Just about everyone knows how important smoke alarms are for home safety, but this information is just a part of what you need to know! For example, do you know how old your smoke detectors are? Why, you’re probably thinking, why would that be important? The best smoke sensors available today only work properly for 10-years. Question 2, Do you know what the test buttons checks? That blaring noise you endure when you push that test button only checks the battery and speaker condition. Please do not take a chance on whether you’re homes alarms will work when you need them. Check those manufacture dates. These date codes are either on the back of the alarm or inside where the battery is located. If the alarm has no date code, it is very old! When it is time to replace your alarms, check product reviews to get the best available.
What else should you know about smoke alarms. There are three types available: ionization sensing, photelectric, and a combination of the two. The ionization type is best to detect flaming fires and photoelectric are best to detect smoke. So, with that added knowledge, which one is best? Recent studies overwhelmingly recommend the combination of the two sensors in a single alarm. And yes, these are more expensive. In this case, you get what you pay for. Check out this excellent video demonstration of the three smoke alarm types in action. https://youtu.be/J9zEi1otL88
Clothes Dryer Exhaust Ducts Require Annual Cleaning
House fires caused by dryers are far more common than are generally believed. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, fires caused by dryers in 2005 were responsible for approximately 13,775 house fires, 418 injuries, 15 deaths, and $196 million in property damage. Most of these incidents occur in residences and are the result of improper lint cleanup and maintenance. Fortunately, these fires are very easy to prevent.
Clothes dryers evaporate the water from wet clothing by blowing hot air past them while they tumble inside a spinning drum. Heat is provided by an electrical heating element or gas burner. Some heavy garment loads can contain more than a gallon of water that will become airborne water vapor and leave the dryer and home through an exhaust duct, more commonly known as the dryer vent.
A vent that exhausts damp air to the home's exterior has a number of requirements:
Most house fires occur during the winter months, especially around the holidays with Christmas lights, the use of candles, and lots of cooking. All fires are preventable if you stay vigilant and practice safety. The problem is we let our guard down when we are busy and tired. Below, is a summary of the causes of the majority of home fires to help you keep them in mind and stay vigilant.
1. Cooking - The number one source of house fires is due to cooking. Forty percent of all house fires are caused by people leaving the stove unattended, for a quick minute elsewhere or while they make a quick run to the store. Grease gets overheated and catches fire. Most injuries occur when people try to put out the fire.
2. Electrical – Electrical fires can be caused by many different things, such as, incandescent light bulbs, space heaters, washers, dryers, and other similar equipment. The U.S. had averages over 40,000 structure fires caused by an electrical problem and caused over 400 deaths.
3. Dryer Vents – More than 15,000 fires occur annually from clothes dryers. The largest cause for dryer fires were lint and clothes. Dryers account for more than 90% of these fires.
4. Smoking – Although the number of fires caused by smoking is trending lower due to fewer smokers, we still average more than 15,000 fires annually and over 400 deaths.
5. Candles – Everyone loves the romantic glow of candlelight. There are an average of 10,600 fires started by candles every year resulting in over 900 injuries. About 1/3 of the fires start in bedrooms due to candles left too close to flammable items. Candles should be kept a minimum of 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
6. Children – Children playing with fire account for more than 7,000 per year on average. Children under the age of 6 start most fires indoors using matches or a lighter.
People don’t often think about the fire risks posed by the light in their clothes closet, but it’s one of the few places in the house where a source of high heat can get too close to flammable materials. Lighting must be installed safely, with adequate separation from clothes, boxes and other flammables stored in the closet. Additionally, the quality of the light, as well as bulb efficiency, will influence your lighting choices.
The rules for new home construction are updated frequently based on experience and accident prevention. The newest rules for closet lighting provide a good model for evaluating your home for safety improvements. Lights in closets and similar storage areas should have enclosed bulbs due to the heat bulbs can generate, especially incandescent lamps. Globes can protect the bulb and keep objects away from the high surface temperatures. This applies to fluorescent lighting as well. Partially enclosed bulbs and pull-chain lights should be replaced. Surface mounted light fixtures, ceilings and walls, should maintain a 12” clearance from any object; clothes, boxes, etc. Recessed lighting should be located where a minimum clearance of 6” is maintained at all times.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is often called the “invisible killer”. It is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that is near impossible to identify without a proper detector. It is caused by fuels not burning completely, including wood, gasoline, coal, propane, natural gas, gasoline, and heating oil. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized. A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.
CO enters the body through breathing. CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning and other illnesses. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light headedness or headaches. High levels of CO can be fatal, causing death within minutes.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
CO alarms should be installed according to the manufacturer's instructions. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that one CO alarm be installed in the hallway outside the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area of the home. CO alarms may be installed into a plug-in receptacle or high on the wall. Hard wired or plug-in CO alarms should have battery backup. Avoid locations that are near heating vents or that can be covered by furniture or draperies. CPSC does not recommend installing CO alarms in kitchens or above fuel-burning appliances.
CO detectors do not last forever! Typically, if a detector is over 2-years old, it should be replaced every 5-7 years. Some new hardwired units now have batteries that last the life of the detector (10-years). On these units, you do not replace the battery, you replace the unit. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. Date codes can be found on the back of the unit.
About 2.5 million children are injured or killed each year by hazards in the home. The good news is that many of these incidents can be prevented by using simple child-safety devices available today. Any safety device you buy should be sturdy enough to prevent injury to your child, yet easy for you to use. It's important to follow installation instructions carefully.
In addition, if you have older children in the house, be sure they re-secure safety devices. Remember, too, that no device is completely childproof; determined youngsters have been known to disable them. You can child-proof your home for a fraction of what it would cost to have a professional do it. And safety devices are easy to find. You can buy them at hardware stores, baby equipment shops, supermarkets, drug stores, home and linen stores, and through online and mail-order catalogues.
Here are some child-safety devices that can help prevent many injuries to young children.
Chuck retired from an engineering management career to start a home inspection business