As you’ll be spending more time at home lately, it is time you take a look at the elements of your home that often get neglected. Smoke detectors or smoke alarms often are not really thought about in the home or seen as a nuisance when they go off every time you burn your toast resulting in you taking out the batteries to save your ears. But just sit back and really think for a minute about just how vital they really are, especially as you’re spending more time at home and using your appliances more frequently.
Fire statistics in the UK
Did you know that over 600,000 house fires occur in the UK every year? Around 800 of these cases result in death and over 17,000 injuries. If you do not have a working smoke detector in your home you are more than twice as likely to die in a house fire compared to a home that does, your entire home can be engulfed by flames in less than 4 minutes. It isn’t just the flames you have to worry about as smoke is the biggest killer when it comes to the household fires.
These statistics are scary but they are true, take a look at our smoke detector advice below.
What are smoke alarms/smoke detectors?
Smoke alarms are small, self-contained devices that are usually fitted to ceilings within a home or business place. They aim to detect fires and provide families with a few precious minutes to escape from a fire by giving them a warning via a loud beeping sound.
What types of smoke detectors are available?
Fire Service reports that there are four types of smoke alarms on the market, they are:
Ionisation: Cheap and effective. This type of smoke alarm is able to detect small particles of smoke before it gets too thick, these are produced by fast fires from fast burning materials such as paper and wood. They are less effective to slow and smouldering fires which let off a thicker, denser smoke before the flames. They say Ionisation smoke alarms are too sensitive to be placed near kitchens.
Optical: More expensive but more effective to slow burning fires. They are best suited to be fitted near but not inside the kitchen.
Heat Alarms: Detect rising temperature. Heat alarms do not detect smoke so they are best suited in a kitchen.
Combined Alarms: There are two variations of combined alarms.
- Combined Optical Smoke and Heat Alarms: to reduce false alarms and increase speed of detection.
- Combined Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms: to detect smoke and abnormal CO emissions. See our guide on Carbon Monoxide Alarms here!
Each of these types of smoke detectors are powered by batteries or mains power or even both and can even be synched together so that they all sound when triggered.
Which smoke alarm do I need?
Fire Service put it really easy for you as to which smoke alarm you need in which room:
Kitchen & Garage: Heat Alarms
Landings: Ionisation or Combined Optical Smoke and Heat Alarms
Bedrooms, living rooms and hallways: Optical or Combined Optical Smoke and Heat Alarms
How many smoke alarms do I need?
You should have a minimum of 1 smoke detector per floor in your home. For maximum protection a smoke alarm can be fitted in every room except bathrooms as steam may trigger the alarm.
Installing smoke detectors
Installing your smoke detector correctly is vital, without doing so it can render the smoke detector useless. If you are unsure how to install your smoke detectors ask for help from friends or family, if that isn’t possible there are many companies or local handy people who are able to install smoke alarms correctly for you at a cost. Fire Service’s top tips are:
- Install on the ceiling in the centre of the room or as close to the centre as possible.
- Ensure your smoke detector is at least 30cm away from any walls or light fittings.
- Ensure your alarm can be heard from anywhere within your home but especially near to the bedroom/s.
Maintaining smoke detectors
To ensure that your smoke detectors remain in good working order there is a little bit of maintenance you will need to do, including:
- Weekly: Test your alarms once a week by pressing the test button, it will then sound, ensure the sound is loud and clear.
- Every 6 months: clean your smoke alarm every 6 months by hoovering it using the extender tube. Ensure you go around the edges of the smoke detector and over any small holes in the alarms.
- Yearly: replace the batteries of all your smoke alarms every year.
- Every 10 years: it is recommended that you should replace your smoke detectors every 10 years to obtain optimum performance.
Safe and well visit
Did you know that your local fire and rescue service offer a free of charge service where they carry out an inspection of your home to ensure you remain as safe as possible? You may also be eligible for free smoke alarms to be fitted where it is required. To book one in, simply search ‘safe and well visit in (your location) and you will be able to book online. If you cannot access the internet simply give your local fire station a call, you will find the number in the phone book. Do not call 999 for a safe and well visit. This number is to be used only in an emergency.
Could you afford to rebuild and redecorate your home if a fire were to devastate it? Not only are smoke detectors vital as life-saving devices, they are also important factors in your home insurance should you find yourself unfortunately making a claim on a house fire. If your smoke alarms are found to not be working in your insurance application when you had previously stated that they were in good working order, even if the batteries have just ran out of juice then your insurer may not pay out on your claim. Always maintain your fire alarms.
Buying smoke detectors
There are numerous places you can buy smoke alarms from including your local hardware store. Some of the best smoke detectors on the market currently include:
Google Nest Protect
The future of smoke detectors is Google Nest Protect. This smoke alarm is particularly great if you have other Google Nest devices as it is able to sync up. Features of the Google Nest Protect include:
- Combined Smoke and Carbon Alarm: It also has a split-sensor so it will look for slow and fast burning fires. It is designed to be all types of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in one.
- Voice Alarm: Before setting off a loud siren the Google Nest Protect is able to detect where the smoke or CO is coming from and will tell you. For instance, if you are in your bedroom, your alarm can notify you if it detects smoke in that room and from anywhere in the house.
- App Silence: This feature allows you to turn off the alarm using the Nest app on your phone by holding down the button. No longer do you have to waft a tea towel at the ceiling with your hands over your ears!
- Detection Notifications: The Google Nest Protect also sends you a notification to your phone via the app. This gives you peace of mind in knowing you will know instantly if there are any signs of a fire or carbon monoxide leakage, no matter if you are at home or away.
- Maintenance Check Up: Through the app on your phone you are able to check that all your alarms are working as they should and it will even provide you with a health check report afterwards. The Google Nest Protect also alerts you when you need to change your batteries so maintenance is super easy.
- Family Accounts: With the app everyone in your family can monitor the alarm, this is particularly handy if you have teenagers at home for example who can react to any situation the alarm detects whilst you’re at work!
As smoke alarms go this one as you can imagine does come in at the top end of the scale at a price of £89 currently on Amazon!
X-Sense Smoke Detector
A great middle of the range smoke detector is the X-Sense, it doesn’t come with the additional ‘smart’ features as the Google Nest Protect but it does its job and a little bit more which is reflected in the price! Features of the X-Sense Smoke Alarm are:
- Combined Smoke and Carbon Alarm: The CO levels are also displayed on a digital display so you can monitor any rising levels before they become dangerous.
- 10 Year Battery Life: The X-Sense provides you with a 10 year battery life with a built-in lithium battery. The battery power level is also displayed on the digital screen so you can monitor it.
- Dustproof Design: The design of the X-Sense is to ensure the maintenance is as easy as possible.
- Silence Function: Unlike old style smoke detectors this alarm has a silence button so you can turn it off when it sounds in a non-emergency situation rather than wafting the area with a tea towel.
We think this is a great middle of the range smoke and carbon monoxide detector and comes in at £29.99. Check it out on Amazon here!
At the lowest end of the budget we think the Fireangel is a great low-cost smoke detector. The Fireangel features include:
- Combination Smoke Detector: The Fireangel is able to detect fast and slow burning fires.
- 10 Year Battery Life: So you don’t need to worry about replacing the batteries for some time.
- Silence Function: The Fireangel also features a silence button so you can turn it off when the toast has just become a little crispy.
- Sleep Easy Function: You can silence the smoke detector for eight hours when it beeps as a warning of low battery.
Coming in at £10.34 currently on Amazon, this Smoke Detector is a great value! Find it here!