Smoke detector safety and maintenance
 It may be a surprise to many of you that smoke detectors or automatic smoke alarms have been around since before 1900.  They were first invented in England by a guy named George Andrew Darby. Around the same time, the U.S. National Fire Protection Agency was established, and it’s that government agency that regulates all things fire protection and prevention to this day.
Nowadays, everyone has smoke detectors in their home, and most of us don’t pay attention to them until they start annoyingly chirping in the middle of the night.  There are currently two types available to consumers, Ones that use photoelectric sensors and ones that utilize ionization sensors.  They both accomplish the same goal of warning occupants of a possible fire condition, but they have various attributes.  The ionization typw works better at detecting a flaming fire and the photoelectric type work better at sensing a smoldering fire.  For best results, a homeowner should have a mix of the two types of smoke detectors in their home or, for optimal effectiveness, a dual-sensor-type.
The NFPA code recommends installing smoke detectors in every bedroom, outside each bedroom, and at least one on every home floor.  If a building level doesn’t have a bedroom, installing a smoke detector in the main living area is preferred.  As we all know, heat and smoke rises, so homeowners should install smoke detectors within a foot of the ceiling.  It’s a great idea for the highest margin of safety to have all hard-wired smoke detectors on the same branch circuit; that way, if one detector goes off, they all will go off.
No doubt you’ve been awakened at night by a chirping smoke detector; that’s the alarm’s way of telling you that the backup battery is running low and needs to be replaced.  An easy way to remember to charge the battery is to change all your smoke detector batteries when the time changes.  When you’re up there replacing the batteries, please take a quick look at the sensing ports to make sure they aren’t clogged with dust, as that will inhibit the sensors’ ability to function correctly.  Also, it would be best if you never paint your smoke detector for the same reason.
Like everything in this world, smoke detectors have a lifespan, and they are designed to function for about ten years and then be replaced.  If your smoke detectors are yellow, then it’s well past their expected lifespan.  They aren’t yellow because of a previous owner’s smoking habits but rather because of a fire retardant chemical called bromine that is in the plastic; bromine causes the plastic to turn yellow with age.  Yellow smoke detectors may be working fine at the moment, but it would be prudent to replace them.
Bathroom fans and why you need them


Have you ever wondered why some bathrooms have fans in the ceiling? Bathroom exhaust fans are designed to remove the inevitable humidity created by running hot water at the sink and running the shower. Excess indoor humidity often times helps create an environment prone to indoor mold growth, which no homeowner wants to have to deal with.


There are a few different types of bathroom fans available, but we are only going to focus on two types in this post. Those types are ducted exhaust fans and ductless exhaust fans.

Ducted fans are far more prevalent in residential buildings and are my preferred design. Ducted fans should be installed so that the duct carries the humid air from the bathroom directly to the exterior of the home. This means it should not deliver the air to a crawlspace or to an attic space as this will create a humid environment that could cause paint to peel, wood to warp, and mold to grow.


The second type of bathroom fan that we’ll discuss is a ductless system. Ductless bathroom fans typically use a canister with charcoal in it to filter odors out of the air. Some companies also claim that they reduce the humidity in the room by soaking up moisture. Personally, I disagree with that method; there’s no place for the moisture to go after the charcoal absorbs it except back into the ambient air where it originally came from. If you are going to install a ductless fan, then make sure to install it in a half-bath where there isn’t a shower or a tub.


Thankfully bathroom exhaust fans don’t require a ton of maintenance. Every year or so get up there and clean all the dust and lint off the fan screens. A buildup of debris on the screen significantly increases the risk of a fire. The air that passes through the fan is also the air that cools the motor and electrical components in the fan.


Who knew bath fans were so important features of a home? Make sure you have the right type of fans in the right places and ducting properly and you’ll be in good shape.