Part of our job as firefighters is to educate the public on fire safety awareness and prevention. We have found that people don’t always know what type of alarms they need in their home, or how long those alarms last. Since the last housing boom in the early 2000’s, many people are approaching fifteen years on their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. They’re simply unaware that they go bad at the end of their useful life.
Technology has made home alarms of all kinds — from security to smoke, radon to radiation — more accessible than ever. Many of them can be configured to work together, and some even alert you to trouble through your phone or other mobile device, so you can feel confident even when you’re out of the house.
So, what home sensors do you need? Only you can answer that question – it depends on what you’re comfortable with. For your peace of mind and safety, you may want to consider the following types of alarms for your home.
Start With the Basics
Whether you’re in a house, condo or apartment, smoke alarms and carbon-monoxide (CO) detectors are absolute musts. They can alert you and your family in the event of a fire or if deadly gas is building up in your home.
- Smoke alarms
According to the National Fire Protection Association, you should install these inside every room where people sleep, with at least one on each level of your home. For maximum safety, use both ionization and photoelectric alarms, which respond to different types of fires, or a dual-sensor alarm, which will respond to both flaming and smoldering fires. You can choose from alarms that are hard-wired into your home’s power supply or ones that run on batteries. Be sure to test them regularly and replace the batteries twice a year when you set your clocks forward or back.
You also should consider smoke alarms that can be linked, so when one goes off, all of the alarms in the house sound. Other options include alarms with strobe lights (for the hearing impaired), voice commands instead of loud beeping (which may help wake children more easily) and even light for visibility in the dark.
- Carbon monoxide alarms
Carbon monoxide is odorless — and deadly, killing about 400 people in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If your home has gas appliances or a wood-burning fireplace, you may be especially at risk. But, every home needs carbon monoxide detectors – on every level of your home and outside of sleeping areas.
There are battery-powered and plug-in CO alarms available, and some can be linked to smoke detectors as well. Be cautious about combination smoke-and-CO alarms, however, as the detection capabilities may be limited.
Then Consider Other Types of Home Detectors
Other alarms are more about your specific living circumstances and what will make you feel most safe. There are plenty of different products available, so consider your lifestyle, your location and other factors.
- Natural gas and propane: Natural-gas detectors typically provide an alarm for propane and CO leaks as well. They’re a good option for those with appliances powered by natural gas, or people who own RVs and trailers with large propane tanks.
- Water: These alert you to leaks from appliances or pipes via sensors you can place around your home. Some require you to be present to hear the alarm, while others connect to a central hub that can provide alerts to your phone or other device.
- Radon: Detectors are available that provide constant monitoring of this deadly gas. You could also start with a single-use radon test to help determine if a problem may be present.
- Radiation: If you live near a nuclear power plant, you might want to monitor the amount of radiation in your home. Some radiation occurs naturally and poses little problem for humans. But, elevated levels can cause harm.
And, What About a Security System?
There are more options than ever for home security today. Some do-it-yourself security systems include cameras and the ability to see what’s happening at your home via your phone or other electronic device. Of course, systems installed and monitored by a separate security company are still available, as well.
Some alarms can provide benefits beyond safety, too. Installing them may qualify you for a discount on your insurance. Check with your independent agent for more details.