Smoke Detectors–Installation & Maintenance

While the U.S. Fire Administration will tell you to check your smoke detector batteries monthly, an old home maintenance tip says to use the beginning and end of Daylight Savings Time twice a year as a reminder to check your smoke detectors. This year, Daylight Savings Time ends on November 6th. Time to check your smoke detectors.

First, do you have smoke detectors installed? Do you have enough? You should have a detector installed within 15 feet of the entrance to every bedroom in the house. Mine is right outside the door. If you have a long hallway, a smoke detector should be installed every thirty feet. You also need smoke detectors on each level of the home, including the basement, and attic, if you have any electrical outlets or appliances in the attic. It is also good to install a smoke detector at the top of stairwells – the stairwell acts as a chimney of sorts and sends the smoke to the top. It is best not to install one in the kitchen, due to false alarms from burning food. However, you should install one near the kitchen, as there are many appliances that could spark a fire.

You can find smoke detectors at hardware and home improvement stores, or even at Target and Wal-Mart. Each will come with installation instructions. Many have self-adhesive strips, but I prefer to install with screws.

Hold the open detector up to the wall or ceiling. You should install them fairly high up, as smoke rises. Using a pen or pencil, mark the wall where you need to screw in the screws.




Screw in the screws most of the way. The next step seems simple, but I was surprised that there are people who don’t know this. Place the smoke detectors over the larger end of the opening and shift it down to the narrow end. Tighten the screw. This is key. If you don’t screw it down tight, it will fall down and hit you in the head the first time you touch it. Trust me, this happened to me when I assumed the detectors had been installed correctly.

If you have smoke detectors already, you need to make sure the batteries are still good, or the detectors are worthless. Most smoke detectors use 9 Volt batteries. There is an easy way to test a 9 Volt battery. Stick the ends on your tongue. If it shocks you enough that you jump a bit and are not sure you want to test the others, then the battery is good! If you feel nothing, or just a slight twinge, you should put in new batteries. I also strongly recommend asking friends or visiting children to help you with this task – fun for everyone!

Happy installation!

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