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  1. #1
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    Smile Checking Smoke Detectors

    Settle an argument for me. I said checking smoke detectors requires more then pressing the button to check the batteries. I feel smoke is required to make sure the sensor actually goes off when it senses smoke.

    Who's right here ! Thanx.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Wieczorek View Post
    .
    Settle an argument for me. I said checking smoke detectors requires more then pressing the button to check the batteries.
    .
    I feel smoke is required to make sure the sensor actually goes off when it senses smoke.

    Who's right here ! Thanx.
    .
    The Manufactures Testing Instructions are to Press The Button.
    .

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    The California Real Estate Inspection Association’s (CREIA) SOPs states the inspector is to note the absence of smoke alarms, not operate or test them. CAR (California Association of Realtors) goes into long spiel about smoke alarms as do the property seller's transfer disclosure statement (TDS). Pushing the alarm button only tests the battery, which could fail as soon as the home you have just inspected disappears in your vehicle's rear view mirror as you drive away. Canned smoke is a joke because the new requirements call for heat sensor type alarms or a combination of heat and smoke.

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Wieczorek View Post
    Settle an argument for me. I said checking smoke detectors requires more then pressing the button to check the batteries. I feel smoke is required to make sure the sensor actually goes off when it senses smoke.

    Who's right here ! Thanx.
    The correct answer is that if the smoke detector is 10 years old - replace it regardless.

    Pressing the Test button is the recommended way, I've heard people complain that they tested with smoke, fake smoke, etc., and had smoke detectors go off and not stop (the smoke stuff possibly damaged the smoke detector).

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    Use a piece of burning toast!


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    Pressing the test button is the approved and correct method for testing the common home smoke alarm.
    Pressing the test button does more than check the annunciator (sounder), it actually does check the electronics of the detector.
    If the test button works, then in all likeliness, the detector is working properly.

    There is no need to use canned smoke, and yes, using canned (or real) smoke can leave a residue in the sensing chamber.

    Last edited by Rick Cantrell; 12-15-2011 at 06:16 AM.
    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    One thing we encounter a lot during HQS inspections is smoke detectors that have been painted. The paint can block the sensors causing the alarm to not function in a fire, but they will still sound by pressing the test button. If I suspect one has been painted but cannot tell for sure I scrape it with a fingernail.

    Galen L. Beasley
    Inspections Supervisor
    Housing Authority of Kansas City MO

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    Quote Originally Posted by Galen L. Beasley View Post
    One thing we encounter a lot during HQS inspections is smoke detectors that have been painted. The paint can block the sensors causing the alarm to not function in a fire, but they will still sound by pressing the test button. If I suspect one has been painted but cannot tell for sure I scrape it with a fingernail.
    Good point
    Paint can clog up the screen that allows air flow to the sensing chamber, but may not affect the operation of the test button.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    An effective detector test is one which most closely simulates a real smoke event, but which can also be reproduced multiple times in a quick way. To accomplish this, it is generally assumed that the physical properties and location of the detector would allow smoke to reach it in a fire. From there, a test can be performed by simply breaking the circuit. In an optical detector, this is done by shutting off power to the LED when the test button is pressed. In an ionization detector, the electrodes are either powered off or overridden to cause the circuit to break. In either case, this broken circuit will trigger the alarm.

    Read more: How Does a Test Button on a Smoke Detector Work? | eHow.com How Does a Test Button on a Smoke Detector Work? | eHow.com

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    The correct answer is that if the smoke detector is 10 years old - replace it regardless.
    Agreed. The sensors in smoke and CO detectors eventually become unreliable after 8-10 years. Also, I think that the test buttons provide a false sense of security.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Barker View Post
    .
    . Also, I think that the test buttons provide a false sense of security.
    .
    Like GFCI'S ?
    .

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  12. #12
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Wieczorek View Post
    Settle an argument for me. I said checking smoke detectors requires more then pressing the button to check the batteries. I feel smoke is required to make sure the sensor actually goes off when it senses smoke.

