I received First Alert products for my home in exchange for this post. All confessions of ignorance remain my own.
When I was a kid, I thought that when I grew up, I’d get to change my name. See, I didn’t know any adults named “Lindsay,” so I just figured that “Lindsay” was my kid name, and, once I grew up, I’d make the switch to something more grown up… like Susan, or perhaps, Margaret.
Well, I’d like to tell Lindsay, circa 1990, that a quarter century has passed and I’m still called Lindsay, and that might be because I’m still not grown up. I might have a mortgage, a husband, white hairs and two kids of my own now, but I still rely on the more adultier adults around me to get things done. My adult of choice? My Dad.
When he came to visit us in our new-to-us townhouse shortly after Little Miss Cub’s birth, I had a list a mile long of adult jobs for him, such as figuring out why our smoke detector was making a funny noise. Turns out, my Dad is such an adult that his adult ears couldn’t even hear the funny noise the detector was making… probably not a good sign in the event of an emergency. We never did determine the cause of the random, high-pitched squeaking, but without it, my husband and I would have sadly but surely continued living in our townhouse without ever having considered testing our three smoke detectors. I’m not proud of it, but I figure we can’t be the only pseudo-adults blissfully ignorant of their smoke detectors’ efficacy. Can I confess something here? It never even occurred to me that a smoke detector was something that had a limited life span. (It turns out the smoke detectors in question were two years past their 10-year alarm life.)
I decided that I may as well turn my ignorance into a blog post, and since receiving a set of new detectors for our home from First Alert, I have learned a whole lot about smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
Smoke detectors must be replaced at least every 10 years.
Do you know how old your smoke detectors are? We had to completely unscrew those already installed in our townhouse to find out. It looks like they’re the same ones that would’ve been put in when our place was built.
Your hardwired smoke detectors might not have a battery back up… and if they do, don’t forget to change those batteries!
If the power goes out, your hardwired smoke detectors rely on batteries to function. Turns out, the ones in our townhouse didn’t even have a battery back up. And, to be fair, if they did, we probably wouldn’t have known to change them.
We installed the 2-pack First Alert AC Powered Ionization Smoke Alarms (Model 9120BA) upstairs between our two bedrooms and in our basement, in place of our expired hardwired alarms. In the kitchen, we installed the combination carbon monoxide and smoke detector (Model SC70106FBA). Public Safety Canada recommends changing your backup batteries twice per year, but I think it’s a big bonus that these models feature a low battery warning, chirping every minute for about seven days when the backup batteries are running low. All the First Alert alarms we received also have easy access battery drawers, meaning you don’t have to unscrew the alarm from the ceiling to swap out your batteries.
Alarms should be tested monthly.
I’m setting an alert on my phone to remind me to test our smoke alarms regularly. The alarms we just replaced didn’t have an easy testing mechanism: we would’ve had to light a match directly underneath to see if they were working. Our First Alert alarms all feature an easy-to-use test button. You can recycle your old alarms.
First Alert has introduced the first Canada-wide carbon monoxide and smoke detector recycling program, with the goal of diverting over 300,000 lbs of waste from landfills.
- Purchase and install a First Alert Zero Waste smoke, CO, or combination alarm
- Place your old alarm in the Zero Waste packaging
- Drop off the old alarm at a Zero Waste depot near you.
You should regularly clean your smoke detectors.
I guess it can be safely assumed that since I didn’t know I needed to periodically replace my smoke detectors, I also didn’t know they needed to be cleaned. You should use the soft brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to remove dust from your detectors every month!
Many province’s building codes require a smoke detector in every bedroom.
Already a recommendation by the US’s National Fire Protection Association, more and more provincial building codes (including Alberta’s) are requiring a smoke detector in all sleeping quarters. I had no idea that we should have more than one on each floor!
You do not have to be an electrician to put a detector in a new spot.
Our townhouse only has three wired spots for smoke detectors: one on each floor. First Alert sent us three additional alarms to be installed in the master bedroom, children’s room and basement bedroom. These alarms run on batteries and can be installed on the ceiling or high up on the wall: all you need is a drill!
Our battery-powered units are all part of the Zero Waste line of products and feature easy-access battery drawers. They were installed in less than five minutes.
Carbon monoxide detectors are easy to install
Thanks to First Alert, we now have carbon monoxide detectors on all three floors. I truly knew nothing about carbon monoxide detection units, and incorrectly assumed we’d need new wiring to install them in our home. Turns out, you can buy combination alarms and install them using your already-present smoke alarm wiring. No wiring? No problem: in the basement bedroom, we installed a battery-powered combination alarm, and the upstairs hallway has a plug-in detector. That’s right, I just had to plug it into the wall:
You may need to find the right spot to plug this type of unit in if you have children who want to press the test button, but there’s basically no excuse for not having a carbon monoxide detector given how easy this one is to use!
In Ontario, the fire code requires that all dwellings be equipped with a functioning CO detector. A homeowner who had disabled his carbon monoxide detector was recently charged with a fire code violation (for which the punishment is a hefty fine or even jail time) after residents were sent to hospital due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Are you set up for fire safety in your home?