Safety – CheckThisHouse https://www.checkthishouse.com Home maintenance, remodeling, repair, and improvement tips for your property Thu, 29 Oct 2020 11:19:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.16 Basic Ways to Prepare Your Home For Winter https://www.checkthishouse.com/8317/basic-ways-to-prepare-your-home-for-winter.html Mon, 22 Oct 2018 18:43:51 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=8317 The cooler months of the year are certainly full of their own distinct charms, but for homeowners they also bring a distinct set of challenges. The precipitation levels increase, cold winds blow, and temperatures drop. Keeping our homes in good working order and ensuring they remain bright and warm doesn’t happen accidentally. Instead, it’s a ... Read more]]>

The cooler months of the year are certainly full of their own distinct charms, but for homeowners they also bring a distinct set of challenges. The precipitation levels increase, cold winds blow, and temperatures drop.

Keeping our homes in good working order and ensuring they remain bright and warm doesn’t happen accidentally. Instead, it’s a matter of planning ahead and preparing for the specific difficulties potentially on the horizon. But, there are relatively straightforward ways homeowners can maintain their homes and create a space that weathers — pun intended — the seasons well, and in doing so promotes health and happiness.

 

Highlight the Sources of Light

Obviously, the primary way to achieve a home that remains warm and welcoming all year is by ensuring you have the appropriate lighting sources. Successfully utilizing your existing natural and artificial light sources is the key to combating less sunlight.

Windows

While it’s more challenging, even in months with less daylight you can take steps to maximize the natural light — and by extension warmth — coming into your home. This is largely a result of creating a support system that will highlight every bit of light.

Make sure they’re well sealed: It is important to make sure your windows are well sealed. This will ensure that the value of the light let in isn’t missed due to loss of heat in your home. In most cases, this will require simple recaulking if your windows aren’t fully sealed.

Reflect the light: When you can, fill your spaces with reflective surfaces so that the light is continuously transferred throughout the room. Mirrors, hardwood floors, and reflective furniture are best for this.

Accentuate window spaces: Home decor experts note, “The effect of sunlight through your window curtains can sometimes bathe a room in color when the curtains are drawn… The less dense the fabric is, the more light it will let in unless it is lined.”

Thus, choosing curtains shouldn’t just be about how well they’ll block, but also how well they’ll be able to let light through while still granting privacy.

Artificial Lighting

Not all artificial lighting is created the same. In this case, more is not necessarily better. Instead, it’s worthwhile to invest in the right kinds of bulbs and to use them in a strategic manner.

Pick the right bulb: Warmer, yellow light-creating bulbs will make spaces like the bedroom and living room seem cozier and calmer. Whiter lights in practical, task-oriented spaces like the bathroom and kitchen will work best.

Install dimmers: This is the magic step that can transform how bulbs appear and how they impact the living spaces where you place them. Dimmers give you the ultimate control over the bulbs you’re using.

Keep them clean: The most cost effective way to utilize what you’ve got is to keep the bulbs clean. Going through your home and cleaning what you have will pave the way for lighting that is efficient and effective.

 

Maintain the Spaces That Receive the Most Winter Wear

Part of the reality of inclement weather is that it inevitably takes a toll on the spaces we live in. Whether its because it’s impossible to leave the precipitation outside, or because our behavior inside our home changes, there are specific sections of the home that often experience more damage during the cold months.

Outside Interiors: Cold weather can make otherwise harmless outside spaces risky to move about in. If you have a garage or shed, water can enter and then freeze when the temperature drops, creating a hazard for all who enter.

Before the weather takes a serious turn for the worse, organize your shed or garage so that the floor is free of obstructions, and you can access whatever tools you may need with ease. If keeping the area heated is not an option, remain diligent in terms of removing excess water from the floor or vehicles so that it won’t become a safety risk.

Floors: When there’s excessive rain, sleet, or snow, it will often stick to clothing and shoes, and our floors pay the price. This really means we pay the price if we don’t take care of them. To protect floors from damage, use mats inside and outside, mop up any liquids, and vacuum up the salt tracked inside as quickly as possible.

Stoves: According to the Department of Energy, a seasonal shift happens in the kitchen: when the weather drops we use our stoves and ovens more than during other parts of the year. Be sure to keep burners and the oven clean.

 

Prepare for Storms

There are few things more disconcerting than being caught unprepared in the midst of severe weather. You can’t always control the amount of impact that a weather-related situation has on you and your family. However, preparing in advance for difficult situations means you are doing what you can.

Batten down the hatches: To prepare for weather at its worst, be sure to take some precautionary measures to protect your house. Tree branches should be trimmed, gutters cleaned out, and siding secure. This is the time to check and verify that weatherstripping on your home is up-to-date.

Protect pets: Include your pets in your preparation. In winter, it’s difficult not to expose some pets to the elements. Take preventative measures to ensure your pet stays safe and dry at home, too; options like pet insurance and pet wellness plans guarantee that you’ll prepared in the worst case scenario.

Emergency supplies: Consider investing in extra supplies, and even a generator in case of power outage. Keep emergency kits in both your home and vehicles. Additionally, there’s wisdom not only in knowing CPR as adults but also in having kids learn CPR.

Prepare for health hazards: While colds and flus may not be literal storms, in the United States they become so pervasive during fall and winter the CDC refers to them as “annual epidemics”. Thus, to avoid illness taking over your home the healthcare professionals at Healthline recommend taking extra care to keep your home clean and disinfected and to practice healthy habits as individuals.

Home preparations for fall and winter may seem daunting, but the reality is they’re totally doable. Not only that, they have the power to make the season, as a whole, more enjoyable as well. The cooler months of the year can mean we feel that we’re perpetually battling the weather so that we can protect our home from the elements. This can be discouraging not only in terms of our houses physically, but also in terms of how we feel in general.

Most of the time, though, the elements’ power to affect our homes and our emotional well-being is impactful only in direct correlation to the amount of time and planning we invest in home preparation.

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Garage Safety | How to Really Make Your Garage Safer https://www.checkthishouse.com/6280/garage-safety-how-to-really-make-your-garage-safer.html Tue, 15 Nov 2011 00:38:04 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=6280 Garage Safety While checking the news this morning I stumbled upon this short article listing a few garage safety issues by U.S. Home Safety Council. To explore a little more their garage safety suggestions I followed a link to their website and looked at much longer list. I have to tell you that I’m disappointed after reading it. While working as a home inspector I‘ve evaluated close to 5000 properties and majority of them with car garages. In most cases there were serious, even life threatening garage safety issues involved, and yet, 3 of them have not been included in that list, part [...]]]>

While checking the news this morning I stumbled upon this short article listing a few garage safety issues by U.S. Home Safety Council. To explore a little more their garage safety suggestions I followed a link to their website and looked at much longer list. I have to tell you that I’m disappointed after reading it.

While working as a home inspector I‘ve evaluated close to 5000 properties and majority of them with car garages. In most cases there were serious, even life threatening garage safety issues involved, and yet, 3 of them have not been included in that list, part of one has been briefly mentioned.

It is not about scaring homeowners, it is about educating them. So, if the title says “Make your garage safer” and 4 major garage safety issues are almost entirely missing from the short (news article) and longer (U.S. Home Safety Council website) list… I guess it is time to fill in the blanks and complete the list.

Keep in mind, the importance of the following four garage safety categories is not based on some theory. These are the most common garage safety issues found in thousands of home garages while performing home inspections for almost 13 years.

First category covers overhead doors garage safety sensors

Garage safety - improperly installed door sensorSome of the homeowners should probably get an award for unparalleled ingenuity in finding spots for installation of those safety sensors. Despite the fact that they must be installed within 6” from the garage floor surface, across from each other on the overhead doors door jamb or side rails, homeowners put them on the ceiling beams, above the doors, tied to the garage door opener, etc. Check this article for more details: garage safety sensors

Second garage safety category is garage door opener.

Garage safety, open-close force adjustment on the garage door openerAre you aware of the fact that improperly adjusted garage door opener paired with improperly installed overhead garage door safety sensors can easily kill your child and heavily injure or kill an adult as well… Did that ever cross your mind?

Well, that convenient device hanging under the ceiling in your garage must be properly adjusted to operate safely. Without proper settings and periodical testing it might appear to be working properly, open and close the overhead doors, but without correct settings it may pose serious threat to anybody passing underneath while the door is closing. Find out more here: garage door opener safety.

The third garage safety issue is the overhead door springs

Garage safety - overhead garage door torsion spring brokenIf you have double extension or torsion springs on your door(s) and one of them cracks, the other one will not have enough power to hold the overhead door in open position without the opener. The opener will struggle while opening and closing the garage doors, eventually quitting on you. Even the garage safety has been compromised, with a stronger motor you may not even notice it for a long time.
However, if you decide to disconnect the opener (to investigate the problem) while the door is in “up” position it might come down with crushing force destroying everything in its path.

Unless you’re extremely strong (capable of lifting 400 pounds or more in some cases) there will be no way of stopping it once you pull the disconnect handle, or lifting it by yourself if the door ends up on your foot. That’s why you need to remember this garage safety item, have door springs properly adjusted (preferably by a professional) and visually evaluated on regular basis. More details here: garage door springs safety.

Finally, garage safety issue #4 – firewall separation

Garage safety - firewall drywall seams (ceiling and wall) must be taped and sealed with joint compoundFor those with attached garages this separation wall between the house and an attached garage is extremely important garage safety item. Your life might simply depend on it!