    Who's right here ! Thanx.
    It depends.

    Although one might imply you are referring to battery only wireless Smoke detector only non-integrated initiating devices located only in one- and two-family dwellings, even so, it is an improper argument.

    However, merely as you have phrased the above, and without assumptions, as represented, you are the less correct and the more wrong in the described argument regarding the use of smoke; however, checking the batteries and operating the test button is not all that is involved in maintaining, testing and checking of even the most simple of battery operated only, non-integrated, one- and two-family dwelling "smoke alarms".

    Maintaining, testing and "checking" involves more than merely checking the battery and operating the test button. The age of the unit, by date of manufacture, the age of the installation, the cleanliness of the unit, condition, (such as glazing, dust, debris, paint, etc. as mentioned), the "type" unit, the maintenance of the unit, the installation circumstances of the unit, and of course the manufacturer's PUBLISHED instructions. Open areas kept clear of accumulated dust, debris, coatings, etc. devices remaining "clean", visually inspecting for signs of damage, etc. are all covered in manufacturer's published instructions, as are useful life expectancies both in-service and on-the-shelf - and generally, reliableness following exposures to environmental factors and triggering events.

    It depends on the devices (such as the initating devices themselves and their specifications), the system, the circumstances of the installation, and the manufacturer's published instructions; and the maintenance, servicing, and exposure history of the devices and/or system.

    You can peruse the 2010 edition of NFPA 72 in read-only mode for free at NFPA.org. I would first direct you to Chapter 14, Table 14.4.2.2, see (No. 14) "Initiating Devices".

    Essential is the Manufacturer's published instructions. Some devices are non-restorable. As are the qualifications of the party performing the testing, procedural and methodology compliance.

    It depends upon the specifications of the System and the manufacturer's published instructions and the specifications of the particiular initiating device(s); and the circumstances of the installation.

    You might also reveiw NFPA 3 regarding recommendations regarding the Integrated Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems . You will find many cases in NFPA 3 will refer you to NFPA 72 (National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code), as will references in NFPA 70 (NEC).


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post

    it is an improper argument.
    .
    you are the less correct and the more wrong in the described argument ; .
    .
    Oh No You Didn't !
    .

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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    It depends.

    Although one might imply you are referring to battery only wireless Smoke detector only non-integrated initiating devices located only in one- and two-family dwellings, even so, it is an improper argument.

    However, merely as you have phrased the above, and without assumptions, as represented, you are the less correct and the more wrong in the described argument regarding the use of smoke; however, checking the batteries and operating the test button is not all that is involved in maintaining, testing and checking of even the most simple of battery operated only, non-integrated, one- and two-family dwelling "smoke alarms".

    Maintaining, testing and "checking" involves more than merely checking the battery and operating the test button. The age of the unit, by date of manufacture, the age of the installation, the cleanliness of the unit, condition, (such as glazing, dust, debris, paint, etc. as mentioned), the "type" unit, the maintenance of the unit, the installation circumstances of the unit, and of course the manufacturer's PUBLISHED instructions. Open areas kept clear of accumulated dust, debris, coatings, etc. devices remaining "clean", visually inspecting for signs of damage, etc. are all covered in manufacturer's published instructions, as are useful life expectancies both in-service and on-the-shelf - and generally, reliableness following exposures to environmental factors and triggering events.

    It depends on the devices (such as the initating devices themselves and their specifications), the system, the circumstances of the installation, and the manufacturer's published instructions; and the maintenance, servicing, and exposure history of the devices and/or system.

    You can peruse the 2010 edition of NFPA 72 in read-only mode for free at NFPA.org. I would first direct you to Chapter 14, Table 14.4.2.2, see (No. 14) "Initiating Devices".

    Essential is the Manufacturer's published instructions. Some devices are non-restorable. As are the qualifications of the party performing the testing, procedural and methodology compliance.

