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As a homeowner, your first priority is the safety of you and your family. Everything comes secondary to that primary goal. Although nearly all Boston homes are equipped with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, not everybody understands how to keep these critical devices running properly.
What is the difference between a carbon monoxide detector and a smoke detector? These terms are sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably. Smoke detectors, also known as smoke or fire alarms, are designed to detect smoke which is an early sign of fire. Alternatively, carbon monoxide detectors are tasked with alerting homeowners to the presence of carbon dioxide, a harmful gas.
Although carbon dioxide is present in some fires, it’s also a sign of other emergency issues, making it necessary to have different sensors in your home. Both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors tend to alert homeowners through loud, high-pitched noises and by lighting up or flashing, depending on the model.

How often should you replace your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors?
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors provide reliable protection for extended periods of time, making it easy for Boston homeowners to forget about these crucial devices. When these sensors reach the end of their lifespans, they don’t provide sufficient protection which can place you and your family at significant risk in the event of a fire or other emergency. To get the most out of these systems, it’s important to replace them when needed.

Smoke alarms
According to the National Fire Protection Association, homeowners should replace their smoke alarms should every 10 years including those with non-replaceable batteries. Devices with interchangeable batteries usually require replacements once a year. If you have a tough time remembering to change the batteries on your smoke detector, you can sync it up with seasonal time changes. Every time you wind the clocks back or forward, you’ll know to put fresh batteries in the smoke alarms too.

Carbon monoxide detectors
Unlike smoke alarms, Boston homeowners should replace their carbon monoxide detectors every 5 to 7 years. Waiting longer than can increase the risk of malfunction and outright failure which puts you and your family at risk. If your carbon monoxide detector takes batteries, you should replace these twice per year. However, there are models that have built-in batteries as well which don’t require homeowners to always remember to replace them.

Pro Tip: You should always consult the manufacturer’s recommendations for both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors as they’ll provide the most accurate and detailed instructions for how best to keep your sensors working properly.

How to tell if your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are working
Nearly all carbon monoxide and smoke detectors come with “test” functions allowing Boston homeowners to determine whether their systems are working properly. If you don’t know the age of your sensor or can’t remember the last time you replaced the batteries, running a quick test can put your concerns to rest. Here’s how to do it:

Let everyone know
The first step is to alert everyone in the house about the test to prevent any accidents. It’s also crucial to contact your home security company to let them know about the upcoming test to not raise any false alarms.

Find the “test” button
Although there are slight variations among sensors, most smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have a clearly-labeled “test” button. Press and hold the button down for a few seconds until you hear a piercing alarm sound.

Change the batteries
If the alarm kicked on and it was audible throughout the house, you’re all set! However, you should replace the batteries and run the test again if the sound was faint or entirely inaudible. If the problem persists, it might be a sign that the detector needs an entire replacement.

The importance of working with a professional
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are critical for maintaining a safe home. To make sure these sensors are in full working condition, it’s important for Boston homeowners to hire a professional electrician to come out and run a thorough diagnosis. You can run tests on your own, but experts will provide you with that extra peace of mind knowing you and your family are safe.
Need a hand testing or replacing your smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors? We can help! At Boston Standard Plumbing, we proudly serve homeowners throughout the Boston area for all of their electrical needs. Schedule a service today.

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