save a couple dollars.
    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber Diane E's Avatar
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    Due to it's age, it's possible that it's "museum" quality -- did you actually open up the packaging? It was probably worth more then the 50 cents..... People out there will collect anything, you know!

  4. #4
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    That's all I get??

    IJH: You obviously haven't priced detectors at Home Depot lately. It's well over a 5-spot, probably more like a 15-spot, to get out the door with a basic ionization detector. And furthermore, you obviously aren't a "garage-saler" if you don't recognize this as the treasure it is!

    Seriously, it's not going to be any sort of a "stand alone" life safety device. I've got a nice, shiny detector in each bedroom, the hallway and living room of my humble abode. (Required of code when I built the place 2 years ago, but I'd have done it even if it wasn't.) I was thinking of tossing this one up at the other end of the hall. What the hell, it was 50 cents!

    Diane: I thought about throwing it up on EBay about 3 minutes AFTER I tore it out of the box! Probably could have sold it for a hundred bucks in the original packaging, but now it's probably worth 50 cents!

    Oh well, in goes whatever 9-volt battery I can find and up on the wall it goes!
    Last edited by The Fire Guy; 06-05-2002 at 03:40 PM.

  5. #5
    IACOJ BOD FlyingKiwi's Avatar
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    with a half life probably over 50,000 years for the radiactive chip, methinks it will possibly still work.
    Psychiatrists state 1 in 4 people has a mental illness.
    Look at three of your friends, if they are ok, your it.

  6. #6
    Disillusioned Subscriber Steamer's Avatar
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    The stuff used in smoke detectors is Americium 241, and has a half life of about 430 years.
    Last edited by Steamer; 06-05-2002 at 04:24 PM.
    Steve Gallagher
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  7. #7
    IACOJ BOD FlyingKiwi's Avatar
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    Thanks Steamer, Guess that means it should be ok then.
    Psychiatrists state 1 in 4 people has a mental illness.
    Look at three of your friends, if they are ok, your it.

  8. #8
    Disillusioned Subscriber Steamer's Avatar
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    I couldn't resist.
    Steve Gallagher
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  9. #9
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    How about.....putting a new battery in it and then take it outside and use some sort of smoking material (rolled up paper or such) and give it a try. Make sure you have some sort of extingushing materials on hand, just in case you live in one of our many dry areas. Maybe you can get the local dept. to come out and make it into a drill. While your at the store buy enough batteries to replace them in all of your detectors if you don't know when they were last changed. I like the change your clock change your battery idea most.

  10. #10
    Member IJHumberson's Avatar
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    Cool PHEW!

    FireGuy,

    What a relief! Glad to hear you're not intending on using that relic for primary protection. ...and by the way, I DO get out to the local hardware stores (I can spend HOURS in there) and around here they have a battery-operated ionization detector for about $5 and change (with battery included!) I guess it depends on the locale and the market what they charge for those things.

    Ebay would probably still be a great idea - One of the ladies where I work spends her Saturday mornings "yard saling" and then sells the stuff on ebay - she makes enough at it to pay for a cruise every year - like Diane said, people will collect anything!

    BTW, I was thinking about that sticker and the limitations on what type of battery to use... I wonder if it could be that, at that time, those were the only batteries with a reasonable life expectancy - as I recall (the 70's are kinda blurry to me), that was about the era that they first started coming out with the "alkaline" and other "long life" batteries. Of course, your theory could very well be true... GE only wanted their own batteries to be use

    Steamer,
    Your extensive knowledge never ceases to amaze me...how do you learn all this stuff?!
    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

  11. #11
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    I've been around long enough to remember those first detectors. The battery recommendation reflected the battery technology and probably some type of agreement on revenue. The idea was to have a long life battery instead of replacing it every month or so.

    Todays improved batteries should work for about a year if you buy the "heavy duty" ones.

    The radioactive part also created some problems with some groups which spread the word through the media that people were be overexposed to radiation from the detectors (they weren't). It was one of those (If it's radioactive, it has to be bad for you scares). Some landfills even refused to take the detectors because of the radioactive component.

    The detector sounds like it could be a collectable as previously mentioned. Use it as such and rely on new detectors.

  12. #12
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    Default Thanks all!

    I'll put this one to bed.

    The theory about batteries having a shorter life span in the "old days" makes sense to me. I'm sure they were much more "primative" 25 years ago. I powered up my "new-old relic" with a Ray-O-Vac "Industrial Long-Life" battery yesterday and the test button sounded the alarm like it's supposed to. What an annoying and loud buzzer-beeper combination. It'd wake you up, no doubt about that.

    I felt like playing so I went with Mr. Mott's suggestion and put a match to a couple o' paper towels (in a metal bucket with a garden hose on standby ) and it alarmed as soon as the smoke hit it. I'm happy, and will keep this one. 50 cents! Woo Hoo! The next one I come up with at a yard sale goes on EBay!

    One last thought about batteries. Another yard sale find of mine was a circa 1987 Zenith 19" color TV in awesome condition. 30 bucks! Took it to the firehouse to use in the weight room and everyone was more than happy to pony up a whole $2.50 each to be able to watch Jerry Springer while pumping iron

    Anyway, the remote on this thing has some sort of a strange looking, very flat 6 volt battery . Don't know where we'll find one to replace it when it finally goes out. The only reason I could imagine that they went with this goofy sucker instead of some AA's or a 9 volt would be that it's smaller than a 9 volt or two AA's would be and I guess they wanted the remote to be smaller (it's pretty small) than they'd have had to make it using a "standard" battery. Either that or it was a "revenue" thing. Maybe Zenith owned a company that made those screwy 6V batteries!

    Thanks again to all! Have a good and safe one!

  13. #13
    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Exclamation

    One last thought about batteries. Another yard sale find of mine was a circa 1987 Zenith 19" color TV in awesome condition. 30 bucks! Took it to the firehouse to use in the weight room and everyone was more than happy to pony up a whole $2.50 each to be able to watch Jerry Springer while pumping iron

    Fire personnel should not watch the Jerry Springer show!!! Every time you watch it, you lower your IQ by at least two points..and we have enough dumba**es as it is!
    ‎"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."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

  14. #14
    Sr. Information Officer NJFFSA16's Avatar
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    Talking Batteries, Schmatteries

    EverReady, Ray-O-Vac, Duracell...whatever, just remember to
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  15. #15
    Senior Member Firebraun's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Good find on the smoke detector and the TV too! I love yard sales! But Gonzo got it right... Jerry Springer?? You guys need to get out more!

    The saddest thing about this whole post, though, is that somebody had a brand new smoke detector for 25 years sitting in a box and not in use where it could have saved a life!
    Fire service survival tips:
    1) Cook at 350...
    2) Pump at 150...
    3) When in doubt, isolate and deny entry...
    4) When in trouble, claim lack of adult supervision.

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