Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Year's Resolutions

I lay awake at night worrying over everything and anything.  I'm pretty sure that everyone with a uterus does.  Everything from, "did I remember to lock the kids' windows," to "will my kid turn into a heroin addict because I didn't read Good Night Moon 6 times to him tonight like he asked?"  One such worry is keeping my kids safe, including house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

My New Year's resolution last year was to rethink the detectors in my house.  I was really down to the wire but I just made it. Disclaimer: I am not a fire professional so do not take any of this as what you should be doing at your house - just sharing some things I've learned/annoyed my husband with for the past year.  Call your local fire department - I've found they're really open to helping.  

We all know we're supposed to change the batteries every year but did you know you're supposed to replace the actual detectors themselves every 7-10 years?  I did not and ours are due to be replaced.  Good timing.

Step 1 was figuring out what kind of detector to get.  There are two different detector features to alarm you based on the type of fire.  Ionization detectors are sensitive to fast burning, flaming fires  whereas photo-electric detectors are sensitive to slow-burning, smoldering fires.  Throw in the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning and it is enough to make me want to move out and live in a tent in the woods.  Then I'd worry about coyotes.  After I pulled my head out of the sand I decided to upgrade from our standard smoke alarms to combination detectors.  

Step 2 is placement.  Our house was built in the 60's and detector placement guidelines has changed a lot.  When we moved in there was one on each floor.  That's it.  It is recommended now that there is a smoke detector in each bedroom and on each floor of the house as well as a carbon monoxide alarm on each floor.

Here's what I ended up going with.  A First Alert Smoke & Fire Alarm (affiliate link) for each bedroom (excluding the master - I'll get to that later):

2 Kidde combination Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Alarms (affiliate link) for the main living floor and one for the 2nd floor hallway outside the bedrooms:

Most sources advise against placing a smoke detector near a furnace as it can set off a lot of false alarms, but the furnace room is also a major culprit of carbon monoxide leaks.  My local fireman recommended I only use a plug-in carbon monoxide alarm in the furnace room.  The reason for the plug-in alarm is that the outlet is lower to the ground which is key because carbon monoxide is heavier than air so while smoke rises, carbon monoxide sinks.  So a First Alert Carbon Monoxide Plug-In Alarm (affiliate link) was placed there:

Another recommended location is in the basement.  Our laundry room is in our basement just outside the furnace room and because dryer fires are some of the most common causes of house fires that was the location that made the most sense.  Ignore the crazy yellow - this is the only room in the house I haven't repainted from the prior owners yet.

Wait, what is that beautiful thing you ask?

Glad you asked.  It is a Nest Protect (affiliate link).  A super-smart wireless smoke/CO2 detector that:
  • Sounds an alarm to all of the Nest Protect units connected to it (over Wi-Fi).
  • Sends alerts to your phone (in addition to the traditional beeping alarm).
  • It will do a nightly check before you go to bed to ensure the batteries will be strong enough to make it through the night (no more 3 AM chirping). 
  • Turns off your furnace if you have a Nest Thermostat (we do) if it detects carbon monoxide
  • If you have forced air and it detects fire it will shut down the fan in your heater so it doesn't  literally fan the flames.
  • Some other features that are nice to have but not reasons I'd spend the $$ on these units include: a nightlight as it senses movement beneath it as well as an additional sensor to tell your Nest Thermostat whether you're away from home so it can lower the heat.
That's some serious George Jetson technology.

We put a 2nd unit in the master bedroom so that if there is a problem in our high risk area basement the alarm would be sounded in our room so we could react quickly:

Why didn't we just put the Nest detectors everywhere instead of just in the basement and master bedroom?  Well they're a small fortune and because we don't have gas appliances I believe our major risks to carbon monoxide leaks are only through our furnace and fireplace.

2014 resolution - check!

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  1. I know what you mean about worrying about everything, I have to check the front door is locked at least twice before I can go to bed! And I don't even have a uterus!

    I recently replaced my carbon monoxide detector, but I am in need of a new smoke detector. I took mine down when decorating, and it broke. Thanks for reminding me how important it is to get a new one! Nest products are all nicely designed, but they are quite expensive.

    Levi Eslinger @ Capital Plumbing

  2. As a father, I thought I was doing a great job just hanging out with my kids and helping teach them how to eat properly and get dressed in the morning. There's a lot more to it than that, though, and I listened when the local fire department came around and inspected our smoke detectors. They helped me find newer, better ones.