It must be properly assembled and not abused in any way so it protects you inside the house in case of garage fire or Carbon Monoxide spillage (ie. running vehicle engine). Abusing the garage firewall doesn’t really take much effort but results can be devastating. Follow this link for more information: garage firewall.

I think that the above four categories complete garage safety list by U.S. Home Safety Council.

Please, check your garage safety now.

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Smoke Alarm Maintenance, Cleaning, and Battery Replacement https://www.checkthishouse.com/5558/smoke-alarm-maintenance-cleaning-and-battery-replacement.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/5558/smoke-alarm-maintenance-cleaning-and-battery-replacement.html#comments Sat, 11 Sep 2010 03:36:01 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=5558 Test the smoke alarm once a week by pressing the Test-Reset buttonSmoke alarm maintenance (and smoke detector) is a very simple task and should be performed in addition to weekly testing and yearly battery replacement (some manufacturers might suggest to replace the battery twice a year) - put it on your house maintenance priority list! ]]> Test the smoke alarm once a week by pressing the Test-Reset button

Smoke Alarm Maintenance


Smoke alarm maintenance - Smoke alarms have a limited lifetime and require replacement at least every 10 yearsAs a part of smoke alarm maintenance test the alarm once a week by pressing the Test-Reset button

Smoke alarm maintenance is another very simple task that should be performed in addition to weekly smoke alarm testing and yearly battery replacement (some manufacturers might suggest to replace the battery twice a year) – put it on your house maintenance priority list!

  • Before you start any smoke alarm maintenance, check its age – if the alarm is more than 10 years old, replace it immediately because its sensor response could be delayed, or it might not even respond at all.

Smoke alarm and smoke detector are two different devicesSmoke alarms and smoke detectors are two slightly different devices, but they both require maintenance – find out the smoke alarm and smoke detector difference.

Periodical smoke alarm maintenance involves cleaning dust, dirt, and any debris that might have accumulated in small openings and screens covering its sensors.

Never paint smoke alarms or smoke detectors, to avoid clogging of their sensors – this voids warranty and could result in a false alarm or no response in an emergency.

Smoke alarm maintenance - if you have a fire alarm system installed in your home - contact service provider before testingIf your house is equipped with a security / alarm system, smoke and / or carbon monoxide detectors might be a part of it. Performing smoke alarm maintenance or testing could result in an alarm buzzing at the security company, police, and / or fire department.

If you’re not sure how your system is set up, contact your security system provider and consult with them prior to attempting any maintenance.


 

Smoke alarm testing schedule sheet to print and place it in your home
SMOKE DETECTOR TESTING SCHEDULE

Click on the image (link opens in a new window) and print your smoke alarm testing schedule for the entire year.

Put this smoke alarm testing reminder on your refrigerator, message board… whatever, just remember to do it often! You can involve your kids into the smoke alarm testing and have them mark the schedule every week


 

DANGER – ELECTRICAL SHOCK HAZARD –
Disconnect Power Before Performing any Smoke Alarm Maintenance

If your smoke alarm is a hard wired type (remove the device from its socket to see if there are wires attached to it), make sure that you turn the power OFF or unplug the wires from the back of the device before cleaning it or changing the battery.

Smoke Alarm Maintenance – Cleaning

  • An alarm should be cleaned at least once a month, especially in homes equipped with forced air heating and air conditioning systems. Dust particles moving with circulating air can easily contaminate your smoke alarm and compromise its response. You can easily clean a smoke alarm using a soft brush or a vacuum cleaner with a wand attachment.
  • Vacuum all sides of the device and its cover, making sure that all openings are free of dust, debris, and cobwebs.
  • Make sure there’s no painter’s masking tape blocking its vents.
  • Some of the alarms have removable covers which you can clean using soapy water.

While performing smoke alarm maintenance do not force the cover off the alarm if it appears to be permanently attached, and do not clean the electronic components of the safety device – never submerge the smoke alarm in water! This will void your warranty and you may permanently damage the device.

During smoke alarm maintenance do not spray the device with cleaning agents or waxes, abrasive cleansers, or any cleaner containing ammonia. Such liquids may compromise performance or permanently damage the sensors inside your alarm.

 

Smoke Alarm Maintenance – Battery Replacement

Do Not Use Rechargeable Batteries in smoke alarms. Only alkaline type batteries should be used.

Smoke alarm maintenance - swing type alarm coverSmoke alarm maintenance - pull-out type battery compartmentSmoke alarm maintenance - swing type battery compartmentFor this next smoke alarm maintenance item turn off the power to the hard wired smoke alarm and remove the back-up battery from its compartment.

This might be as simple as sliding out a small drawer containing a battery (found on the front or side of the alarm), lifting a battery compartment cover, twisting the entire device, or removing it from the socket to expose a battery compartment, etc. – each manufacturer might have a slightly different design.

  • Battery connector might be a part of the compartment or just a set of terminals attached to a wire – be careful while removing it from the battery, don’t pull by the wires!

Continue smoke alarm maintenance, snap a new battery in place, and fully close the compartment. If it was removed – secure the alarm back in place, turn the power back on, and test device using its TEST button.

  • In some smoke alarms, you must fully close the battery compartment in order to close the circuit / engage battery terminals – if the compartment is left partially open, and the power goes OFF, there will be no protection.

Remember to replace the battery at least once a year, or immediately after hearing a low battery indicator chirp – extremely important part of the smoke alarm maintenance. Even if your smoke alarm is powered by your home electrical system and the battery is only a back-up, replace it before it becomes too weak to alert you in an emergency and / or when the power goes off.

If you neglect this smoke alarm maintenance item by just removing old battery from your smoke alarm without replacing it because that chirping noise becomes annoying, you are dramatically lowering your chances of surviving a disaster since the alarm will not sound / don’t compromi.

One more thing – you have to make sure that your smoke alarm placement is correct – without it, even a functional alarm might not sound at all.

This concludes your smoke alarm maintenance education – don’t forget to implement it on regular basis!

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Carbon Monoxide Alarm Maintenance | CO Alarm Testing https://www.checkthishouse.com/5540/carbon-monoxide-alarm-maintenance-co-alarm-testing.html Wed, 08 Sep 2010 22:02:13 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=5540 Carbon Monoxide Warning LabelCarbon monoxide alarm maintenance doesn't require any special skills from you. However, just like the smoke alarm maintenance it is something that should become a routine for you. Those few minutes dedicated to CO alarm maintenance and testing might be a difference between life and death.]]> Carbon Monoxide Warning Label

CO alarm maintenance - Test the CO alarm once a week by pressing the Test - Reset buttonCarbon Monoxide Warning LabelCO alarm maintenance – this another extremely important house maintenance task doesn’t require any special skills from you. However, just like the smoke alarm maintenance it is something that should become a routine for you. A few minutes dedicated to CO alarm maintenance and testing might be a difference between life and death.

Between 1999 and 2004, Carbon Monoxide poisoning contributed to 16,447 deaths in the United States… just a few minutes of their time could lower those numbers.

If your house has been equipped with a security / burglar alarm – contact your service provider and let them know about testing and CO alarm maintenance procedures. CO alarm / detector might be a part of the system. While testing the alarm, you may want to cover the siren opening with your fingers – properly functioning CO alarm will be very loud.

An important CO alarm maintenance item is testing it once a week by pressing the Test/Reset button – simple, isn’t it…

Depending on the design and manufacturer, the response of the CO alarm may be different, usually you should hear one short beep followed by a few seconds of silence, and a few additional beeps. This might be in addition to a blinking light, strobe like effect, or voice warning announcement.

CO alarm dead space - carbon monoxide installed in a wrong area1. Start CO alarm maintenance from examining its location, it’s as important as regular CO alarm maintenance and testing. If the alarm has been installed improperly, in a wrong spot, it might not respond to an elevated carbon monoxide level as soon as it supposed to, or not respond at all.

Check the following link – where to install CO detector, or at least watch the short video below that shows those locations.

CO alarms have a limited lifespan, the average is around five years, but some might have as little as 2 year warranty

2. Check the manufacturer date on you CO alarm (there’ should be a label attached to the back wall of the device) and contact its manufacturer (the easiest way would be to check their website) to determine the life span of this particular model.

CO alarm has a limited life-span

The average life-span is around five years, but some might have as little as 2 year warranty, while others 6-10 years. Replace with a new device immediately if you confirm that its warranty has already expired.

3. Another step in CO alarm maintenance procedures is vacuuming – do it once a month / remove accumulated dust from its cover. The soft brush attachment from your vacuum cleaner is the best for this purpose. If your carbon monoxide alarm is a plug-in or hard wired type  – unplug / disconnect the alarm from the electrical power supply before vacuuming.

CO alarm maintenance - avoid installing plugin type carbon monoxide alarms in areas easily accessible by children4. Always instruct children never to touch, unplug or otherwise interfere with the CO alarm. Educate children of the dangers of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

5. Never use any detergents or solvents for CO alarm maintenance purposes. Chemicals can temporarily contaminate the sensor or cause permanent damage to this life saving device.

6. Never use air fresheners, spray paint, hair spray, or any other aerosols in the CO alarm area.

7. Do not paint the CO alarm enclosure. Paint will seal the vents / screens protecting the sensor and interfere with its proper operation.

