Smoke Detectors. Fire alarms. Carbon monoxide. Natural gas. You’ve probably heard these terms thrown around when discussing safety in the home, but what do these terms really mean? This blog goes over the harmful gases in your home and the devices that detect them.
Did you know that in most cases, the smoke from a fire poses more of a danger to us than the flames themselves? In a fire, smoke inhalation causes more deaths than the actual fire. Early detection of a fire allows people to escape a burning building before the smoke reaches them.
Many people use the terms “smoke alarm” and “fire alarm” interchangeably, but they actually refer to different things. When a fire goes off in a home or building, typically a loud beeping alerts the people inside, letting them know they need to evacuate. The source of the beeping can come from either the smoke detector or the fire alarm, depending on the building.
The smoke detector detects the smoke or fire. It does this in one of four ways: ionization, photoelectric, combination ionization and photoelectric, or heat.
Ionization uses a current of ionized air to detect smoke, when it disrupts the flow. This type works best with flaming fires.
Photoelectric: Photoelectric detectors aim a light source into a sensing chamber. When smoke enters the chamber, it reflects onto the light sensor and triggers the alarm. This works best with smokey, smoldering fires.
Ionization/photoelectric: Some detectors use a combination of ionization and photelectric technology. These alarms ensure the best protection because they can detect a wider range of fires.
Heat: Heat detectors sense heat, rather than smoke. This also helps in situations where the chemicals from a fire might produce flames with little smoke, failing to trigger a conventional smoke detector.
A new technology, the microprocessor, adds another option. For the best protection, use a microprocessor or a combination ionization and photoelectric alarm. After detecting the smoke, the smoke detector will either sound or send a signal to a fire alarm to sound.
A fire alarm makes a sound to alert those in the building of fire. These typically see use in large buildings such as office buildings, and do not detect smoke. In a typical residential house, the alarm built into the smoke detector works well enough to alert people of the danger.
Carbon monoxide can emit from many household appliances such as gas stoves and ovens, water heaters, space heaters, and even from your car. Carbon monoxide gives off no odor or color. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning resemble symptoms of other illnesses (nausea, dizziness, fatigue).
A carbon monoxide detector alerts you to the presence of CO2 in your home. Carbon monoxide detectors work in one of 3 ways: biometric, metal oxide semiconductor, or electrochemical. Put at least one carbon monoxide detector on each floor of the house (including your attic and basement) and near sleeping areas. Do not put a detector in your garage or kitchen because the carbon monoxide emitted from your car or stove can set off a false, or nuisance, alarm. Instead, place a detector near the garage door or outside of the kitchen.
In addition to smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide, natural gas can also pose a danger to your home. Although rare, if your home uses natural gas for anything, such as the stove or water heater, the pipes or appliances may leak. Symptoms of a natural gas leak include nausea, headache, and dizziness. Natural gas gives off a sulfuric smell, like rotten eggs. A natural gas leak mostly releases methane, but it may also release carbon monoxide. In the worst-case scenario, the gas can cause an explosion. A natural gas detector alerts you to the presence of natural gas in your home.
Radon can leak into your home. It especially poses a risk for homes with unfinished basements that have concrete floors, or energy efficient homes that can trap radon. In addition to causing trouble breathing, high levels of radon can cause lung cancer. If you live in a home with high risk factors for radon leaks, we suggest buying a radon detector.
These gases may seem scary, but luckily HomElectrical sells detectors and alarms to keep your home or building safe. You can find smoke, fire, carbon monoxide, and natural gas alarms, and even get 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 combination alarms. Take the time to check to see if your alarms work and replace any alarms that may be out of date.