Mar 29, 2012

Smoke Detectors

Another tip I received online was to use a shower cap over the smoke detector when cooking something that will smoke (like when using cast iron). Don't simply "deactivate" the alarm, you'll forget to enable it later. Simply slip a shower cap around the smoke detector, cook your meal, enjoy it, and you'll remove the cap later.
The first couple of houses that I lived in didn't HAVE smoke detectors. It wasn't until I moved to Pittsburgh, PA in 1974 that I had ever seen them. I remember my dad dragging out the step ladder, drill, screws, screwdriver, smoke detector, and 9 volt batteries to install 2 in the house. One was outside my bedroom door and the other was in the living room (next to the kitchen). I also remember this was when my grandpa instructed ME to change the batteries in them. I'm not sure how it became MY responsibility to change them, but I am glad he did. I still change them twice per year, on the days that we change the clocks forward or back. Because of that, I still cringe on those days when I have to lug out the ladder and do that.

But, moving into a new built house in the late 90s and now living in an apartment has also taught me some things. Smoke detector technology has changed and we need to keep in touch with that if we are going to understand how they work and what they do.

When I moved into the new built house, the contractor explained to me that the smoke detectors had advanced to the point that they not only detected smoke, but also were carbon monoxide detectors. They were "hard wired" into the electric panel now, and the battery only served a purpose if the electricity ever shut off (they would still work). But, I was diligent and changed them twice a year.

Available at Sears
And now in changing the batteries in my apartment taught me something else that has really helped me in cooking (especially in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven). Newer smoke detectors actually have a button on them that you can press to shut them off for 7-20 minutes, should they go off for the wrong reason, like when you burn your home made home fries or hash browns. See my other blog entry about cooking oil smoking points in the kitchen for more info. And, it also vocally tells you whether it detected a fire or carbon monoxide. In the OLD days, you had to get the chair under the detector, rip the cover off, and rip the battery out. In my 90s house, you had to stand under it and fan it with a newspaper until it stopped. In my new apartment, I just have to reach up and press a button for 5 seconds (and then I have 7-20 minutes to clear the smoke out of the kitchen). WOW!!! Massively helpful things to know when I'm burning dinner.

Another new technology about the 4 smoke detectors in my apartment, is that they are all tied together by the wires in the walls. If ONE goes off, they ALL go off. So, if a fire starts down the hall in my son's room, the detector in MY room goes off. I'm more likely to hear it in my own room, than down the hall in his, with both doors closed. Yeah, that is another good development in smoke detectors.

Something else that I learned in doing some basic research, is that it is still recommended that you change your batteries twice per year, but it is also now recommended that you change your smoke detectors every 10 years. I'm fortunate that my apartment complex was only built 5 years ago, but I still listen to grandpa twice a year.

So, bottom line, some suggestions:
Change your smoke detector batteries on the days that you change your clocks, so twice per year.
Change your smoke detectors themselves, every 10 years to keep up on technology.
  Wire them all together so if one goes off, they all will go off and you are more likely to hear it.
Watch what cooking oils used in the kitchen to prevent burnt dinner smoke (see the blog for more info)
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  1. Smoke detector is a great system that will help you a lot in preventing the risk of fire from burning your house. Installing detector in every level of your house and near sleeping area is very thoughtful to do in order to deliver the best protection for you.

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