8. Believe it or not, but mounting the CO alarm directly above or near a diaper pail can cause faulty readings on the digital display (high amounts of methane gas).

9. Before you begin:

  • staining or stripping wood floors
  • furniture painting
  • wall-papering using aerosols or adhesives

10. Remove the CO alarm from the location you’ll be performing this work in order to prevent possible damage or contamination of its sensor. You may also cover the unit with a plastic bag for the duration of the project – remember to remove the plastic and / or reinstall the CO alarm as soon as the work has been completed and area well ventilated.

Do Not Use Rechargeable Batteries in Carbon Monoxide alarms. Only alkaline type batteries should be used. Replace the batteries as soon as the unit starts chirping an audible low battery alarm, and blinking warning lights – don’t just remove the old batteries – REPLACE THEM as soon as possible!

High levels of the substances listed below can affect the CO alarm sensor. Their presence could result in temporary readings on the digital display that are actually not carbon monoxide readings:

Methane, propane, iso-butane, ethylene, ethanol, alcohol, iso-propanol, benzene, toluene, ethyl acetate, hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxides, most aerosol sprays, alcohol based products, paints, thinners, solvents, adhesives, hair sprays, after shaves, perfumes, auto exhaust (cold start) and some cleaning agents.

Two of the major CO alarm manufacturers and links to pages where you can locate manuals (please report to me if any of the links are broken);

Kidde Carbon Monoxide Alarms

First Alert Detectors

Never ignore an alarming CO alarm! It is warning you of a potentially deadly hazard.

Go ahead, start your CO alarm maintenance and testing right now!

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Where do you Place a Carbon Monoxide Detector in your Home? https://www.checkthishouse.com/4822/where-to-install-carbon-monoxide-alarm-co-detector-locations.html Thu, 15 Apr 2010 22:22:42 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=4822 Avoid installing plugin type carbon monoxide alarms in areas easily accessible by childrenBefore I explain where to install Carbon Monoxide detector alarm and show you recommended CO detector alarm locations in your home, let me list a few areas where CO detectors are not required. However, if they are required and you have them installed - make sure to put them on a house maintenance priority list.]]> Avoid installing plugin type carbon monoxide alarms in areas easily accessible by children

Watch this short video to discover where to install Carbon Monoxide detector alarm in your home, and check additional information below the video – it’s for your own safety!

Watch Home Maintenance videos on Youtube.com – Carbon Monoxide Detector Locations

Although you may not be obligated to install Carbon Monoxide detector in your home (check the latest Carbon Monoxide Detectors State Statutes) do it for the safety of your family.

Before I explain where to install Carbon Monoxide detector alarm and show you recommended CO detector alarm locations in your home, let me list a few areas where CO detectors are not required. However, if they are required and you have them installed – make sure to put them on a house maintenance priority list.

The following exemptions are from City of Chicago, Illinois, Carbon Monoxide Detector Alarm Code, and you should check if they also apply in your jurisdiction:

  • CO detector alarm installation is not required in residential units that do not rely on combustion of fossil fuel for heat, ventilation or hot water
  • in residential units that are not sufficiently close to any ventilated source of carbon monoxide – exemption doesn’t apply if there’s an attached garage, in which case Carbon Monoxide detector alarm is required
  • in residential units heated by steam, hot water or electric heat, which are not connected by a duct-work or ventilation shafts to any room containing a fossil fuel-burning boiler or heater

Fossil Fuels – coal, natural gas, kerosene, oil, propane and wood.

Where to Install Carbon Monoxide Detector Alarm

Carbon Monoxide detector alarm locations in residential units

For Carbon Monoxide / smoke detector alarm combo installation, please follow smoke alarm installation locations. They are all good for a combo and CO alarm only devices.

  • At least one Carbon Monoxide detector alarm installation is required on every floor of the multi-story residence including basement, and within 15 feet from a sleeping area. This is to ensure that its siren can be heard inside that sleeping area, behind the closed doors.
  • Carbon Monoxide detector alarm installation is required in bedrooms located above an attached garage.

Some jurisdiction might require additional CO detectors installed in every bedroom – check it with your local building and / or fire department.

Carbon Monoxide detector alarms equipped with digital display can be placed at eye level

  • While choosing Carbon Monoxide detector alarm locations, make sure that CO detector is not closer than 5′  from the cooking or bathing areas and 15′-20′ from all fuel burning appliances. This will prevent or at least minimize possibility of false alarms.
  • Carbon Monoxide detector alarms equipped with digital display can be placed at eye level. This will allow easy monitoring of the display.

Where to Install Carbon Monoxide Detector Alarm – Not Recommended Locations:Carbon Monoxide detector alarm locations - dead spaceDo not place a Carbon Monoxide detector alarm close to the ceiling fan, air supply vents, and doors, windows opening to exteriorNever place a Carbon Monoxide detector alarm in so called “dead space” (same as for smoke alarms). Dead space is an area that projects 4″ onto the wall and ceiling from the point they’re joint together. Dead space also applies to peaks of vaulted ceiling and gable roofs.

CO detector alarm locations - Never place an alarm in so called dead spaceCarbon Monoxide detector alarm locations - avoid installing plugin type carbon monoxide alarms in areas easily accessible by children

  • Avoid installing plug-in type carbon monoxide detector alarms in areas easily accessible by children – educate them about hazards of CO poisoning.
  • Do not use extension cords to supply power to the carbon monoxide detector alarm
    Do not place a Carbon Monoxide detector alarm close to the ceiling fan, air supply vents, and doors / windows opening to exterior.
  • Do not obstruct Carbon Monoxide detector alarm with furniture or curtains
  • Do not install the alarm in areas where the temperature is below 40°F (4.4° Celsius) or hotter than 100°F (37.8° Celsius).

After you follow this “Carbon Monoxide detector alarm locations / where to install CO detector” guide, there’s one more, extremely important thing to remember.

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Where is the Best Place to Install a Smoke Alarm Detector & Proper Smoke Alarm Locations https://www.checkthishouse.com/4728/where-to-install-smoke-detector-smoke-alarm-placement.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/4728/where-to-install-smoke-detector-smoke-alarm-placement.html#comments Thu, 18 Mar 2010 03:19:03 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=4728 Proper Smoke Detector LocationsWhere to install a smoke alarm detector and its positioning are as important as having this life saving device installed at all. Remember that placing a smoke detector in a wrong location might delay its response to smoke or even prevent it from sounding an alarm at all.]]> Proper Smoke Detector Locations

Knowing where to install smoke alarm detector is as important as having this life saving devices installed at all.

  • Where to install smoke alarm detector in a brand new home
  • Where to install smoke alarm detector in an existing home
  • Locations to avoid smoke alarm detector installation

Watch this short video explaining the basics of where to install smoke alarms in your home and read the article below for more details.

Watch Home Maintenance videos on Youtube.com – Where to Install Smoke Alarms

If you install a smoke alarm detector in a wrong spot, its response to smoke could be delayed or smoke alarm may not sound an alarm at all.

Maintaining of properly installed and functional smoke alarms and detectors is an extremely important part of a home maintenance schedule – keep your family safe!

Where to Install Smoke Alarm Detector - Smoke alarm and smoke detector are two different devicesAlthough a smoke alarm and a smoke detector are two different devices, identical installation / location rules apply to both of them.

Smoke alarm detector uses an internal horn to warn occupants of a fire in progress and are either battery powered or hard wired with a battery backup – those are typical devices installed in most homes.

  • Smoke detectors are connected and powered by a central fire alarm panel, equipped with a horn (or other notification type device), and often connected to a monitoring station / security system provider, etc. If you have a security system installed, there might be independent smoke alarms in your home, and smoke detectors that are a physical part of this system.

Smoke alarm and smoke detector definitions provided by NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) state that;

  • Smoke alarm is “A single or multiple station alarm responsive to smoke.
  • Smoke detector is “A device suitable for connection to a circuit that has a sensor that responds to a physical stimulus such as heat or smoke.”

Although, while deciding where to install smoke alarm detector you should always follow device manufacturer’s guidelines, and the NFPA standards (National Fire Protection Association), your local jurisdiction might have a different idea. This idea is usually LESS smoke alarms – Chicago is one of the examples.

Since it is your life we are talking about, following just a minimum requirement is not enough – for literally a few dollars more you can get maximum protection.


Smoke alarm testing schedule sheet to print and place it in your homeSMOKE ALARM TESTING SCHEDULE

Click on the image (link opens in a new window) and print your smoke alarm testing schedule for the entire year.

Put this smoke alarm testing reminder on your refrigerator, message board… whatever, just remember to do it often! You can involve your kids into the smoke alarm testing and have them mark the schedule every week

Where to install smoke alarm detector?

IRC (International Residential Code), IBC (International Building Code) and NFPA require to install smoke alarm detectors in the following locations:

Where to install smoke alarm detector in a new construction:

The following rules apply in my home-city, Vernon Hills, as well.  

  • Smoke alarm detector must be hard wired (power supply from the electrical panel) and require battery backup. Your jurisdiction might require a dedicated circuit for this purpose – if such isn’t required, make sure that you don’t install smoke alarm detector on a circuit / tapped to the wall switch controlled ceiling light fixture or outlet receptacle. Attempting to install smoke alarm detector on a GFCI protected electrical circuit also isn’t a good idea. If the circuit protecting GFCI receptacle or breaker trips, your life saving device may stop (in case the battery backup fails as well) providing protection to you and your family.

