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When Should You Replace Your Smoke Alarms?

Published: November 28, 2018 Last Updated: March 18, 2019

The importance of having fully functioning smoke alarms in your property cannot be underestimated. In New South Wales alone there were 4070 reported house fires in 2016, resulting in 17 deaths. The fact that more people die from inhaling toxic smoke than from burns, highlights the importance of a working smoke alarm. With this in mind, if you do have an existing smoke alarm fitted, when should it be replaced?

In essence, smoke alarms that are ten years old or more should always be replaced. Although the alarm itself may go off as it should when you touch the test button, it only indicates that the electronics are functioning correctly. What it doesn’t indicate is whether the internal smoke-sensor device is working.

Contrary to popular belief smoke alarms don’t sit idle until the test button is pushed or smoke is detected. Instead they’re designed to continually test the air round the clock. For instance a smoke alarm incorporating ionisation technology would have completed around 3.5 million monitoring cycles during its ten year life span, while photoelectric type alarms would have checked for smoke across a small beam of light utilising some 87,600 hours. As the alarm passes the age of ten, there is an increased likelihood of a slower response or worse still – No response at all.

So how do you know how old your smoke alarms actually are?

All you need to do is to simply unscrew them from the mounting and examine the back. You should see either a date of manufacture or a ‘replace before date’ stamped on the casing.

Photoelectric or ionisation alarms – Which is best?

Research has shown that photoelectric smoke alarms are considered more effective at detecting smoke from smouldering fires earlier. In addition they’re considered less susceptible to going off when your toast is burning, or the oven gets a little hot. More often than not, people will disable nuisance alarms for this very purpose, thus placing themselves, their homes, and their families at greater risk. Because smoke entering the alarm gets deflected onto a light sensitive cell the beam is broken and the alarm is triggered. However smoke from say burnt toast or an overheated oven has smaller particles than smoke from a smouldering fire and therefore won’t appear quite so sensitive.

So to sum up… For best results ensure your smoke alarm is changed every ten years and in addition when you do change it, buy a photoelectric one.

If you would like help with installing and fitting your smoke alarm then contact Static Electrics. We provide a wide range of electrical services including fitting and testing smoke alarms. Contact us today on {{ context.constants.company_info | parse_json | dig: 'secondary_phone' }} to find out more.

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