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  1. #1
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    Default Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Hey all. Question Smoke Detectors. Photoelectric vs Ionization.

    I am on the side that we should be recommending Photoelectric smoke detectors to be installed in the home.

    My position is that during a structural fire smoke is the number issue for fatalities in a structural fires.

    My position is that we should be recommending to our clients that they should think about installing Photoelectric detectors.

    There is a pretty good debate going on in this arena. Just want to see what you all think and why.

    Similar Threads:
    Inspection Referral
    Don Hester
    NCW Home Inspections, LLC
    Wa. St. Licensed H I #647, WSDA #80050, http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Hester View Post
    Hey all. Question Smoke Detectors. Photoelectric vs Ionization.

    I am on the side that we should be recommending Photoelectric smoke detectors to be installed in the home.

    My position is that during a structural fire smoke is the number issue for fatalities in a structural fires.

    My position is that we should be recommending to our clients that they should think about installing Photoelectric detectors.

    There is a pretty good debate going on in this arena. Just want to see what you all think and why.

    I question if Home Inspectors should be recommending which type of smoke detector the HO should use at all.
    This is a decision that the HO (or qualified professional) should make.

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

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Hester View Post
    Hey all. Question Smoke Detectors. Photoelectric vs Ionization.

    I am on the side that we should be recommending Photoelectric smoke detectors to be installed in the home.

    My position is that during a structural fire smoke is the number issue for fatalities in a structural fires.

    My position is that we should be recommending to our clients that they should think about installing Photoelectric detectors.

    There is a pretty good debate going on in this arena. Just want to see what you all think and why.
    Last week at their January board of directors meeting ASHI decided to endorse Photoelectric based on studies and additional endorsements by International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and CREIA.

    The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is the largest fire fighters union in the US and Canada
    with nearly 300,000 members. During the IAFF 2008 conference, they adopted an official position
    recommending that only photoelectric smoke alarms be installed. The IAFF position also commits the
    organization to working for changes in the law and in the model codes to require photoelectric
    technology alarms. Further, the IAFF position specifically states that combination type alarms are not
    acceptable. In 2011, the California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA) adopted a position mirroring the IAFF position.

    ASHI is the first national home inspector organization to take this stand.

    At this time, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine and Iowa have laws requiring photoelectric technology
    smoke alarms in residential construction. The Northern Territory in Australia recently adopted a
    photoelectric technology law. In July, 2010, the City of Albany, California became the first city in
    California to require photoelectric smoke alarms in new construction and remodels. In late 2010, the
    cities of Palo Alto, CA and Orange, CA enacted ordinances requiring photoelectric technology alarms. In
    January 2011, the City of Sebastopol, CA enacted an ordinance requiring photoelectric technology.
    Several cities in Ohio have enacted similar ordinances. Similar action is under consideration in several
    states and in New York City.

    Last edited by Scott Patterson; 01-23-2013 at 04:14 PM.
    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    Last week at their January board of directors meeting ASHI decided to endorse Photoelectric based on studies and additional endorsements by International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and CREIA.

    The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is the largest fire fighters union in the US and Canada
    with nearly 300,000 members. During the IAFF 2008 conference, they adopted an official position
    recommending that only photoelectric smoke alarms be installed. The IAFF position also commits the
    organization to working for changes in the law and in the model codes to require photoelectric
    technology alarms.
    ...Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine and Iowa have laws requiring photoelectric technology
    smoke alarms in residential construction. The Northern Territory in Australia recently adopted a
    photoelectric technology law. In July, 2010, the City of Albany, California became the first city in
    California to require photoelectric smoke alarms in new construction and remodels. In late 2010, the
    cities of Palo Alto, CA and Orange, CA enacted ordinances requiring photoelectric technology alarms. In
    January 2011, the City of Sebastopol, CA enacted an ordinance requiring photoelectric technology.
    Several cities in Ohio have enacted similar ordinances. Similar action is under consideration in several
    states and in New York City.
    Those would fall under "or qualified professional"

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

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    I am in agreement that we shouldn't be recommending the type of smoke alarms home owners install. Unfortunately the ASHI board was swayed by biased information. Smoke Alarms probably have more federal organizations and consumer groups providing oversight than any other system in the home we inspect.

    In testing both types of detectors work and will alarm at different rates depending on the type of materials burning. This is the variable that changes when detectors will actually sound.

    I encourage any home inspector with interest in this topic to look at these contemporary studies:

    NFPA Task group on Ionization Vs. Photelectric Smoke Alarms
    http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files//PD...kForce0208.pdf

    Nation Institute of Standards and Testing
    An Analysis of the Performance of Smoke Alarms
    http://www.nist.gov/customcf/get_pdf.cfm?pub_id=906889

    Underwriters Laboratory - Smoke Alarms and Residence Fires
    http://www.ul.com/global/documents/o...Residences.pdf

    Ohio Smoke Alarm Advisory Task Force Report
    http://www.com.ohio.gov/fire/docs/fi...NAL_REPORT.pdf

    US Fire Administration
    http://www.firesafety.gov/downloads/...aperalarms.pdf.

    Maryland Smoke Alarm Technology Task Force Report
    http://mdsp.org/LinkClick.aspx?filet...d=580&mid=1538

    California State Fire Marshals Smoke Alarm Report
    California State Fire Marshal Smoke Alarm Report - 16 August, 2011

    National Association of State Fire Marshal's Smoke Alarm Guidance
    http://www.firemarshals.org/pdf/NASF...date_FINAL.pdf


    Since many issues are uncovered by our legal system I also did a search on smoke detector class action lawsuits. It appeared that there was only one firm that was trying to get a class action suit going but that was 5 years ago. Like sharks that smell blood in the water, if there was product liability, the blood sucking lawyers would be all over this. Apparently there's not enough of an issues to make them swarm.