When you install smoke alarm detector, do not use rechargeable type batteries, good quality alkaline type battery is the right choice. Smoke alarms shall emit a signal when the batteries are low – replace the battery with a new one as soon as you hear that repeating sound.

  • Smoke alarm detectors are required in each sleeping area and adjoining hallway area. Like I’ve mentioned before, some jurisdictions require less – Chicago is one of the examples where smoke alarms are not required inside the bedroom / sleeping area.Instead, you have to install smoke alarm within 15’ from the bedroom entrance. In larger homes / apartments, where bedrooms are located more than 30’ apart, two or more smoke detectors might have to be installed.
    Vernon Hills requires bedroom smoke alarms to be AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) protected / check the requirements in your jurisdiction
  • Install smoke alarm (at least one is required) on each story of the house and in the basement. Crawlspaces and uninhabitable attics do not require a smoke alarm detector installation. However, in case your attic or crawlspace contains a furnace, water heater, or any appliance that could become a source of fire (gas, oil, electric), have a smoke detector installed as well (required by some jurisdictions and highly recommended if not required). If possible, keep at least 20 feet (6 meters) distance to open combustion sources.
  • When you install smoke alarm detectors in a new construction, they must be interconnected – one triggered smoke alarm detector activates all of them. Not all types of smoke alarm detectors have the “interconnection” feature, which is extremely important – smoke developing in one section of the house would activate the closest device and automatically all of them at the same time.

Where to install smoke alarm detector in an existing building:

While remodeling, updating of electrical wiring to interconnect existing smoke alarms is not required unless the wall finishes are being removed exposing wall framing. However, even without any rewiring you can still achieve maximum protection by using an interconnected wireless smoke alarm detector system.

  • Whenever you install smoke alarm detector it must be positioned in such way that its siren shall be clearly audible in all bedrooms over the background noise levels with all intervening doors closed. That’s why regular testing of the smoke alarm detector siren is so important – just like any mechanical / electronic device – sometimes they fail.
  • Enclosed interior staircases also require a smoke alarm detector and one shall be installed on the ceiling of the top floor. Staircases act like chimneys and smoke rising from the lower floor would activate the device giving you an early warning.

Where to install smoke alarm detectors – rules apply to all of the locations described above.

Where to install smoke alarm detector, ceiling and wall placementSmoke alarm detector placement in air supply vent areaWhere to install smoke alarm detector - installation too close to the wallWhere to install smoke alarm detector - installation too close to the ceilingThis is extremely important and at the same time quite simple, unfortunately very often done completely wrong. It’s probably because we don’t like to read the manuals and often assume that we know what we’re doing.

Before you install smoke alarm detector on the ceiling or wall consider checking the insulation behind that surface. Older homes might be missing a ceiling (if open to the attic) or exterior wall insulation. This would allow extreme heat or cold transfer from exterior into the house, creating a thermal barrier, and prevent smoke from reaching / activating the alarm.

If this is the case (you can simply touch the wall or ceiling during very hot or cold days), install smoke alarm detector on an interior wall of the house.

  • To properly install smoke alarm detector on the ceiling (preferable location / might be required in some jurisdictions), place it as close to the center as possible, never closer than 4” (10cm) to the sidewall or corner (check the pictures above).
  • If for any reason, ceiling installation is not practical and wall installations are permitted, you can install smoke alarm detectors on the wall with its top edge at a minimum of 4” (10cm) and a maximum of 12” (30.5cm) below the ceiling.
  • Install smoke alarm detectors in rooms with cathedral, sloped, peaked, gable ceilings at / or within 3’ from the highest point (measured horizontally).
  • Install smoke alarm detectors in each section of the room / area that has been divided by a partial wall. The wall might be coming down from the ceiling (at least 24”) or up from the floor.
  • Install smoke alarm detectors on a tray-shaped ceiling (also called coffered ceiling) on the highest portion of the ceiling or on the sloped portion of the ceiling within 12″ (30.5cm) vertically down from the highest point.

Where to install smoke alarm detectors – smoke alarm  locations to avoid in order to minimize possibility of false alarms :

1. Do not install smoke alarm detectors in areas where combustion particles are present (Combustion Particles – the by-products of burning process)

  • Garages
  • Poorly ventilated kitchens
  • Close to furnaces and water heaters – recommendation is to keep it at least 20′ away from any open combustion source. I wouldn’t 100% agree with this one, because presence of those particles would be a sign of combustion process problems…
    Vernon Hills, IL. requires smoke alarm / detector to be installed in a room containing your furnace and in many cases keeping the 20′ distance may not be possible.

If you decided to install smoke alarm detectors in any of those areas, photoelectric type might be less annoying.

2. Damp or very humid areas such as bathrooms. The humidity levels after taking a hot shower could result in a false alarm.

3. You should not install smoke alarm detectors within 3’ from the forced air heating and / or cooling system air supply vents, in a direct airflow area, close to the whole house fan locations. High air flow could blow smoke or shift it away from the detector preventing it from responding properly or at all.

4. Near fluorescent lights, where electronic “noise” may cause nuisance alarms.

5. Don not install smoke alarm detectors in dusty areas where particles of dust could cause smoke alarm detector failure or false alarm

6. In areas where air temperature may fall below 40°F (4°C) or rise above 100°F (38°C)

7. Do not install smoke alarm detectors in areas near the doors and windows

If you got that far, I hope you have more than a general idea on “where to install smoke alarm detectors” in your home, and what is the optimal smoke alarm detector location, last thing to remember is smoke alarm maintenance.

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Balcony Railing Safety Code & Proper Balcony Guardrails for Children Safety https://www.checkthishouse.com/4225/balcony-railing-safety-code-balcony-guardrails-safe-for-children.html Fri, 14 Aug 2009 03:20:47 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=4225 My children are already older and I don’t have to worry about them fitting in between the balcony railings. However, every time I inspect a property with guardrails that a small child can simply walk through or climb up, I get goose bumps.

Balcony railing safety - climbable balcony guardrails are not permitted - watch your children

Remember to inspect balcony railing periodically – it’s an important house maintenance schedule item!

Many associations / management companies responsible for older multi-unit condominium buildings and townhouses with balconies on upper floors have never upgraded them to comply with the current balcony railing safety code / standards.

Money is probably one of the issues; ignorance must be the other … until the accident happens. You can try to fight the association, but depending on their budget and local building code (some jurisdictions grandfather old railings despite their safety compliance problems), and this might not get you anywhere.

Upgrading the balcony railing on your own is usually out of the question – simply because one of the rules in such communities is that you cannot change the exterior appearance of the structure.

So here are some options to improve your balcony railing safety:

  • Start with talking to the building association representative
  • Check your local building department to see what they have to say
  • If none of the above will help, go for the clear Plexiglas sheets (install it on your side of the railing) and hope that it will go unnoticed (the thicker you get, the better).

Depending on your balcony railing type and design, you can secure it by drilling small holes in a Plexiglas sheet that correspond to the railing components and using plastic wire ties.

Elevated walkways, balcony and stairs with open sides railing / guardrail requirements (the most important ones / might slightly vary between jurisdiction):

  • The top of the guardrail for walkways and balconies shall not be less than 42 inches in height (measured from the floor surface).

Exception: For single-family and two-family dwellings, and within individual dwelling units in other Class A-2 occupancies which are primarily permanent in nature, guards whose top rail also serves as a handrail shall have a height of not less than 34 inches and not more than 38 inches

  • Open guardrails shall have balusters or ornamental patterns such that a 4-inch-diameter sphere cannot pass through any opening up to a height of 34 inches.From a height of 34 inches to 42 inches above the floor, spaces (bars or patterns) cannot allow an 8-inch sphere to pass
  • No horizontal or ornamental design/pattern that would provide a ladder effect / climbable
  • The top of the guardrail for stairs shall not be less than 42″ high with handrails placed not less than 34″ nor more than 38″ above landings and the nosing of treads.

On top of the above items:

  • Make sure that the railings/guardrails are secured and resist pressure. Strength along the top must resist 200 lb point load in any direction.
  • Don’t place any furniture, boxes or other items next to the balcony railing – children love to climb, especially before they start walking.
  • Never let children play unattended on any elevated areas like staircases, balconies, and high porches – this is the best action you can take.

Get a measuring tape and if there is a problem – do something about it!

Deal with the balcony railing safety issues seriously, because your child’s life might depend on it.

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Kitchen Stove Safety Anti Tip Bracket https://www.checkthishouse.com/3135/kitchen-stove-safety-anti-tip-bracket.html Thu, 05 Mar 2009 03:48:02 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=3135 Kitchen stove - two piece anti-tip bracketSimple devices like the kitchen stove anti tip bracket can save your child and yourself from serious injuries and sometimes even death. Kitchen stove anti tip bracket is a single or two piece device, supplied by the stove manufacturer, that must be installed at the base / behind the stove. It prevents the stove from tipping over or tilting while somebody applies pressure to the open oven door. Since 1991, after “voluntary safety standards” have been developed by UL (Underwriter Laboratories) and ANSI (American National Standards Institute), gas and electric stove installers are required to install provided by the manufacturer stove anti [...]]]> Kitchen stove - two piece anti-tip bracket

Simple devices like the kitchen stove anti tip bracket can save your child and yourself from serious injuries and sometimes even death.