    It depends upon the specifications of the System and the manufacturer's published instructions and the specifications of the particiular initiating device(s); and the circumstances of the installation.

    You might also reveiw NFPA 3 regarding recommendations regarding the Integrated Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems . You will find many cases in NFPA 3 will refer you to NFPA 72 (National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code), as will references in NFPA 70 (NEC).
    Mr Watson
    " It depends" is incorrect.
    If the smoke detector (alarm) has a test button (which the OP stated it did), the proper method for testing is to press the test button (that is why it is called a "TEST BUTTON").
    Of course the Op actually said "checking", but the context of the OP's statement was clearly a question for the operation of the test button.

    "Some devices are non-restorable", in context to the OP, is also incorrect.
    All smoke detectors (smoke alarms) in use today are "restorable".
    Heat detectors (not the topic of the OP) are many times one use only.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    One Kidde model smoke alarm Owners Manual states:

    "TESTING: Weekly testing is required: This alarm is equipped with two test buttons, which will verify the alarm calibration limits. Test button "A" should be used for the normal weekly testing. Push and hold test button "A" on the cover for a minimum of 10 seconds. This will sound the alarm if all the electronic circuitry, horn, and battery are working. If the alarm does not sound, the battery is fresh and the green LED is on then the alarm must be replaced. If the green LED is not on, check the fuse or circuit breaker supplying power to the alarm circuit and verify the alarm is receiving AC power.

    Alarm sensitivity verification test: Where required this test must be conducted as specified in NFPA 72 chapter 10.

    Complete the normal weekly testing procedure as outlined. The alarms will
    sound when test button "A" is pushed.

    • Push and hold test button "B" for 10 seconds. The red LED will illuminate but
    the alarm MUST NOT SOUND. If the alarm sounds during this test, it means
    the alarms sensitivity has increased, which could result in nuisance alarms.
    Increased sensitivity is typically a result of dust build up in the alarm. Follow
    the cleaning instructions outlined in section 6 of the manual to clean your
    alarm.

    • To check for proper smoke entry into the alarm, Kidde recommends using
    aerosol smoke manufactured by Home Safeguard Industries. Follow the testing instructions supplied by Home Safeguard Industries. The spray should be sprayed (towards the alarm) parallel to the wall or ceiling on which the alarm is mounted. This will insure that the smoke enters the alarm through the
    perimeter openings between the alarm base and cover. Excessive use of
    aerosol test sprays at close range may permanently alter the alarm sensitivity.

    NEVER USE an open flame or combustible materials to test your alarm, you
    could damage the alarm or ignite nearby materials and start a structure fire.
    TEST THE ALARM WEEKLY TO ENSURE PROPER OPERATION. Erratic or low sound coming from your alarm may indicate a defective alarm, and it should be returned for service (see Section 12)."

    Note the "weekly" test requirement. Like THAT will ever happen!

    Because I believe smokes are extremely important for occupant safety, I do not test them during the inspection process. Rather, I place the onus on the client to be absolutely sure they are operating as designed. If the client is present I discuss with them at length about pressing the test button only testing the siren but not whether smoke is able to reach the chamber sensor, etc., and as such THEY need to properly test each one using an approved smoke method according to the units manufacturers instructions, when they move in. If the house is near or over 10 years of age, I stress the importance of replacing them immediately.

    Regardless whether the client is present or not, a lengthy disclaimer and explanation is inserted in the report itself, beginning with,"For your and your families safety...".

    Beacon Inspection Services
    Proudly Serving the Greater Henderson and Las Vegas Valley Area in Southern Nevada!
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    I don't know, what do you think?

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  17. #17
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    Mr Watson
    " It depends" is incorrect.
    If the smoke detector (alarm) has a test button (which the OP stated it did), the proper method for testing is to press the test button (that is why it is called a "TEST BUTTON").
    Of course the Op actually said "checking", but the context of the OP's statement was clearly a question for the operation of the test button.
    Many thanks to Bob Knauf, for relevant quotations from one particular manufacturer's published instructions for "testing" a particular Single Station Smoke Alarm, which exemplifies, most precisely my "It depends" response, even to the assumptive directed retort to my post by Mr. Cantrell.

