1. #1
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    Default Smoke detectors: What do you suggest to the public?

    I have recently been confronted by a few members of the community about what type and brand of smoke detectors (residential) they should purchase. I am a bit careful about suggesting an actual brand name but I also want them to get a good product. Any suggestions about the products that are on the market would be great.

    Thanks!

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    tell them to go to the closest hardware/home improvement store and get one off the shelf............to the best of my knowledge it isnt like comparing KIA's (low price car) to Hummer H2 (high price car).......
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    I've never been asked, but I'd be cautious of recommending a specific brand because of the potential liability in "endorsing" a product. Rather, I'd let them know about the options, such as:

    1) Long-life lithium batteries vs. standard alkaline
    2) Combination CO/smoke detectors - I prefer seperate units myself, but some people like the combination ones.
    3) Built-in emergency lights - had these at my last house...didn't put out TOO much light, but better than nothing.
    4) Light-activated test functions - these are good for high ceilings where pushing a test button would be difficult.
    5) Push-to-silence functions - I've got these on mine...it silences the detector for 15 minutes. Good for when you burn something in the kitchen and keeps you from having to pull (and forgetting to replace) the battery.
    Chris Gaylord
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    Don't forget to mention the difference between photoelectric and ionization type detectors. (Combination models are available, too.)
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    Required by code in my area (and a great idea anyway): hardwired with battery backup.

    And lets not forget about
    combo w/ flammable gas detection
    Interconnectable units

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    Well...not to sound too picky but I have been corrected SO many times..."They are smoke alarms, not detectors."--Deputy Fire Chief #2,Rosthern Fire Dept. (Don't roll your eyes @ me, roll them at him!!)

    We don't endorse any specific brands but something to mull over is whether or not the family may require a special needs detector ie: one which will alert the family if they are hard of hearing. Sometimes you have to do a needs assesment to point them to the most suitable alarm. If they react better to sound or light is where we start. Then we list those alarms for the family and let them make their choice.

    I hope this helps your people make informed decisions.

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    What is WAY more important than what brand or type (all work equally well in a residential environment. Any differenece will be negligible), is to purchase the proper quantity and to install them in the right place.

    Combination CO/smoke detectors are a waste of $. CO is heavier than air. Smoke will rise to the ceiling. The CO detector should be seperate and plugged into a wall outlet at the floor.

    Any conversation about smoke detectors is a perfect open door for a discussion about residential sprinklers.

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    Thumbs up Good Point...............

    George hit the nail on the head. Just because it's the newest whizbang with more lights and bells, (Note: I did NOT mention Lightbars) doesn't mean it is necessarily the best. Combining multiple functions in one instrument, without redundancy, is asking for trouble. BTW, We give away Smoke Detectors to anyone who comes to the station and asks. We will install them for Elderly, Handicapped, Etc. persons. Liability? Have at it, We could care less.
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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI

    Combination CO/smoke detectors are a waste of $. CO is heavier than air. Smoke will rise to the ceiling. The CO detector should be seperate and plugged into a wall outlet at the floor.

    Actually, CO is lighter than air (Vapor Denisty = 0.97), but not by much.

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    You are correct on the vapor density of CO. I think, though, that the difference is small enough that in practical terms that they can considered to be equal in most residential environments (affected by air currents and temperature differences). The last dedicated CO detector I saw said to mount at eye level.

    George:

    Is there really so little performance difference between ionization and photoelectric detectors? I've not seen anything to the contrary since being taught that ionization detectors could "miss" smoldering fires, while photoelectrics could "miss" incipient flaming fires.

    I agree that it is more important to have detectors or alarms properly installed and maintained in the right quantities/locations than worrying about specific types. And I agree that there is a great opportunity here to push for residential sprinklers combined with adequate fire prevention training. There is, however, a large segment of the population (at least in my area) that rents and is somewhat transient. We must be prepared to help people in this situation make the best choices available to them.
    ullrichk
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    There is likely to be equilibrium in the CO levels suspended in air. However, as a practical matter, the CO level is likely to measurable at the floor before it would be measurable at the ceiling in most residential applications, most of the time.
    Is there really so little performance difference between ionization and photoelectric detectors? I've not seen anything to the contrary since being taught that ionization detectors could "miss" smoldering fires, while photoelectrics could "miss" incipient flaming fires.
    If someone taught you that an ionization detector could somehow "miss" a smoldering fire simply because of the type of detector is sorely misinformed.

    If we look at the NFPA Fire Protection Handbook, we learn a couple of things.

    1. "...as a class..." an ionization detector will provide a "somewhat faster response" to a high energy, open flame fire due to the normally emitted smaller size smoke particles.

    2. "...as a class..." a PE detector willprovide a "somewhat faster response" to a smoldering fire due to the normally larger smoke particle size.

    3. "However, each type of smoke detector is subjected to, and must pass, the same test fires at testing laboratories in order to be listed"

    One must remember that all smoke detector testing is done by people in white lab coats in the controlled atmosphere of a laboratory. Very few actual residential fires will model a test fire in a laboratory. As a practical matter, in the real world, there is negligible difference in operation between the two types of detectors.

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    We don't endorse any particular brand, we just suggest they purchase one from a reputable retailer that carries the UL seal. Of course, my city is dang near brand new. The large majority of homes here have hard-wired smoke detectors and a significant percentage probably have those detectors remotely monitored.

    On a related note, is there an easy place to find stats on the number of deaths in homes without smoke detectors? There is a particular family that I'm trying to convince to install a few detectors in their home. They currently have only one -- without batteries because it's about five feet from the oven -- and aren't in any real hurry to remedy the problem. I've even given them a nice one and it's still in the package.

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