Kitchen stove anti tip bracket - single piece safety deviceKitchen stove anti tip bracket - two piece safety deviceKitchen stove anti tip bracket is a single or two piece device, supplied by the stove manufacturer, that must be installed at the base / behind the stove. It prevents the stove from tipping over or tilting while somebody applies pressure to the open oven door.

Since 1991, after “voluntary safety standards” have been developed by UL (Underwriter Laboratories) and ANSI (American National Standards Institute), gas and electric stove installers are required to install provided by the manufacturer stove anti tip bracket. Also, kitchen stove must remain stable when 250 pounds of pressure is applied to the open oven door for five minutes.

Based on CPSC (US Consumer Product Safety Commission) reports, there were 143 incidents over the 27 year period (1.1.1980 – 12.31.2006) that involved kitchen range tip-over caused by a missing anti tip bracket. Thirty three fatalities (part of those 143 incidents) involved 19 children, and all 33 deaths were caused by the victim being trapped under the range that fell on them.

Those are of course only reported to CPSC accidents caused by a tipping stove / missing anti tip bracket, and there might be many more. Or maybe this is a complete number which gives us ONLY 5.3 stove tipping related incidents per year. For as long as it doesn’t involve our family or friends it usually means nothing to us. I’m pretty sure that most kitchen stove owners don’t even realize that anti tip bracket installation is required by the manufacturer for stability of the stove.

They probably didn’t even hear about the stove anti tip bracket … have you?

I rarely see this stove anti tip bracket installed at the new construction or gut-rehabbed properties, which means that the installers are simply too lazy to do it. They must be educated / instructed by the manufacturer because it’s a part of the stove installation procedure, and a very simple one.

  • Check behind your kitchen stove for an anti tip bracket
  • Call your installer if he forgot to put one for you
  • Contact stove manufacturer if you need a kitchen stove safety anti tip bracket!
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Telescopic Ladders Review – Watch Your Fingers! https://www.checkthishouse.com/3025/telescopic-ladders-review.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/3025/telescopic-ladders-review.html#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2009 19:04:51 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=3025 Telescopic Ladders Review – One of the first questions asked during my inspections is: “where did you get this telescopic ladder?”. So, to make my life easier and yours happier, I’ll give you my telescopic ladders review, a few words about that famous piece of equipment … actually two manufacturers and 3 telescopic ladders. Telescopic ... Read more]]>

Telescopic Ladders Review – One of the first questions asked during my inspections is: “where did you get this telescopic ladder?”.

So, to make my life easier and yours happier, I’ll give you my telescopic ladders review, a few words about that famous piece of equipment … actually two manufacturers and 3 telescopic ladders.

Telescopic ladders are made out of aluminum (although some foreign companies started manufacturing fiberglass versions as well)

This makes them significantly lighter. Because they are telescopic / collapsible, they take up very little space in your storage, or anywhere else if you don’t have a storage area.

I’ve been personally using two different brands over the last 5 years and with mixed emotions.

Telescopic ladder review - Xtend & Climb® fully open, 12.5 feet model

TELESTEPS® 1600

My first telescopic ladder was a TELESTEPS® 1600 12-1/2-Foot 250-Pound Duty Rating Aluminum Telescoping Extension LadderTelescopic Ladders. Its length was 30 inches fully closed to 12.5 feet fully extended. It weighed 23 lbs and cost around $200.00 (5 years ago), but company currently offers several models.

This first telescopic ladder lasted a year and literally felt apart, like it was designed for self destruction. It was heavily used, pretty much every single day, opened and closed several times, so I figured that it already paid for itself well.

I’ve purchased another one of the telescopic ladders (same brand, because it was convenient to get it at my local Menards® store), and the same thing happened … actually I barely survived the last moments of my ladders life. When I came down from a roof and pulled two rings at the bottom of this ladder to collapse all sections, I heard a strange noise coming from the ladder’s interior.

After removing two plastic end caps / cushions at the base of both telescopic ladder legs, the components of the entire telescopic ladder assembly came out in small, crushed pieces … A few seconds earlier, it could have been me falling down from about 12 feet … guess it was my lucky day.

Xtend & Climb® Type II model

Telescopic ladders review - Xtend & Climb® fully closedI did some research online and decided to purchase a different brand telescopic ladder – “Xtend & Climb®” (Type II model, Weight: 25 lbs., Closed height: 2.5 ft., Open height: 12.5 ft., Width: 19 in.Telescopic Ladders) – there were only two manufacturers on the market at that moment … after over 2 years of heavy traffic on that last telescopic ladder, there are still no problems.

The main difference between both types of telescopic ladders is the type of a closing mechanism. First brand “TELESTEPS®” has two metal rings under the first, bottom step, which when pulled, causes all extended sections to collapse (you can also close each section individually).

Review of Telescopic Ladders - Locking pins on Xtend & Climb® ladderIn “Xtend & Climb®” brand telescopic ladder, every single section can be only closed individually / you can not collapse the entire ladder at once. This particular telescopic ladder brand also futures so called “No pinch closure system™” which prevents crushing your fingers if you forget to pull them out from between the steps when closing the ladder.

So if you’re in a hurry, it is a slower process than in “TELESTEPS®”, but definitely safer and less painful. Because of my previous problems with “TELESTEPS®telescopic ladder, I did some further research just to find out a little more about the manufacturer, and it’s a Swedish company … so my expectations escalated dramatically and I decided to give them a third chance.

TELESTEPS® telescopic COMBI LADDER

Telescoping ladder review - Telesteps Telescopic Combiladder fully closedTelescoping ladders review - Telesteps Telescopic Combiladder fully openA review of telescopic ladder - Combiladder as an extension ladderI wanted a compact, lightweight (Little GiantTelescopic Ladders ladders are also great but much heavier) telescopic Step ladder, because it’s another handy device and it looks good in my trunk :-).

There weren’t that many choices on the market, the only manufacturer offering such design was “TELESTEPS®”, and the Telescopic COMBI LADDER became my only option (mine is a 10S model, TELESTEPS® telescopic COMBI LADDER combination step, extension and adjustable ladder, 8.5 feet step ladder height 12 feet extension ladder climbing height, closed dimensions – 31.1″ x 8.7″ x 24″, weight 34lbsTelescopic Ladders).

I’ve been using this telescopic step ladder extensively for a few years already, and I love it! If your storage space is not limited, you can get regular step ladder for just a fraction of a cost of this one (slightly below $300.00 to over $400.00 depending on model and dealer), but if you like gadgets, or simply need one and have no storage space for a full size – this is your answer.

Important thing about TELESTEPS® telescopic COMBI LADDER

Telescopic ladder safety review - Use caution when closing the ladderif you get this telescopic step ladder (Combi Ladder), close the sections individually or be very careful when using release-rings under the bottom steps to collapse entire ladder at once. It is a light weight aluminum, but all sections coming down at once will do a lot of damage if part of your hand is trapped between the steps. You just have to follow simple safety guidelines from the manufacturer and it should serve you for years.

My Final thoughts about telescopic ladders

Telescoping ladder comprehensive review - Looks good in my trunk

Make sure that all safety buttons under the steps are fully open before you step on those telescopic ladders, if using only a partially extended ladder – extend bottom / thicker sections first.

  •  Aluminum conducts electricity, so be extremely careful or avoid performing any electrical work when standing on an aluminum telescopic ladder. Like I’ve mentioned at the beginning of this review, there are some companies manufacturing fiberglass versions of telescopic ladders. The fiberglass version could potentially attract some buyers but at this moment it might not be that easy to purchase them in the US.
  • Operating (expanding and closing) aluminum telescopic ladder at low temperatures becomes difficult and it happens fast because aluminum conducts temperature very well and changes slightly its dimensions.

Despite my initial mixed or even a little scary experience with my first telescopic ladders, I can honestly recommend purchasing one, but only if you really think that it will make your life easier. It absolutely serves its purpose and it’s worth every penny you’ll pay for it.

Just make sure you get one with adequate weight rating and learn how to safely use it by reading manufacturers guidelines and recommendations.

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Garbage Disposal Wiring & Kitchen Disposal Safety https://www.checkthishouse.com/2890/garbage-disposal-electrical-wiring.html Sun, 15 Feb 2009 06:34:40 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=2890 Loose garbage disposal electrical connectionHave you ever looked at your garbage disposal wiring? If you did, you’re probably not one of the homeowners that own garbage disposal units visible on the pictures. This is just another waiting for an accident type of a situation and garbage disposal wiring should be on a home maintenance routine check-up list. Garbage disposal vibration, especially under some heavy loads … by the way – this is not a garbage can, and don’t use it as such, sometimes causes garbage disposal wiring and plumbing connections to separate. Even properly wired garbage disposal electrical cable might become loose and fall off the connector creating [...]]]> Loose garbage disposal electrical connection

Have you ever looked at your garbage disposal wiring?

If you did, you’re probably not one of the homeowners that own garbage disposal units visible on the pictures.

Garbage disposal wiring performed with electrical tape instead of conduit connectorThis is just another waiting for an accident type of a situation and garbage disposal wiring should be on a home maintenance routine check-up list.