    The OP referenced "smoke detector". There are diferent methods employed for "smoke detection". "Smoke detector" does not equate to "smoke alarm" However there are different types of "smoke alarms" as well.

    The manufacturer's published instructions for a "smoke detection device" as well as a "smoke alarm" are to be followed, with regards to "inspection", "service" and "testing".

    "Some devices are non-restorable", in context to the OP, is also incorrect.
    All smoke detectors (smoke alarms) in use today are "restorable".
    Heat detectors (not the topic of the OP) are many times one use only.
    No that is not true.

    I see you have decided to change the language of the OP by imposing your assumption that the use of "smoke detector" MEANT "smoke alarm". However, even having done so, you are indeed, incorrect regarding your assertion. Note I used a hyphen in my use of "non-restorable" which was to make clear I was not asserting some devices were "nonrestorable" but could be "non-restorable" that is to say rendered not able to be restored to functionality following an environmental exposure or "test" which has exposed the device. A device which is not "restorable" by means of a manual or automatic reset to full functionality and sensitivity - without servicing or replacement in whole or in part. Some devices have an end of life or functionality feature, not unlike more modern GFCI receptacles.

    There are more than two types of "smoke detection" and "smoke detectors. I was not illuding to fire or heat detectors. The OP stated "smoke detector" not "smoke alarm".

    Let us look at a qualifing distinction with a difference (a hyphen):


    • Restorable Initiating Device. A device in which the sensing element is not ordinarily destroyed in the process of operation, whose restoration can be manual or automatic.
    • Nonrestorable Initiating Device. (note absence of a hyphen in "nonrestorable") A device in which the sensing element is designed to be destroyed in the process of operation.

    There are non-servicable devices which may not be restored to function following an operational triggering exposure of significance, cummulative operational exposures, and/or environmental exposures, i.e. end-of-useful life. One quick example are those with non-serviceable battery componants or sealed chamber devices - which are "non-restorable" as in not "servicable" even manually, to restore to operational functionallity, and must be either discarded or "remanufactured" and "recertified".

    I used the word phrase "non-restorable" (with a hyphen) as in not "restorable" as in restoration cannot be accomplished by manual or automatic following operational and/or environmental exposures, i.e. non-servicable as to cleaning, adjustment by qualified servicing personnel via replacement of componants, i.e. end of life, unable to reset and restore to operational specifications via qualifed testing personnel; not "nonrestorable" (no hyphen) as in "a device in which the sensing element is designed to be destroyed in the process of operation". However, in fact both do exist as pertains to "smoke alarms", "smoke detectors" and "smoke detection" initiating devices.

    I stand by my post in direct response to the actual language of the OP in the original topic post, and the conditional language I employed, most especially that of "IT DEPENDS" and referencing the manufacturer's published instructions regarding the device and the "checking" thereof.

    I'll conclude with another set of definitions to highlight another distinction set:

    Inspection Personnel. Individuals who conduct a visual examination of a system or perform thereof to verify that it appears to be in operating condition, in proper location, and is free of physical damage or conditions that impair operation.

    Service Personnel. Individuals who perform those procedures, adjustements, replacement of components, system programming, and maintenance as described in the manufacturer's service instructions that can effect any aspect of the performance of the system.

    Testing Personnel. Individuals who perform procedures used to determine the status of a system as intended by conducting acceptance, reacceptance, or periodic physical checks on systems.

    The bottom line is "it depends" not only on just what the OP was asking/arguing about, but to which manufactured device, componant, etc. incorporated in to whichever system, device, etc. and the "manufacturer's published instructions" regarding to same.


