January 1997 Edition

Smoke Detector Problems?

 We recently had a small fire in our home and our smoke detector failed to work. How can we guard against this happening again in the future and is it true that some detectors will not detect all types of fires?
 It is estimated that fully one third of the smoke detectors installed in homes will not warn people about a fire because the smoke detectors have dead or missing batteries.
    To help people tell if their smoke detector has power, most detectors have a small red light that blinks intermittently if it is functioning properly. Also, new smoke detectors are required to beep or chirp if they sense their batteries are low. Most detectors also come with a test switch that is supposed to be tested monthly. Many people never test their detectors. One reason is because they are installed on the ceilings which is not readily accessible. We recommend installing them on the hall wall as high as you can reach. This way, when you walk down the hall, they can be easily tested.

Smoke detector          

Another problem is smoke detectors that have the batteries removed. Because smoke detectors must be very sensitive, they are often triggered by cooking food. Finding no other way to silence the blaring alarm, many people resort to removing the battery. The battery is not replaced and the smoke detector becomes useless. Never, never, never remove a battery! If this is a problem in your home, we recommend replacing the detector with a new one that has a “mute” or “silence” button. When activated the mute button will temporarily suppress the alarm.
The best way to combat dead or missing batteries, is to avoid dependence on batteries altogether and connect the smoke detector directly to the house’s electrical power supply. The wired direct smoke detectors have a battery backup in case of power failure.
All in all, smoke detectors are very simple machines. To perform their job of saving lives, however, some attention must be given to their maintenance. Batteries are the most critical part of a functioning detector. They should be replaced every six months. Also, a smoke detector should be vacuumed every month to keep dust out. If it is over 10 years old, a smoke detector should be replaced.
Some detectors will not work for all fires! When buying a new smoke detector, one can choose between two basic types:
 IONIZATION SMOKE DETECTORS
Ionization smoke detectors are by far the most common both in the home and on the store shelves. They work by using a small amount of radioactive material (too small to pose a health hazard) to make the air within the detector conduct electricity. Any smoke that enters the detector will block the electricity thereby causing the detector to trigger its alarm.
PHOTOELECTRIC SMOKE DETECTORS
Photoelectric smoke detectors work by a different process. Inside these detectors a small light shines a focused beam of light past a sensor. When smoke enters the smoke detector, the smoke particles reflect some of the light into this sensor. Detecting the light, the photosensor triggers the alarm.
Because these two types of detectors work because of different principles, they are sensitive to different types of smoke. Photoelectric smoke detectors are best at sensing a smoldering, smoky fire like that from a fireplace or from burning upholstery and curtains. Ionization smoke detectors, on the other hand, are best at sensing fire which burns with little smoke such as from burning grease or cleaning products. For the best protection a house should be equipped with both types of detectors so that many types of fire can be quickly detected. Be sure to install one in each bedroom, outside the bedrooms in the hallway, and one on each level of the house including the basement.
Some retailers are now carrying a combination detector that is both Ionization and Photoelectric. No one I contacted had the combination ones in stock, but did expect delivery in a month or two. Be sure both are listed on the packaging or ask a sales person for help.

 How To Prevent Frozen Pipes?

Last year we had a water pipe break in our crawl space. Are there any safeguards to keep this from occurring again this year?
Few regions in the U.S. are immune to cold snaps capable of freezing pipes. Pipes are vulnerable in unheated or uninsulated areas such as attics, crawl spaces or outside walls, according to the Insurance Institute for Property Loss Protection.
Fit vulnerable pipes with insulation sleeves or wrapping available at most hardware stores. Use the thickest wrap available and do not leave gaps that expose pipes to cold air.
Electric heat tape is a good option but use extreme caution. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid the risk of fire.
Disconnect garden hoses from outside faucets. Drain the faucets and wrap with rags, newspapers or insulation. Cover with plastic and secure with string or wire.
Research at the University of Illinois has show that wind chill can play a major role in freezing pipes. Seal cracks or holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes. Holes for television cables or telephone lines could cause problems, also.
Consider keeping kitchen and bathroom cabinets open during cold spells to let warm air circulate around the pipes.
Letting faucets drip in subfreezing temperatures can prevent damage
If you are planning to be away for an extended period of time, consider draining the water system. Shut off the main water valve. Open every water faucet in the house, both hot and cold. Consider adding a quart of anti-freeze to the toilet tank and bowl.

If you have a question, change of address, comment, home tip or would like to send Home Tips to your clients, send your letter to Home Tips, Christian Building Inspectors, Inc., 3697 Habersham Lane, Duluth, Georgia 30096. You can E-Mail your questions to us at rodharrison@christianbuildinginspectors.com. We reserve the right to edit questions for length.


Quote of the Month

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”

- Franklin D. Roosevelt


A Tip Of The Hat To:

Debbie Drake

Century 21/ Gold Metal Realty

Atlanta, Georgia

**** Thank You****


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