Garbage disposal vibration, especially under some heavy loads … by the way – this is not a garbage can, and don’t use it as such, sometimes causes garbage disposal wiring and plumbing connections to separate.Loose garbage disposal wiring / connectionGarbage disposal wiring cord installed without a connector

The properly wired garbage disposal electrical cable might become loose and fall off the connector creating a hazardous condition. Because there are different requirements for garbage disposal wiring (types of conduit, disconnect / switch) you have to check that with your local code enforcement division.

There are however some items that apply to every type of garbage disposal wiring / installation:

  • In most cases the manufacturer will recommend or require garbage disposal to be installed on a dedicated 15-ampere or 20-ampere electrical circuit (not shared with any other appliances). For the smaller units with less HP you might be able to share dishwasher power supply but you’d have to compare ratings on both – check this Kitchen GFCI post.
  • Garbage disposal wiring connections must be concealed within the wire compartment box at the base of the unit (behind the metal plate)
  • Depending on your local jurisdiction requirements, the garbage disposal might need to be hard wired (no plug), or connected with an approved cord and plug. Either type of garbage disposal wiring requires a dedicated type of connector at the appliance wall penetration. The conduit or cord must be secured in place and connection checked periodically.
  • Garbage disposal wiring must include grounding! For a hard-wired appliance the wire must be attached between the disposal grounding terminal (usually green screw) or green wire, and an electrical system grounded terminal.
  • Cord connected units must use an approved type cord with a ground conductor and a 3 prong plug inserted into a grounded receptacle – no lamp cords please.
  • Some brands have an ON/OFF switch built into the garbage disposal, activated by turning specially designed drain plug. However, even with this future, your local jurisdiction might require the installation of an additional ON/OFF switch while performing garbage disposal wiring.
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Closet Fires & Closet Light Fixture Fire Hazards https://www.checkthishouse.com/2827/closet-light-fixture-fire-hazards-and-simple-solution.html Fri, 13 Feb 2009 06:14:38 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=2827 closet fires and hazardsCloset fire can be easily caused by a closet light fixture Incandescent closet light fixtures can easily cause closet fire and this fire hazard is very often ignored by the home owner. Is your closet light fixture safe? Keep reading so you can verify that it’s not going to cause any closet fire. We rarely pay attention to our closet light fixtures for as long as they work. Stacking cardboard boxes and plastic bags filled with old clothing or Christmas gifts wrapping paper against that exposed, glowing light bulb can easily and pretty fast result in a closet fire. Would you please go and [...]]]> closet fires and hazards

Incandescent closet light fixtures can easily cause closet fire and this fire hazard is very often ignored by the home owner.

Closet fire can be easily caused by a closet light fixture - pull chain lights with a fully or even partially exposed incandescent light bulb are not permittedCloset fire - closet light fixtures with exposed incandescent light bulb are not permitted, plastic bags too close posing fire hazard

We rarely pay attention to our closet light fixtures for as long as they work. Stacking cardboard boxes and plastic bags filled with old clothing or Christmas gifts wrapping paper against that exposed, glowing light bulb can easily and pretty fast result in a closet fire.

Would you please go and check you closet light fixtures right now…

Closet light fixtures can result in closet fire - plush teddy bear touching exposed incandescent light bulb will be set on fire within a few minutes, or soonerCloset light fixtures can produce closet fire - exposed incandescent light bulb is not permitted, too close to storage, poses fire hazardDon’t start a closet fire and burn your house down either; it doesn’t take that much effort. Improperly installed closet lights and wrong types of closet light fixtures might easily create a closet fire. All it takes is a turned ON exposed incandescent type light bulb, and a piece of your clothing, or other combustible type material touching it or just being close to it.

Every time you turn that closet light fixture ON, ignition temperature of a combustible material next to the light bulb will gradually drop. You might not even notice when the closet fire starts until is too late… at least make sure that you have functional smoke alarms.

There’s a simple and not that expensive way to take closet fire out of the equation – replace closet light fixture with a proper type or correct installation of the existing one if possible. Since you should always update to the latest building / electrical code, this is what 2008 NEC (National Electrical Code) says about the closet lights.

Permitted closet light fixtures that minimize possibility of a closet fire :

Closet fire - fully enclosed incandescent closet light fixture is permitted but it must be at least 12 inches from the storage

  • Surface mounted or recessed type incandescent light fixtures with a completely enclosed light bulb – this eliminates still popular pull chain (or no chain) plastic / porcelain base light fixtures with an incandescent (regular type) light bulb from being used in closets. Simply because there is no enclosure that would completely cover the light bulb and the lampshade is not a solution!

  • Surface mounted or recessed fluorescent type light fixtures
  • Surface mounted fluorescent or LED type light fixtures that are listed / identified as permitted in a storage area

Not permitted closet light fixtures, these can easily result in a clothes closet fire:

Closet fire and closet light fixtures safety - Even a recessed incandescent light bulb must be fully enclosed

Open or partially open incandescent type light fixtures (already explained above), and pendants

Locations / minimum clearances between the closet light fixtures and the closest storage space that improve your chances for preventing closet fire:

Closet fire prevention - fully enclosed surface incandescent light fixture is OK but must be 12 inches from the storage or replaced with fluorescent for 6 inches clearanceCloset light installed on the wall above the closet door or on the ceiling

  1. Completely enclosed surface-mounted incandescent or LED closet light -12”
  2. Surface mounted fluorescent – 6”

Closet light recessed in the wall or ceiling

  1. Completely enclosed incandescent or LED light source – 6”
  2. Recessed fluorescent – 6”

Surface mounted fluorescent or LED closet lights are permitted only if identified for such installation.

There’s actually one more, very safe and not listed in the electrical code book – battery type 🙂

Now it is time for you to check if your closet light fixture presents a hazard and can be responsible for a closet fire.

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Stair Handrails and Guardrails Safety Issues https://www.checkthishouse.com/1961/stair-handrails-and-guardrails-safety-issues.html Fri, 21 Nov 2008 07:17:55 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=1961 Stair Handrails and Guardrails Safety With stair handrails and guardrails safety, it is the same concept as with many other requirements guiding our daily commute and we often believe these rules are created for others only, until we suddenly realize that there’s nothing to hold on to when gravity’s force pulls our body down the stairs with an increasing speed. That’s why somebody came up with a list of rules for stair handrails and guardrails safety (click on each pictures for details): Stair handrails and guardrails safety #1. The stair handrails must be graspable, and the best shape / size to put your grip on must have a [...]]]>

Stair handrails and guardrails safety - missing handrail / free falling down to the basement guaranteedStair handrails and guardrails safety - extremely unsafe guardrails and NOT child proof at allWith stair handrails and guardrails safety, it is the same concept as with many other requirements guiding our daily commute. We often believe these rules are created for others only, until we suddenly realize that there’s nothing to hold on to when gravity’s force pulls our body down the stairs with an increasing speed.

That’s why somebody came up with a list of rules for stair handrails and guardrails safety (click on each pictures for details):

Stair handrails and guardrails safety #1.

Stair handrails and guardrails safety - perfect size and one of perfect shapes for the stairs handrailThe stair handrails must be graspable, and the best shape / size to put your grip on must have a 1¼” – 2” circular shape cross section (preferably circle, but square, or a section of the square with rounded edges and a groove for your fingers, is also acceptable). Flat boards, 2”x4”, or anything else that you can’t close the palm of your hand on, is not acceptable by the building code.

Stair handrails and guardrails safety #2.

The stair handrails attached to the wall should not project further than 3½” into the stairway (some jurisdictions accept 4½” max distance). The distance between the handrail and the wall should not be less than 1½”. This is to keep your fingers from getting trapped between the wall and the stair handrail, and give enough clearance for your hand.

Stair handrails and guardrails safety #3.

Stair handrails and guardrails safety - 4 Risers require a handrailStair handrails and guardrails safety - stairs handrail height between 34 - 38 inches

Any stairs with 4 risers or more require handrails. Risers are the boards between the steps (treads); of course you may just have an empty space between each tread in which case handrails would be required as well.

Stair handrails and guardrails safety #4.

The required stair handrails height is between the 34” and 38”

Stair handrails and guardrails safety #5.

Stair handrails and guardrails safety - handrail brackets must be secured to the wall framingStair handrails and guardrails safety - handrail brackets must be secured to the wall framing 2

When you attach the stair handrail / handrail brackets to the wall, make sure that they are secured with proper screws to the wall framing, not to the drywall sheet.

This is because they have to support a 200 lb load applied at any point of the stair handrail in any direction. Brackets may often be supplied with small, plastic anchors which provide no support whatsoever when used in drywall, and even a small child can pull it off the wall.

Stair handrails and guardrails safety #6.

Stair handrails and guardrails safety - handrail both ends should always return to the wallStair handrails and guardrails safety - handrail should extend above the top and bottom nosing of stairs

The ends of the stair handrails attached to the wall should return to that wall. They’re not supposed to be open like on the picture, because when you’re carrying a shoulder bag, or even wearing a jacket, it might get caught up on that section of the handrail and you’ll either ruin your wardrobe or loose balance and fall down the stairs.

If you have a navel post at the end of the handrail, the handrail should return to this post or volute. Also, the stair handrails should extend to area above the top and bottom nosing of stairs.

Stair handrails and guardrails safety #7.

Stair handrails and guardrails safety - guardrail pickets must be less than 4 inches apartStair handrails and guardrails safety - no climbable, horizontal rails are permitted

This one is extremely important if you or your visitors have small children. If you have a 4” diameter ball handy, it should not pass through any of the openings along the stair handrails and guardrails (guardrail pickets for example).

