Remember to Test Your Smoke Detectors

man testing smoke detector

First and foremost, your home should be safe for you and your family and pets. Nothing comes before that. In terms of protecting a home, fire alarms and smoke detectors are very important. Be sure to install both in your home. Both can alert you to dangerous smoke, gases and fire with enough time to safely evacuate your home. That is why you need to remember to test your smoke detectors from time to time to ensure they are functioning correctly.

WHY IT IS NECESSARY?

Electronic devices malfunction. Sometimes due to loss of battery power or internal components wearing down. This is why it is a good idea to test them and replace batteries or even the entire smoke detector periodically. Periodic tests and new batteries could be the difference in keeping your family safe in an emergency.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU TEST SMOKE DETECTORS?

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) encourages homeowners to test their smoke detectors once every month and to replace the batteries twice each year. Consider doing this the same day you update the clocks in your home for daylight saving time. The USFA recommendation might vary based on the model of smoke detector, user manual guidelines and the following factors:

  • Regular false alarms
  • Short beeping sounds
  • Frequent activation leading to wear

TYPES OF SMOKE DETECTORS

There are two common types of smoke detectors found in most homes in the USA:

BATTERY-POWERED: This model of smoke detector is prone to defects based on battery age and power. It is important to test this type of unit each month. Never install used batteries in a smoke detector.

HARDWIRED: This model runs off the electrical system in your home and has backup batteries too. This means this type of smoke detector will continue to work even if there is no power in your home. You will still want to test hardwired smoke detectors each both to ensure the backup batteries are working and all other parts are functioning.

STEPS TO TEST A SMOKE DETECTOR:

Follow the instructions in the manual. Each model of smoke detector is different. However, there are some standard guidelines and in most instances, both battery-powered and hardwired models can be tested with the steps below:

STEP 1: Notify everyone in the home about the test. Standard smoke detectors emit high-pitched and loud alarm sounds that can be irritating and frightening. Advance notice will let everyone ready themselves for the test and won’t scare children or pets if placed away from the alarm.

STEP 2: Have one member of the family stand as far away from the alarm as possible in order to determine if the beeping sound can be heard from everywhere in the home. If the person cannot hear the alarm, another smoke detector needs to be installed in that area of the home.

STEP 3: There should be a “test” button on the smoke detector. Press and hold the button for a few seconds until a beep or siren emits from the unit. The sound should be ear-piercing. If the sound is dull or muted, you need to replace the batteries on the smoke detector. You should replace the batteries regardless if it has been 6 months or longer. Test the new batteries and inspect the unit for debris, dust or anything that might stop the alarm even with new batteries.

The standard life span for a residential smoke detector is 10 years. The USFA recommends replacing a smoke detector after 10 years even if it still appears to be functional. Consult the manual to ensure the manufacturer recommendation is in line with the USFA.

In conclusion, never assume that a smoke detector is working. Be diligent in testing all of the units in your home once each month. The entire process should not require more than 5-10 minutes and could be critical in the event of an emergency.

How to Insulate Your Home

plastic window sealant

Brrr! Cold weather is on the way. For some northern and Midwestern states, the frigid temperatures have already arrived. The good news is there are several repairs, chores and upgrades homeowners can complete to improve insulation and improve energy efficiency during colder months. And, it’s not late to get them done!

The repairs and home improvement opportunities below will help to create a comfortable and cozier living space for your family and you to enjoy when the weather outside is too freezing and frightful.

TIPS FOR A WARM HOME THIS WINTER

(1) PROPER ATTIC INSULATION

The first area of your home to insulate before the winter weather arrives is the attic. The average homeowner spends almost no time in their attic. I would recommend at least one trip up there each year to inspect the condition of the insulation on the floor. Be aware of areas of the attic floor that need more insulation installed. Be sure to review the roof above too. Look out for gaps and crack where cold win and air could come through. Attic insulation can be purchased from a local hardware store.

 (2) PLASTIC WINDOW SEALANT

I recommend a trip to a local hardware store or retailer to purchase plastic window sealant. The cost is very low and will ultimately save you money in heating and electric bills during the winter. The project requires about 1-2 hours of time depending on the number of windows in your home. Place the plastic across each window and then seal it to the window frame with tape. One or two rolls of the sealant should be enough to complete the job.

 (3) INSTALL CARPET

The best type of flooring for cold weather is carpet. I would recommend carpet for living rooms and bedrooms in homes in cold weather areas of the United States. Carpet is warm and provides insulation on the ground. For homes with hardwood or laminate flooring, consider placing large area rugs in order to insulate high-traffic areas throughout the house.

 (4) REPLACE FURNACE FILTER

Don’t forget to replace the furnace filter in the furnace in your home before winter. A fresh filter is much more efficient than a dirty one and will help reduce energy and heating costs in your home during cold months. This is an easy job. A quality furnace filter typically costs around $10-20 at a local hardware store and can be installed in 1-2 minutes or less. Refer to hvac.com for tips on replacing a furnace filter.

 (5) USE SPACE HEATERS

You can add heat in a room with the strategic placement of space heaters. You can purchase a quality space heater for around $60-100 from a hardware store. Be careful to remember to turn off and unplug space heaters before leaving your home or going to bed for the night. Depending on how cold the weather is outside, you might consider just running a space heater and curling up beneath a blanket instead of turning up the heat in your home as it will be much cheaper.

I hope the tips above are helpful for keeping your home warm this upcoming winter. A cold home is not comfortable or inviting for friends and holiday guests. Most of the projects above can be completed in a weekend and will be beneficial in preventing cold air from the outdoors from entering inside your home.