Choosing the Right Safety Alarm for Your Home

This article will include the following:

  • The Danger

  • Optical vs Ionistion

  • Quality

  • Sealed Alarms 

When installing fuel burning appliances, it’s important to check that a home has adequate

Choosing the Right Safety Alarm for Your Home 1 safety alarms fitted that are of the correct standard. A core consideration is potential battery removal, and the danger this poses to residents. Adrian Keats from Honeywell’s Home Safety business explains how heating engineers can help to combat this by fitting sealed optical smoke alarms, heat alarms and CO alarms with non-replaceable batteries, which not only minimise nuisance alerts but also stop any unscheduled deactivation of the unit.

Every year over six million people remove the batteries from their smoke alarm to stop nuisance alerts. But by doing so, home dwellers are putting their own lives, and those of others, at risk.

The Danger
Between 2014-2015, 31 per cent of all dwelling fires and 38 per cent of all dwelling fire fatalities occurred in homes which included a smoke alarm that either was not operational or did not raise the alarm. This highlights the severe danger posed by deactivating an alarm, or allowing it to run out of battery. However, when a homeowner is troubled by regular nuisance alarms, removing the batteries can seem an attractive solution. Many of us, at one time or another, will have experienced a nuisance alarm – waving a tea towel in front of a smoke alarm after burning the toast – but by taking the batteries out, hazards much more serious than an over-sensitive alarm are created.

The answer to this lies with alarm selection, and this is where installers have the opportunity to make a real impact. Many homeowners are likely to regard one alarm as much like another, but by explaining the importance of selecting the right model, installers can provide customers with an effective smoke alarm which only issues alerts when it should.

Optical vs Ionisation
As mentioned above, the most common reason for removing the batteries of a smoke alarm is nuisance alerts. However, by fitting the right alarm, this issue can be avoided. There are two types of smoke alarm, optical and ionisation, and they differ in several regards.

Ionisation units are the oldest type of smoke alarm, and usually the cheapest. These react to small particles of smoke produced by fast flaming fires, and are generally more sensitive to cooking smoke, such as that produced by burnt toast, than optical counterparts. If a homeowner is having trouble with nuisance alerts, their smoke alarm is almost certainly an ionisation model.

Whilst the lower price point of ionisation alarms may seem attractive to homeowners, it’s important that installers highlight that they can be triggered by cooking fumes and could end up disrupting the household on a regular basis, leading to battery removal, and putting residents at risk.

A better recommendation is an optical alarm. These are more expensive than ionisation equivalents, but they offer a higher level of protection without the irritation of nuisance alarms.

Optical units are able to detect slow flaming fires far quicker than ionisation models, which is absolutely key to the modern home. This is because these fires are commonly fueled by upholstery, foam filled materials or overheated PVC wiring, all staples of the average household.

QualityChoosing the Right Safety Alarm for Your Home 2
It’s vital to communicate the necessity of choosing a high-quality alarm. Whilst customers may be tempted to cut corners, it’s vital that installers explain why choosing a well-established brand which is properly approved and kitemarked to the relevant standard, is an absolute must.
For smoke alarms the standard is EN14604, for heat alarms BS5446 and for CO alarms EN50291.

Sealed alarms
Although an optical smoke alarm is highly unlikely to sound a nuisance alert, installers should still advise homeowners to choose sealed units where the batteries cannot be removed.
Sealed options, especially those which can be locked to the wall, protect the alarm from damage or tampering. This is especially relevant for family homes, where younger members might attempt to remove batteries, for example, to reuse elsewhere in the home, perhaps for a television remote.

What’s more, battery powered sealed smoke alarms are just as reliable as wired-in models, but without the need for disruption of a home’s wiring, and without the possible risks attached to any damage which could come to a wired system. These sealed units can also last just as long as their wired-in equivalents with guaranteed maintenance free lifetimes of up to 10 years.

In Conclusion…
A working smoke alarm increases the odds of surviving a fire by up to 400 per cent, and by taking the time to speak to a customer about their alarm system when installing a fireplace or stove, engineers can help homeowners wake up to the sleeping liability of alarms that have been installed but had the batteries removed.


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