The only exception is that triangular space between the riser, tread, and base of the guardrail – a 6” max diameter is permissible in this area. If you don’t have risers and there is an open space underneath treads, the 4” max applies there as well. If your ball fit through any of the openings, a small child’s head may as well.

Stair handrails and guardrails safety #8.

Stair handrails and guardrails safety - Perfect guardrail but no graspable handrail for the stairs

The stair guardrails are required on any walking surface elevated 30” or higher above the floor / grade.

Stair handrails and guardrails safety #9.

Stair guardrails in single family properties must be a minimum of 36” high from the walking surface (balconies, decks, galleries) and no climbable / horizontal bars – kids love climbing.

So how is stair handrails and guardrails safety in your house ?

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Clothes Dryer Vent | Why is Dryer Vent Cleaning so Important https://www.checkthishouse.com/1710/clothes-dryer-vents-cause-fires.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/1710/clothes-dryer-vents-cause-fires.html#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2008 03:23:39 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=1710 The clothes dryer plastic vent is forbiden, any type of dryer vent should be as short as possibleClothes Dryer Vent Is your clothes dryer vent discharging air from the appliance? Is your dryer vent clean? Does it take long to dry your clothes? Have you checked your clothes dryer vent pipe in the attic or crawlspace? There are still many home owners that fail to comply with current building code requirements concerning their clothes dryer vents. Unfortunately, the home owner could be the suffering one, not the code … US Fire Administration report from January 2007 states: Clothes dryer fires account for about 15,600 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries annually. Eighty percent of clothes dryer fires in structures occur in residential buildings. Annually, 12,700 [...]]]> The clothes dryer plastic vent is forbiden, any type of dryer vent should be as short as possible
  • Is your clothes dryer vent discharging air from the appliance?
  • Is your dryer vent clean?
  • Does it take long to dry your clothes?
  • Have you checked your clothes dryer vent pipe in the attic or crawlspace?

There are still many home owners that fail to comply with current building code requirements concerning their clothes dryer vents.

Unfortunately, the home owner could be the suffering one, not the code …

US Fire Administration report from January 2007 states:

  • Clothes dryer fires account for about 15,600 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries annually.
  • Eighty percent of clothes dryer fires in structures occur in residential buildings.
  • Annually, 12,700 clothes dryer fires occur in residential buildings resulting in 15 deaths and 300 injuries.
  • “Failure to clean” is the leading factor contributing to clothes dryer fires in residential buildings.
  • New home construction trends place clothes dryers and washing machines in more hazardous locations away from outside walls such as bedrooms, second-floor hallways, bathrooms, and kitchens.

Plastic clothes dryer vent is forbiden, any type of dryer vent should be as short as possible

The most common mistake that people still make is using plastic / flexible air hoses as a clothes dryer vent.

Plastic clothes dryer vent hoses were banned from being used for this purpose several years ago, but since we generally don’t like to read warning (or any) labels, some serious accidents happen.

Clothes dryer vent - dryer lint screen located on top of the applianceClothes dryer vent - lint screen located on the bottom of the appliance

An efficient operation of the clothes dryer depends on regular maintenance of its vent pipe, exterior hood / bird guard, and appliance lint screens (depending on your model, there is usually one or two lint screens installed).

Clothes dryer vent cleaning

Failing to clean all of the clothes dryer vent components on regular basis might cause the system to clog, significantly extend drying time, it may also overheat the plastic vent (that shouldn’t even be there) and, eventually, start a life threatening fire.

Clothes dryer vent - lint contaminated dryer vent on roof surfaceDamaged clothes dryer vent hood, protective guard on exteriorClothes dryer vent contaminated with lint / no screens are permitted on dryer vents

Depending on how often you use your clothes dryer, you should check the exterior hood / damper for lint accumulation and clean it as necessary. Protective screens are not permitted on clothes dryer vent termination.

  • The material used for a clothes dryer vent should be rigid metal with a smooth interior wall (required for inside the wall installation, but ideally used for an entire vent section between the exterior and the dryer), or a corrugated semi-rigid pipe for the connection between the wall and an appliance.

The lint will stick even to the smooth wall of the clothes dryer vent, especially if you install long horizontal sections (get the maximum length from the dryer manual because its manufacturer might permit longer runs than the local building code).

  • You’ll achieve the best efficiency of the appliance with the shortest possible dryer vent installed.

Clothes dryer vent pipe interior - there are screws on vent pipe connection which will trap more lint and are not permitted
Don’t use any screws on clothes dryer vent pipe connections. Instead, you can seal them with aluminum duct tape (used to seal forced air heating ducts) and secure sections to the wall, framing or any other structure with straps – screws penetrating duct wall will trap more lint, which will eventually clog the pipe.

  • Clothes dryer lint screen(s) should be cleaned before or after each load.

Metal foil (thin wall) flexible ducts used for the clothes dryer vent purposes are fire resistant. However, just like the plastic dryer vents, they’re extremely soft and easy to kink or brake behind the appliance. This could happen right after we install it and push our appliance back into its spot.

Clothes dryer vent connector called periscope prevents vent pipe bending and crushingClothes dryer vent 90 connector helps to prevent flexible pipe bendingEven if something heavier falls behind the appliance, it could crush that soft dryer vent wall and block / greatly reduce the airflow. Easy solution – don’t use plastic or metal foil dryer vents, get an offset dryer vent connector (also known as periscope, quick connector and probably some other names), which allows you to connect the appliance directly to the wall outlet, or at least eliminate bending of the flexible pipe behind the appliance.

Clothes dryer vent separated in the attic area   Gas dryer installed in the bedroom closet   Plastic clothes dryer vent connected to the chimney - vent pipe material and chimney connection not permitted

Clothes dryer vent do’s and don’t’s

Clothes dryer vent and bathroom vent jointed together - vent pipe material and connection not permitted

  • Keep the area around the clothes dryer clean, and clutter free. For gas dryers – make sure that it has adequate air supply for combustion – don’t lock it in a closet behind the air tight door
  • If the only possible gas dryer location is in your bedroom, make sure that dryer vent discharges to the exterior (some jurisdictions forbid bedroom installation at all, so check with your local building department). Even if your local building code doesn’t require it – install smoke detector and Carbon Monoxide detector in your bedroom.
  • Never discharge clothes dryer vent into the attic, crawlspace, or garage, and check those areas periodically for loose, separated connections on ducts that run through it. If the area that the dryer vent runs through is unheated during the cold season, insulate it to prevent condensation from forming (you can get sleeve type insulation, which is very easy to install)
  • Clothes dryer vent pipe penetrating house / garage wall must be at least 26 ga. steel, air tight / fire rated seal applied along the wall penetration and has to discharge to garage exterior
  • Never connect a clothes dryer vent into the chimney (used or not by other appliances)
  • Never connect a clothes dryer vent into the forced air duct system
  • Never combine dryer and bathroom / kitchen vents together
  • Have your clothes dryer cleaned periodically by a professional in order to remove all the lint that might accumulate inside the appliance enclosure
  • Use special brushes designed for clothes dryer vent pipe cleaning

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Carbon Monoxide – Toxic Gas Without Taste, Smell or Color https://www.checkthishouse.com/777/carbon-monoxide.html Thu, 21 Aug 2008 01:10:59 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=777 Test the Carbon Monoxide alarm once a week by pressing the Test - Reset buttonCarbon Monoxide Detectors should be replaced every 2-6 years / based on the particular model manufacturer recommendation. Mechanically operating device - warning sound when you push the button, does not mean that its CO sensor is still functional.]]> Test the Carbon Monoxide alarm once a week by pressing the Test - Reset button

The “silent killer” would be a good title for criminal novel, and also a very good description of Carbon Monoxide, toxic gas without taste, smell or color that results from incomplete combustion (burning process) of fuels. Symptoms vary greatly and depend on many factors, including age, health condition, time of exposure, and gas concentration level.

  • Carbon Monoxide alarms should be replaced approximately every 5 years / based on the particular model manufacturer recommendation – older units might be much less, newer slightly more. If you check your old CO alarm mechanically / using its test button, and you can hear its warning siren, this does not mean that its CO sensor is still functional.

Carbon Monoxide exposure effects might be sometimes mistaken for the flu (at lower levels), but can escalate to more severe symptoms including disorientation, nausea, dizziness, and fatality which usually occurs during sleep. The list of sources that can produce Carbon Monoxide gas is quite long, and includes everything that burns fuel.

Test the Carbon Monoxide alarm once a week by pressing the Test - Reset buttonThe most dangerous for us are gas, oil, and wood burning home appliances (gas or oil furnaces, space heaters, gas water heaters, gas clothes dryers, gas ranges, gas refrigerators – rare but I’ve seen a few, fireplaces, charcoal grills, wood burning stoves, etc…).

  • “The most”, because they require oxygen for combustion (burning process), and often the only source of oxygen is our living space.
  • “The most” because they often vent into the problematic chimney, and instead of properly discharging gases to the house exterior, they contaminate living space.

In newer homes, which are built (or at least they are claimed to be) much tighter in order to conserve energy, combustion air becomes critical. Older homes weren’t that air-tight and air drafts that provided additional, fresh air flow into the houses was a very common condition.

