Smoke detectors are no good after 10 years.
Hard wired ones, battery operated ones, expensive models, cheap models, even carbon monoxide detectors, give up after 10 years.
“What people don’t realize is that if you don’t have a smoke detector and your house catches fire while you’re sleeping, there’s a really good chance you’ll never wake up,” Mike Baird, Lebanon Fire Department chief deputy, said. “You’re in a deep sleep and you breathe in smoke and go deeper and deeper to sleep and just never wake up. A lot of people fall asleep and never wake up.
“But the smoke detector will alert you,” he said.
In fact, smoke detectors alert neighbors. Lebanon firefighters have rescued people who were sleeping and unaware their home was ablaze after concerned neighbors called 911 to report hearing an alarm nearby.
But smoke detectors have an expiration date and most people don’t know how old their smoke detectors are, according to a study by the National Fire Protection Association.
“If anyone is in a home that is approaching the 10-year mark, know that smoke alarms — for lack of a better word — they expire in about 10 years,” Vincent Randolph, Zionsville Fire Department public educator said, adding, “Not everything ages gracefully.”
“They just literally wear out,” LFD Chief Chuck Batts added.
The smoke detector may look fine, and the alarm may sound when a homeowner presses the test button, but that doesn’t mean it is still able to detect smoke.
“After a while, the sensor just wears out,” Brian Hicks, Gillman Home Center manager, said. The sensor is the part that detects smoke particles.
Smoke detectors have an expiration date printed inside of them, but it’s not always easy to see. Lebanon and Zionsville are among many fire departments that will send firefighters to test smoke detectors, answer questions and suggest placement.
They will also install smoke detectors for those who need help. Lebanon and Zionsville departments have a limited number of free smoke detectors for those in need, as do many departments.
Smoke detectors are available at a variety of area stores, and can be had for less than $10. Gillman sells smoke detectors at prices ranging from $8.19 to models that speak for $60.
“They tell you what’s going on, what type of danger there is, like carbon monoxide or smoke,” Hicks said.
Some even come with lithium batteries that last the entire 10 years of their expected life, and the homeowner can just dispose of the entire unit and buy another without worrying about climbing ladders to change batteries in the meantime, Hicks said.
Baird recommends changing regular smoke detector batteries twice a year, even for hard-wired smoke detectors that have battery back-ups in the event of power outages.
A minimum of one smoke detector should be installed on each floor of a home.
“That’s not even enough, if you ask me,” Baird said. “Definitely every floor, hallways, basement. If you only have a couple you want to be sure they are centrally located, and if not on the ceiling, near the ceiling where the smoke travels.”
“I have 13 in my house,” he said. “I have one in every bedroom, in the hallways, in the garage, the utility room.”
Age isn’t the only factor to take a smoke detector out of play.
Some smoke detectors don’t work because the homeowner took the battery out after burned food on the stove top set them off too often.
“We’ve been on fire runs and found the smoke detector on the refrigerator without batteries because it had annoyed them while they cooked,” Baird said, adding, “It’s frustrating for us.
“They definitely save lives. There’s no doubt about it.”