Fire prevention and detection

How to fix those pesky smoke detector problems

We’ve all experienced it, the deafening sound of a smoke detector, but resist the urge to take down your alarm or remove its batteries.

“Always assume there’s a fire. When you’ve determined that it’s safe, then you can get to the root cause. Some of the things that will cause an alarm to go off are dying batteries, steam from a shower, dust, or even spiders inside the alarm,” said Bernie Deitrick, a Consumer Reports tester.

Let’s start the fixes with an easy one: the battery. Replace it every six months. If it’s sealed in the unit, replace the unit every 10 years to reduce other alarm triggers.

There are two main types – photoelectric and ionization.

“Photoelectric alarms respond to particles in the air — created by smoldering fires or steamy showers. They’re less prone to false alarms caused by cooking, so consider them for areas near kitchens,” Deitrick said.

Ionization alarms, on the other hand, are triggered by the small particles given off by an open flame so an active kitchen will often produce false alarms. They’re better installed near steamy bathrooms.

For the best protection, Consumer Reports recommends dual-sensor alarms which use both types of technology or a combination of photoelectric and ionization alarms throughout your home.

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