Therefore, regular maintenance of all appliances is very important, so they burn fuel properly, without producing Carbon Monoxide as a bi-product – burning violet flame.
 “Building codes all over North America require that fireplaces, and in some cases wood stoves, be provided with a source of combustion air from outdoors.” – this sentence has been taken from woodheat.org , which further explains this code requirement, and not necessarily stands behind it.

The basic thing you should do is to maintain a functional Carbon Monoxide detector(s) in your home

When installing Carbon Monoxide alarm, make sure that it is properly positioned – the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends it to be located near the sleeping area, where it can wake you if you are asleep. Check all CO alarm locations.

Installation of additional Carbon Monoxide alarms on every level and in every bedroom of a property provides extra protection. You’ll find detectors from manufacturers offering electrical outlet plug-in models, which is fine, but ceiling mounted device might serve you better during a cold season – since Carbon Monoxide weight is almost the same as air, it will rise with warm air from heating appliances.

Consumer Search gives the highest ratings to the carbon monoxide detectors manufactured by Kidde and the winners are Kidde Nighthawk series (you can check current prices at Amazon.com by clicking on images).

Second (on my list) most dangerous source of Carbon Monoxide would be an attached garage, or more likely anything in the garage that might produce this deadly gas. Your local building code might (call your local building code enforcement division and even if they say “it doesn’t” – be smarter and use common sense!) require doors between the house and the garage to self close (and lock).

Having self closing garage – home entrance door feature is a very smart and easy way to protect ourselves from the car, lawnmower, kerosene heaters, and garage gas heater exhaust fumes. Many of us start the car earlier during the winter, or sometimes forget to turn of the engine… all you need is a couple of spring hinges or closing device, and that one trip to a local hardware store might save your life one day.

What’s next? You wish I wouldn’t say that (if you smoke) – tobacco smoke… no comment. Thirsty for more detailed information about Carbon Monoxide? – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has plenty… and they call it “Basic”. Also, Iowa State University Extension provides a more in depth, but at the same time easy to comprehend study.

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Laundry Room Hazards, Laundry Chute Hazards & Safety Tips https://www.checkthishouse.com/630/laundry-chutes-a-convenient-way-to-a-disaster.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/630/laundry-chutes-a-convenient-way-to-a-disaster.html#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2008 04:20:05 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=630 Laundry Chute LocationsLaundry Chute Hazard Maybe because I’m a home inspector, or maybe because I have my own children, I over-react sometimes (mentally – my personal imagination just takes off) in situations where common sense and a little imagination is required. I always prefer taking extra safety precautions; it makes sense for me to go that one extra inch just to be sure that possibility of an accident has been minimized. But apparently many other people don’t. Imagine having a small child, maybe a 2 year old, playing in your second floor bedroom closet … and suddenly the child is gone … This is a [...]]]> Laundry Chute Locations

Maybe because I’m a home inspector, or maybe because I have my own children, I over-react sometimes (mentally – my personal imagination just takes off) in situations where common sense and a little imagination is required.

I always prefer taking extra safety precautions; it makes sense for me to go that one extra inch just to be sure that the possibility of an accident has been minimized. But apparently many other people don’t. Imagine having a small child, maybe a 2 year old, playing in your second floor bedroom closet … and suddenly the child is gone …

Laundry chute hazard - second floor laundry chute mounted on the floor surface with a 9' drop underneathSecond floor laundry chute view from the laundry room - laundry chute hazardThis is a scenario that popped into my head a couple of days ago when I walked into the 2nd floor master bedroom closet of a house I was inspecting. In one of the floor corners, there was a laundry chute – 12″x12″ – square opening with a metal cover on top (same diameter circle opening).

It was not secured to the floor and its door was swinging inside the chute … no safety locks! What was underneath? A straight 9′ drop into the laundry room located on the floor below. Oh, and I forgot, there were small children living in the house!

Many homes currently have or previously have had a laundry chute installed, and often it is not in the safest location – older homes usually have it in the bathroom linen closet floor, sometimes on the side wall, but still low and easily accessible by small children.

And the saddest part of this story – that there’s no laws to break, regulations to follow, zero construction and safety requirements for the laundry chutes (except for the fire code) – let me know if that changes.

So please, for your little onesʼ sakes, make sure that their curiosity and adventuress behavior doesn’t end up with a disaster. Take a walk through your house and check all the closets; make sure that there’s no laundry chute or any other opening in an area which could be easily accessed / opened by a small child.

Use your imagination and common sense – even if you don’t have small children, it might be one of your visitors or children of the next owner of your house. If you think that your laundry chute could be a hazard – do something about it!

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Smoke Detector Safety Tips – is Your Life Worth at Least $10.00? https://www.checkthishouse.com/537/smoke-detectors-is-your-life-worth-at-least-1000.html Sun, 03 Aug 2008 16:55:23 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=537 Where to install smoke detector - installation too close to the ceilingSmoke detector is a very inexpensive and extremely important type of a life saving device, but one of those we tend to forget about, or sometimes disconnect when they start chirping / calling for a new battery. Smoke detectors began their journey into our lives in 1890 (as a fire alarm)...]]> Where to install smoke detector - installation too close to the ceiling

Smoke Detector Safety Tips

Check required smoke detector locations

Smoke detector safety tips - Vocal Smoke DetectorSmoke detector is a very inexpensive and extremely important type of a life saving device, but one of those we tend to forget about, or sometimes disconnect when they start chirping / calling for a new battery.


Follow the smoke detector safety tips and improve your chances of surviving a fire – don’t you think your life is worth $10.00?

Smoke detectors began their journey into our lives in 1890 (as a fire alarm), and evolved into residential, commercially available alarms in United States type between 1969 and 1971… for $125.00 a piece. During the next few years, technology advanced significantly making smoke detectors much cheaper and available basically for everyone (Smoke alarm history at Wikipedia).

Smoke detector safety tips – available smoke detector types:

– ionization smoke detector responds to invisible by-products of combustion (burning process)

– photoelectric smoke detector responds to visible by-products of combustion (burning process) 

– ionization / photoelectric combination devices

Which of the above is better?

#1 of my smoke detector safety tips:

Use both (either both types simultaneously or combination units), simply because they respond with different time delay to hazardous conditions, and sometimes that extra few seconds differential might save your life – an independent study performed by newsnet.com concluded that sometimes the ionization smoke detectors don’t give people enough time to escape.

Warning – recall on Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detector Combo Alarm – FireX Branded 10000 Series

Warning – recall on Digital Security Controls FSA and FSB Series Smoke Detectors

Warning – recall on Tyco Fire & Security Recalls Smoke Detectors for Replacement

Warning – recall on First Alert® Smoke Alarms and Combination Smoke/CO Alarms Please let me know, if there’s anything else

#2 of the smoke detector safety tips :

Choose the correct placement for the smoke detector. If you didn’t, read carefully my post –  smoke detector location, it is as important as having the smoke detector installed at all. Overdoing it, putting more than required shouldn’t be an issue, so for all of you living in Chicago – overdo it! For a few extra bucks, give yourself more protection and install extra smoke detectors in every bedroom (City of Chicago doesn’t require such installation).

#3 of the smoke detector safety tips

Check with your Local Code Enforcement Division to ensure that you have at least the minimum required in this particular jurisdiction, use my post (link above), this Smoke Detector User’s Guide or one that came with your device to determine proper location.

#4 of the smoke detector safety tips


Smoke Detectors / Alarms should be installed on every level of your home (staircases and hallways), including basement and habitable / finished attic (some jurisdictions apply this to the attic in which you can stand up). Additional installation in each and every bedroom (specially if you sleep with the door closed) is required in most jurisdictions, but not in the City of Chicago (it is highly recommended, though)

Smoke detector safety tips #5

Smoke Detectors should be mounted high on walls or ceiling (smoke naturally rises up), but never inside so called “dead air space” which is 4″ from the ceiling / wall joint in both directions, and no lower than 12″ from the ceiling if mounted on the wall

Smoke detector safety tips #6

Try to mount Smoke Detectors in such manner that you’ll avoid vapors from the bathroom and kitchen, to prevent false alarms

Smoke detector safety tips #7

Do not place Smoke Detectors (if possible) near windows, doors and air circulating registers (some jurisdictions are very strict about this), because drafts from those sources might compromise proper response to emergency condition

Smoke detector safety tips #8

I explain in detail this next extremely important task in Smoke detector maintenance
The basics are:

  • test smoke detectors every week (when you push test button, loud noise should be heard within the few seconds)
  • change batteries at least once a year, or as soon as they start making periodical short beeps

If you have a security system attached smoke / fire detection devices, consult with the service provider prior to testing,  you don’t want to pay fire dept. for a false alarm


 

Smoke alarm testing schedule sheet to print and place it in your home Click on the image (link opens in a new window) and print your smoke alarm testing schedule for the entire year.

Put this smoke alarm testing reminder on your refrigerator, message board… whatever, just remember to do it often!

You can involve your kids into the smoke alarm testing and have them mark the schedule every week.

 


Smoke detector safety tips #9

install interconnected devices if possible, the great thing about them is that if one detects smoke, they will all signal it together (there are wireless and hard wired Smoke Detectors that work in such manner)

Change Smoke Detectors every ten years, or earlier if it becomes necessary – they do have a expiration date! This was #10 of my smoke detector safety tips – please, do follow.

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