Smoke detectors fall under the category of life safety devices and are the most prevalent such device. Smoke detectors are required, by code in virtually all buildings, but especially where people sleep. According to the National Fire Protection Agency or NFPA, Smoke detectors should be placed, “inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. On levels without bedrooms, install alarms in the living room (or den or family room) or near the stairway to the upper level, or in both locations.”
These smoke detectors are typically installed by an electrician at the time the home is built. When this is the case, they are usually powered by the house power and often have 9V batteries to provide back-up power in the event of a power outage. It is recommended that the batteries be replaced according to manufacturer guidelines, which is usually twice per year.
These devices certainly save lives by alerting people to get out of the house, but they don’t have as much benefit when no one is home. In that instance, a monitored smoke detector is the answer. In the past, people would have needed to place a monitored smoke detector next to each of the existing hard-wired smoke detectors to get full coverage, but today a number of additional options exist.
The Gentex 503F is a good solution in new homes that have hardwired security systems. It is a combination Smoke Detector and Carbon Monoxide Detector and can be installed in the place of one of the electrician installed smoke detectors. It is therefore wired to the other smoke detectors so that one one of them goes off, if will be set off along with all of the other smoke detectors in the house. The difference is that this device has relay outputs that can be connected directly to the security system so that the fire can be communicated to the central station and to the fire department.
Nortek Security has a wireless device called the FireFighter. According to their website “It is the easiest, most cost effective way to add smoke alarm monitoring to your … control panel. FireFighter’s unique technology monitors the existing UL smoke detectors within the home. When an alarm is detected a wireless signal is sent to the control panel which in turn contacts the central monitoring station. With interconnected hardwired smoke detectors found in most homes today, only one FireFighter is needed to monitor ALL the smoke detectors within the home.” That was their words, but I’ve got to say, it does what they say. It is a brilliant invention and makes a comprehensive smoke detection system very affordable for almost any security system that supports wireless sensors. It comes in different frequencies to enable compatibility to most major brands of panels.
If you don’t have existing smoke detectors in your home, then all of the major alarm panel manufacturers also make monitored smoke detectors that are compatible with their systems. These smoke detectors should still be installed according to the NFPA 72 guidelines mentioned above. These smoke detectors can be either wireless or hardwired. One of the most commonly used hardwired monitored smoke detector manufacturers is System Sensor. they make a wide range of smoke detectors as well as heat detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
System Sensor Heat Detectors come in two varieties: fixed temperature and rate of rise. the rate of rise heat detectors from System Sensor trip when the temperature rises by 15 degrees or more per minute. Fixed temperature, as the name kind of implies, trip at a certain temperature, 135 or 194 degrees, depending on the model you choose. they also make heat detectors with both fixed and rate of rise. By the way, I learned the hard way that you can’t test their fixed temperature heat detectors, because once tripped they are ruined.