In your struggle to fight the elements this winter, don’t overlook three critical alarms in your home – smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide.  Please do not assume that, because these are required as a matter of code, your home is “all set”.  Also, of course, don’t assume you’re in the clear once spring arrives.


Issues To Consider

While these alarm systems don’t prevent the underlying dangers, they can play a crucial role in protecting your family and limiting damage to your home.  In other words, EVERY HOME NEEDS TO HAVE THESE SYTEMS UP-AND-RUNNING.  Here are some issues you should consider:

Pay Attention to Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide alarms are mandated for your home and, although smoke/fire alarms have been required for a much longerAlarms2 period of time, there is at least a chance that your house falls into a potentially fatal ‘black hole’ for structures that pre-date 2005 when the CO regulations took effect.  The ‘black hole’ in this instance is simply unawareness of the regulation by the homeowner.

Because CO is a ‘silent killer’, there is essentially no way to detect it without an alarm.  Every floor in your home needs one, and the regulations specify an alarm within 10 feet of every bedroom.  Sound draconian?  You bet, and for good reason.  Unlike exposure to smoke or fire, CO poisoning is pretty much ALWAYS deadly.  It’s you & your family – not your house – that’s at risk.

Hardwired or Battery (wireless)

The primary advantage of hardwired alarms is that you’re guaranteed they’ll work as long as the power is on, and most of these systems include battery back-up in the event of a power interruption (which, of course, means you need to keep these Alarms3batteries fresh).  These systems merit strong consideration in new construction, and represent a top-of-the-line solution in existing structures.

Battery-powered alarms are generally quite inexpensive and easy to install, but require more hands-on attention (fresh batteries & testing periodically).  While most of these alarms begin to ‘chirp’ when the battery power runs low, the best practice is to install new batteries on a specific date annually, e.g., when the time changes or your birthday, and to test them every three to six months afterward.

Interconnected or Standalone

With standalone systems, the unit that detects the smoke, fire or carbon monoxide is the only one that sounds an alarm.  With interconnected systems, all units sound an alarm if any unit detects a problem.

The larger or more spread-out your home, the more likely it is that you should consider an interconnected system.  The key objective of these alarm systems is to alert you to a danger in your home quickly so you can protect your family and get help as soon as possible.  The choice between systems, therefore, involves potential delays in being alerted, e.g., can you hear the alarm in the 1st floor den from your 3rd floor bedroom?

What Happens If You’re Not Home?Alarms4

What good is a detection system if you are not aware of a problem?  In the past, your safest bet was an alarm company that monitored your system and notified the local fire department, plus called and/or texted you, when there was an alarm.  Now there are a variety of apps available for your phone or tablet that may work with your existing systems to perform these same notification functions – worth checking out.

Bottom Line

Murphy’s Law tells us that if anything can go wrong, it will.  The critical alarms discussed above don’t contradict Mr. Murphy, but they do provide a layer of protection against disaster when things start to become seriously dangerous.  These systems don’t require any heavy lifting or major expense – just your attention.  Your family & home will definitely be safer.


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