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3 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Smoke Alarms

The end of Daylight Saving Time (November 4, this year) serves as an informal reminder to replace smoke-alarm batteries. Changes to fire code mean now’s a good time to consider these Qs, too

  • Do you have enough? Each floor—which now means a basement level, too, even if it’s unfinished—needs a smoke alarm. This includes an alarm within 20 feet of each bedroom (in a small home, that could mean just one in the hall), plus one inside each bedroom. In garages and unfinished attics, install a heat alarm; these sense temperature rather than smoke.
  • Are they connected? As of 2007, interconnected alarms are a code requirement for homes old and new: When one alarm goes off, all should sound. Newer homes have hardwired systems, but it’s easy to retrofit an older house with wireless, battery-powered units linked via Wi-Fi or radio frequency (RF). Upgrade your whole house at once; not all models are compatible, even within the same brand.
  • Are the batteries fresh? Even hardwired alarms need battery backup in case of a power outage. Many newer smoke alarms are sold with sealed 10-year batteries—which is the life span of any smoke alarm. Toss any units that are older (check the date of manufacture on the back). And sealed or not, test any alarm with a battery monthly to make sure it’s working.

Thanks to: Richard Roux, senior electrical specialist, National Fire Protection Association