  18. #18
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    "Some devices are non-restorable", in context to the OP, is also incorrect.
    All smoke detectors (smoke alarms) in use today are "restorable".
    Heat detectors (not the topic of the OP) are many times one use only.

    "No that is not true."

    Ok I'll bite, show me one (smoke detector or smoke alarm) that is "non-restorable", or "nonrestorable".


    The bottom line is "it depends" not only on just what the OP was asking/arguing about, but to which manufactured device, componant, etc. incorporated in to whichever system, device, etc. and the "manufacturer's published instructions" regarding to same.

    No, it does not depend. As I said, if there is a test button (the OP said there is a test button), then to test it press the button.
    If I'm wrong show me one (smoke detector or alarm) with a test button that you do not test by pressing the test button.

    Last edited by Rick Cantrell; 12-15-2011 at 01:43 PM.
    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    Bill,

    Other than using the test button - any other test you do increases your liability in the event of a real fire and injuries at that home. If you do any testing beyond the test button, then you share liability with the manufacturer because you are now stating the the smoke detector will alert in the event of any fire. Think about it what a litigation lawyer will do with that......

    Don't get me wrong - I have been a firefighter since 1974 and want to see that everyone has more than adequate protection in the event of a fire but I don't want to take the detector product performance liability.

    As Jerry said if you suspect they are more than 10 years old then they need to be replaced. 2) if there is any paint on the shell, they need to be replaced. 3) If the bedrooms don't have detectors, they need to be added. 4) At the time of move-in I recommend that all existing detector batteries need to be replaced.

    Last but not least they house needs a CO detector.

    //Rick

    Rick Bunzel
    WWW.PacCrestInspections.com
    360-588-6956

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    This is a bit off-topic, but just today I went to a house where they said they'd paid $2000 for 4 "mechanical smoke detectors," they called them, and said they were wireless and required no batteries. I've been looking online at mechanical heat detectors, and they don't seem that expensive. What were they talking about?

    Do not think of knocking out another person's brains because he differs in opinion from you. It would be as rational to knock yourself on the head because you differ from yourself ten years ago.
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  21. #21
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    This is what should be used.

    First Alert (manufacturer)
    Smoke alarms have a limited life. Although each smoke alarm and all of its parts have passed many stringent tests and are designed to be as reliable as possible, any of these parts could fail over time. Therefore, you must test the devices weekly. The unit should be replaced immediately if it is not operating properly. The performance of smoke detectors older than 10 years is simply not reliable. To ensure your family's safety, all carbon monoxide and smoke/CO combination alarms need to be replaced every 5 years. All smoke alarms need to be replaced every 10 year.

    Unless the place is new I almost always recommend starting new as many left behind are old.


  22. #22
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    Quote Originally Posted by Kristi Silber View Post
    This is a bit off-topic, but just today I went to a house where they said they'd paid $2000 for 4 "mechanical smoke detectors," they called them, and said they were wireless and required no batteries. I've been looking online at mechanical heat detectors, and they don't seem that expensive. What were they talking about?
    Sounds like "MasterGuard".
    High pressure, in home sales of firealarms.
    Cost about $500 each.
    They target the elderly.

    Last edited by Rick Cantrell; 12-16-2011 at 04:08 AM.
    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Checking Smoke Detectors

    Yes, right you are, Rick - MasterGuard. Went online and found them last night - I should have done that first and saved you the trouble of posting, or at least answered my own question once I'd pinned it down (sorry - my bad!).

    Most of the links I found when I Googled were about what a scam MasterGuard was, with the prices they charge. There was even a test done with the aid of a fire department that found a $6 smoke detector (among half dozen or so, incl. MasterGuard) was the first to sense smoke, a full minute before the MasterGuard next to it sounded the alarm.

    Last edited by Kristi Silber; 12-16-2011 at 05:20 PM.
    Do not think of knocking out another person's brains because he differs in opinion from you. It would be as rational to knock yourself on the head because you differ from yourself ten years ago.
    - James Burgh, 1754.

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