Know The Smoke Detectors In Your Home

When was the last time you checked the smoke detectors in your home?

It’s 2 o’clock in the morning and you hear it, that annoying ‘chirp’ that can only happen at 2 in the morning. The battery in one of the smoke detectors is going bad. It’s right about now that you are wondering why you even have the smoke detectors in your house any ways. ‘chirp’ Well its time to drag the ladder out and find out which smoke detector is acting up before it wakes the entire house. ‘chirp’

There are two types of smoke detectors, Ionization and Photoelectric. Both types are designed to work when smoke disrupts a signal in the smoke detectors sensing chamber. An Ionization smoke detector is best for a flaming fire and a Photoelectric smoke detector is best for a smoldering or ‘smoky’ fire typical for most fires. But both are required to work regardless of which type of fire you may unfortunately encounter. And out of these two different detection types there are 2 styles of smoke detectors, battery only and 120v with battery back up.

The battery only smoke detectors are an easy and cheap way for homeowners, especially with older homes, to install smoke detectors in their home. These units now come in a variety of styles meant to be installed in specific rooms of the house: bedroom, kitchen or living room. And now most of these units come with a 10year battery, so no more 2am ‘chirping’. But they are also only a ‘one time use’ only. Meaning that if the unit goes off due to something burning on the kitchen stove, then you have to toss the old unit and install a new one. Also these units are not interconnected to each other, meaning that if one unit is triggered the rest of the smoke detectors will not sound. If you sleep with your doors closed, this could be a major problem.

The 120v with battery backup smoke detectors are the better option and should only be installed by a licensed electrician, such as McCauley Electrical Service. These smoke detectors are designed to operate on the house electrical system. The battery is only used when the house power is out, say due to a storm. These units are designed to be interconnected to one another, meaning that if one smoke detector is triggered then all of the unit will sound. And if you have bedrooms on multiple levels of your home, everyone is alerted at the same time. Now unlike the battery only smoke detectors, these units do have batteries that should be replaced twice a year. And if you forget to replace the battery, don’t worry it will let you know at 2am that it’s time. Also the 120v smoke detectors are reusable, so if the smoke from the burnt chicken sets one off simply clear the air around the smoke detector and you are good to go. (But please put out the burnt chicken first.)

Here are some interesting facts that might help you decide to install smoke detectors in your home, and why you should keep the ones you have operational. “[f]rom 2001 through 2004, 391 fatal residential structure fires with working alarms were reported with 452 fatalities resulting from these fires.” There were a total of 12,225 fire deaths during this same period. As such, fatal residential structure fires with working smoke alarms accounted for only 3.7% of all residential fire fatalities. Moreover, according to an article published in 2008 by the National Fire Protection Association: “The chances of surviving a reported home fire when working smoke alarms are present are 99.45%.” 

This is just the first half of our two-part smoke detector and safety series. Join us again as we teach you where to place your smoke detectors later on this month. If you have any questions about smoke detectors, or other electrical items, please feel free to contact Patrick McCauley of McCauley Electrical Service, Inc. at any time. (678) 324-3117 or

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