Did You Know that Home Smoke Alarms Need to be Replaced Every 10 Years?

Posted on: July 12, 2017

Learn why you should prioritize maintenance of this vital fire safety equipment.

When is the last time that you replaced the smoke alarm in your home? If you can’t remember, it’s likely been longer than 10 years. And according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), that means that you’re due for a replacement.

Smoke alarms are an incredibly important part of any household, and maintaining them can mean the difference between your family being badly injured or even perishing in an accidental house fire. Don’t put it off.

Different types of smoke alarms

When considering a new unit, consider the benefits and drawbacks of a replacement. Below is a review of the two most commonly-used smoke alarms and a summary of their capabilities:

Photoelectric smoke detectors

Photoelectric smoke alarms feature a sensor and light source; as smoke travels between the two, the detector is activated. A drawback of these systems is that the lens can become dusty over time, making the detector less likely to identify smoke. Photoelectric alarms provide adequate protection for smoldering fires, but they are not as good at sensing flaming fires. They are usually employed in larger rooms.

Ionizing smoke detectors

An ionizing smoke detector is typically cheaper to manufacture (and purchase) than a photoelectric unit. They utilize a radioactive element that sends a constant electric current by way of an ionization chamber located between two electrodes. Any particle entering the chamber, such as smoke, breaks the current and sounds the alarm. These types of units are extremely sensitive. This makes them good at detecting a fire, but more susceptible to false alarms.

The NFPA recommends employing both photoelectric and ionizing detectors to adequately protect your home from different types of fires. Helpfully, certain models combine both technologies in a single unit.

Smoke detectors weaken over time

According to the NPFA, smoke alarms wear out and “become less reliable over time.” And research from the Consumer Products Safety Commission has shown that when any part of a detector fails, the entire unit fails. Thus, homeowners should stick to the 10-year replacement guideline to avoid a catastrophic malfunction.

Label your smoke alarms

When you do decide to replace your smoke alarm, it’s important to label the new unit with the date that it was replaced. Many manufacturers include stickers allowing you to quickly assess the age of your detector.

Regular testing is vital

Aside from replacing your equipment every 10 years, routine testing is also incredibly important. The NPFA recommends checking all of your smoke alarms monthly, and immediately replacing any units that aren’t functioning properly.

Don’t become tomorrow’s news story

Too often we neglect to properly maintain items that end up costing us dearly in the long run. One thing that you can’t afford to skimp on is proper smoke alarm maintenance and replacement. If you’re unsure of when you last changed your equipment, it’s best to go ahead and get new ones to ensure that your home and family are protected in the event of a fire.

For more information on the latest smoke alarm technology or any questions related to proper fire safety, don’t hesitate to contact LifeSafety Management at (800) 330-1158or through our online contact form.