Every year at this time we are reminded to replace batteries and clean out our smoke alarms. With about 70 percent of residential fires occurring in homes without working smoke detectors, it's critical that we make sure we are protected. Experts advise that we replace any smoke detectors that are older than five years. Sensors age, so it's important to replace them. If you buy new, consider upgrading to a photoelectric detector. They are not radioactive and use a beam of light to detect smoke particles. Many believe that they are less likely to go off because of humidity so you'll have fewer false alarms. They are also more sensitive to large smoke particles and smoldering fires, which are the most common source of deadly house fires. Some detectors feature dual sensors that can see as well as smell smoke, so check out your options when you buy new.
One new thing I've learned is that hard-wired detectors age, too, and should be replaced every 10 years. It's a simple replacement, just an unplug and plug-in operation. But it's essential to replace your old detector with the same brand. Hard-wired detectors also have back-up batteries that need to be replaced every year. If you are buying a new hard-wired unit, consider buying a 10-year lithium battery. It will be sealed, good for 10 years, and replaced when you replace your smoke detector. If your hard-wired smoke alarm is younger than 10 years, test it by pressing the test button and replace batteries annually.