Home Smoke Detectors
How Many Do You Need?
Install smoke detectors on every floor of your home, outside each separate sleeping area, and inside all sleeping rooms. If possible, it is recommended that detectors be wired together so when one sounds, they all sound.
On floors without bedrooms, install detectors near the stairway leading to the floor above, in or near dens, living rooms, family rooms, and other living areas.
Don't install detectors in kitchens, bathrooms, or garages as ordinary smoke or stream come from these areas and will set off the detector.
Where Should You Mount the Detectors?
Keep in mind that smoke rises in a fire so use these guidelines when installing your devices:
- Wall mounting: Position the top of the detector 4 to 12 inches (10 to 30 cm) from the ceiling (smoke detectors must be listed for this application)
- Ceiling mounting: Position detectors at least 4 inches (10 cm) away from the nearest wall; Position detectors within 3 feet of the door inside the bedroom
- Pitched ceiling mounting: Mount the detector at or near the ceiling's highest point
- In open stairways (no doors at top or bottom): Mount the detector anywhere along the path smoke would travel up the stairs
- In closed stairways (a door at either end): Mount the detector at the bottom of the stairway
- Don't mount a detector near a window, outside door, or forced-air register
Maintaining Your Detectors
- Test your smoke detector monthly
- Install new batteries when you set the clocks back in the fall and ahead in the spring
- Replace any detector more than 10 years old. (Refer to the manufacturer’s suggestions as they may require earlier replacement)
A Few Words About CO Detectors
Carbon Monoxide Detectors are widely available in stores and you should consider buying one for early detection of a carbon monoxide release in your home and use it as a back up -- BUT NOT AS A REPLACEMENT for proper use and maintenance of your fuel-burning appliances. However, it is important for you to know that the technology of CO detectors is still developing, that there are several types on the market, and that they are not generally considered to be as reliable as the smoke detectors found in homes today. Some CO detectors have been laboratory-tested, and their performance varied. Some performed well, others failed to alarm even at very high CO levels, and still others alarmed even at very low levels that don’t pose any immediate health risk. And unlike a smoke detector, where you can easily confirm the cause of the alarm, CO is invisible and odorless, so it’s harder to tell if an alarm is false or a real emergency.
So What’s a Consumer to Do?
First, don’t let buying a CO detector lull you into a false sense of security. Preventing CO from becoming a problem in your home is better than relying on an alarm. Follow the checklist of DOs and DON’Ts below. Second, when you shop for a CO detector, do some research on features and don’t select solely on the basis of cost. Non-governmental organizations such as Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports), the American Gas Association, and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) can help you make an informed decision. Look for UL certification on any detector you purchase. Carefully follow manufacturers’ instructions for its placement, use, and maintenance.
If the CO Detector Alarm Goes Off:
• Make sure it is your CO detector and not your smoke detector.
• Check to see if any member of the household is experiencing symptoms of poisoning.
• If they are, get them out of the house immediately and seek medical attention.
• If no one is feeling symptoms, ventilate the home with fresh air, turn off all potential sources of CO -- your oil or gas furnace, gas water heater, gas range and oven, gas dryer, gas or kerosene space heater and any vehicle or small engine.
• Have a qualified technician inspect your fuel-burning appliances and chimneys to make sure they are operating correctly and that there is nothing blocking the fumes.
Call the Fire Department if you need assistance in any of the above instructions.