Smoke detectors are certainly not the prettiest gadgets but they could help save your life, as well as your loved ones if there is ever a fire. Sometimes, it goes off when it should not and other times, it beeps because its battery might be low.

Smoke detectors (also known as smoke alarms) are small devices that typically hang on the wall or are mounted on the ceiling, and most of the time go unnoticed. We perhaps take it for granted that the device will respond if it is ever needed to warn of fire. Small yet might, it has been known to save thousands of lives each year.

However, even thought it is a very important device, by most accounts ignored. With that said, it might behoove you to understand how it functions. Armed with knowledge you can then, choose the best one for your home.

What Are Smoke Detectors?

In newly built homes smoke detectors are required to be hard wired 120 volt systems, with battery-operated detectors as backups, according to experts. In existing homes, battery-operated units are allowed and work well if maintained. This takes the diligence of a concerned homeowner.

How Do Smoke Detectors Work?

A Photoelectric unit is initiated into responding by smoke that splits the beam of light emitted by the unit. This smoke detector is less likely to react to false alarms such as fumes from cooking; but will respond to slow burning fires as in upholstery.

Ionization units actually send forth a small amount of radiation and when smoke blocks the emitted radiation, it is detected by a sensor thus sending out the alarm. This unit will react to fires that burn swiftly as paper, wood, and oil.

Types of Smoke Detectors

There are various of detectors that combine these attributes, creating a  complete warning system.

You may choose alarms with varied features, such as a light in the unit that will light your fire escape path. This feature is available in battery-operated models. There are those units that plug into a receptacle with a safety device that locks it into the plug-in. However, the receptacle must not be one that is controlled by an on and off switch. Others have a light letting you know if the unit is working; shining a light on the sensor can test others. Some will “beep” when the battery is low.

Experts suggest that each floor of your home should have a smoke detector. Each stair well should have one at the top and in each hallway that leads to bedrooms. Wall mounted units should be 4 to 12 inches from the ceiling. Ceiling mounted models should be at least 4 inches from a wall. Smoke detectors are available at most home improvement stores.

Test Regularly

Test your smoke detectors at least one time per month. Most have test buttons, however if not use a candle and let the smoke enter the alarm.

Ultimately, all home smoke detectors should be kept in good working order so if one or all is ever needed, they can save those in the home.

As part of National Preparedness Month in September, the Red Cross encourages all Americans to develop a family game plan to ensure their safety including smoke alarm installation and maintenance.