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Frequently Asked Questions: Smoke Detectors in Westchester


After the recent tragedy that occurred in Brooklyn last week, many of our clients in Westchester have been asking us about their smoke detectors.

Whether the ultimate decision is to change batteries, clean, or replace the smoke detectors, there are a few things everyone needs to know about smoke detectors.


What fire protection should my home have?

Each city or town has their own sets of regulations that determine what type of fire protection your home needs.  As a general rule of thumb, most homes should have;

  • At least 1 smoke detector per floor
  • At least 1 smoke detector per bedroom
  • At least 1 smoke detector outside bedroom areas
  • Replace smoke detectors every 10 years
  • Both Photoelectric and Ionization Smoke Detectors

Photoelectric vs. Ionization Smoke Detectors


Photoelectric-type alarms aim a light source into a sensing chamber at an angle away from the sensor. Smoke enters the chamber, reflecting light onto the light sensor; triggering the alarm.


Ionization-type smoke alarms have a small amount of radioactive material between two electrically charged plates, which ionizes the air and causes current to flow between the plates. When smoke enters the chamber, it disrupts the flow of ions, thus reducing the flow of current and activating the alarm.


How to tell the difference between Photoelectric vs Ionization Smoke Detectors

The easiest way to tell the difference is by removing one of your smoke detectors and reviewing the rear of the device.  Ionization-type Smoke Detectors will have a “Radioactive Materials” warning on it.


Should I have both Photoelectric and Ionization – type smoke detectors?

Absolutely.  The National Fire Protection Association recommends having both because they both detect fires in different ways.  And yes... they make dual sensor smoke detectors that use both technologies.


 What should I do if my smoke detectors are beeping?

Many fires in Westchester go unnoticed for far too long because smoke detectors are beeping and homeowners decide to take them down.  One important thing to realize is most smoke detectors have a backup battery in them.  Although a smoke detector might be hooked into your home’s electrical supply, you may need to replace a battery.  Although there are other reasons why a smoke detector might be beeping, the most common is a battery outage.

The most important thing to do is to determine which smoke alarm is beeping and replace it immediately.  If you notice that all the smoke alarms are beeping, it’s likely they are all programmed to beep if one is beeping.  As a practice of good habit, replace them all at the same time.


What’s a monitored smoke detector?

A monitored smoke detector uses the same technology as the ones you might currently have, but they are hooked through your security system.  If the smoke detectors detect smoke or flames, the smoke detector alerts everyone in the home audibly, exactly as a traditional smoke detector does.

The difference is, upon alerting your family audibly, the smoke detector simultaneously communicates with your security system and sends a fire signal to the Central Station and Fire Department.


Benefits of a monitored smoke detector

  • If occupants of a home are sleeping
  • If no one is in the home during the day or away on vacation
  • If you have pets or other stay in guests that might not be able to get to the phone in time
  • Homeowners insurance discount of up to 20%


Regardless of if you have ionization or photoelectric-type smoke detectors, monitored or not monitored smoke detectors, the most important part is that you stay proactive and always test your smoke detectors once a week.  The National Fire Protection Agency estimates that over 800 lives could be saved per year in the United States if homes had working smoke alarms!


Make sure to test, clean and replace your smoke detectors regularly and if you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call at 914.232.0003


For more information visit the National Fire Protection Association at http://www.nfpa.org/ 

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