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.


I’m willing to bet the vast majority of home owners do not know what type of fire extinguisher is in their home. In fact only about ten percent of the homes I inspect even have fire extinguishers. There are two places in the home that should have one installed, the kitchen and the garage. Let’s face it, shit happens. And when it does you’re going to wish you were prepared.


There are four types of fire extinguishers that are appropriate for home use and they are categorized by letters. A type fire extinguishers are designed to put out paper and trash fires. B type fire extinguishers are designed to put out liquid or fuel fires. C type fire extinguishers are utilized for electrical fires. Lastly D type fire extinguishers put out metal fires. The typical fire extinguishers you are going to find at home improvement stores are multipurpose extinguishers called ABC fire extinguishers. You guessed it, they are supposed to be used on all types of fires except for metal fires and are the best type of extinguisher to have in a residential setting.


If you own a fire extinguisher (and you should), I recommend periodically inspecting it for serviceability. This is very easy to do and only takes a minute.

Step one: Make sure there are no dents or bulges on the canister body.

Step two: Verify that the nozzle is not damaged or clogged.

Step three: Check that the needle on the pressure gauge is in the green section.

Step four: Make sure the safety pin or seal is securely in place on the discharge handle.


When you install a fire extinguisher in your home or garage, make sure it is readily accessible and in a conspicuous location. I feel it’s best everyone that lives in the home should be thought how to properly utilize the extinguishers that are at the home. Fire extinguisher training can be obtained at any local fire department.