    The IAFF is a union that passed a resolution in 2008. Since I've been a firefighter for 38 years I know many career firefighters and fire marshals, none were aware of this resolution.
    If home inspectors are going to take a position I believe that we should promote having Smoke Alarms installed to the NFPA 72 standard. If we want to go further we should encourage clients to installed dual sensor detectors. Personally I have those installed in the hallways of my home.

    //Rick

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

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Bunzel View Post
    I am in agreement that we shouldn't be recommending the type of smoke alarms home owners install......
    ...... If we want to go further we should encourage clients to installed dual sensor detectors. Personally I have those installed in the hallways of my home....

    //Rick
    If you are worried about liability issues from what you have said to a client, maybe you should reconsider your occupation. Today, everyone in business has liability issues.

    I feel that you should be more interested in providing your clients with information. In this case information that may save their lives. You should at least make them aware of the concern of professions over the type of detectors. Let them make the decision, but you have done your due diligence and can sleep at night.

    As for the duel detectors. Don't have them and wouldn't have them, due to tests indicating they are slower in responding and cause more false alarms that other types. There was a lot of information about this on another thread.

    My two cents.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    I question if Home Inspectors should be recommending which type of smoke detector the HO should use at all.
    This is a decision that the HO (or qualified professional) should make.
    Rick,

    Wouldn't a home inspector be a "qualified professional"?

    Department of Redundancy Department
    http://www.FullCircleInspect.com/

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    NFPA and CPSC mention the different types of smoke alarms and their uses, but do not recommend one over the other. As a matter of fact, the NFPA sheet might be viewed as "debunking" the problems with ionization type.

    Attached Files Attached Files
    Department of Redundancy Department
    http://www.FullCircleInspect.com/

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Hey, All I think this is good conversation.

    Rick B, Being that you are a firefighter what would your number one issue for occupants be?

    From my fire training and what the local firemen state smoke is the number one issue for the occupants.

    I feel that telling people they should at a minimum supplement their existing smoke alarms with a Photos, that seems prudent.

    Don Hester
    NCW Home Inspections, LLC
    Wa. St. Licensed H I #647, WSDA #80050, http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    Rick,

    Wouldn't a home inspector be a "qualified professional"?
    That may depend on if the inspector has taken the free online smoke detector course from nachi.

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

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    RickC - I didn't know NACHO had a certification for that. I may have to look that up Certified Master Smoke Alarm Inspector

    Don- Having working smoke alarms installed to NFPA 72 is my priority and then adequate methods of egress would be second. Most people don't give a **** after those two. When my kids were smaller we did taught them to crawl blindfolded out of our house and where we would meet (driveway) in the event of a fire.

    At yesterday's inspection the buyer was doing a lease to own and ready to buy. College educated folks buying an older home that they had been in for over a year. Out of the four smoke alarms three were missing their batteries. Upstairs where the kids slept had electric heaters and undersized windows. This was a fireman's nightmare and she got told so.

    As has been said before people are still dying today from house fires. In most cases the smoke detector are not working. I can't tell you how many house fires I have been to that after we have put the fire out we realize there are no alarms going off. Most time we find the detector in a drawer or the batteries been removed. In lower income or mid- to lower end rentals I see it frequently. We carry new (ionization) detectors on the fire trucks and install them on request just so people have some protection. Unfortunately we cannot fix "stupid."

    //Rick

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

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    i reccommend one each and they be change every five years- AND BATTERIES CHANGED EVERY DAY LIGHT SAVINGS TIME-just like those dirty bathroom and laundry room exhaust fans where does all the dust go UP. be safe

    cvf


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    This is a pretty good report comparing the 2 kinds of alarms. The old ionization units have a 10 year lifespan due to the radioactive component losing strength.

    http://www.firesafetycouncil.com/pdf...r_kitchens.pdf

    The conclusion of this report is that a mixture of both technologies is best. I agree.

    Low income housing is typically crowded conditions, where cooking fumes trip the smoke alarms. Just a general observation here. And a rant: I inspected a rooming house last years that had 9 rooms with 9 disabled or broken smoke alarms. The landlord just takes the rent money, I suppose. Why not provide the tenants with alarms that have a mute feature? Bad enough half these guys smoke in bed. Extension cords everywhere. Plug-in space heaters, etc, etc.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    The old ionization units have a 10 year lifespan due to the radioactive component losing strength.
    John
    Photoelectric and ionization, both should be replaced in 10 years.

    ' 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: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by CHARLIE VAN FLEET View Post
    i reccommend one each and they be change every five years- AND BATTERIES CHANGED EVERY DAY LIGHT SAVINGS TIME-just like those dirty bathroom and laundry room exhaust fans where does all the dust go UP. be safe

    cvf
    Test with Instant Smoke and change batteries on New Years Day (Easy to remember). I have AC/DC units that are linked. Just changed some units out that failed testing. FYI. They were only 8 years old.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Goeken View Post
    Test with Instant Smoke and change batteries on New Years Day (Easy to remember). I have AC/DC units that are linked. Just changed some units out that failed testing. FYI. They were only 8 years old.
    Forgot to add this URL. It's available from many sources.
    InspectUSA.com 2.5oz Smoke Check Canned Smoke (25s) 300+ Tests, Smoke Check


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    I report incorrect SA locations and missing SA's but I don't recommend a manufacturer, model or type.

    FWIW, I make the following points when reporting on SA's:

    1) No test performed today will establish that these alarms will be working on the day you move in.

    2) The common tested performed by unit occupants DO NOT determine if the alarm will detect a fire - the test button tests the power supply and alarm mechanism, NOT the sensor. For additional information see: How does the test button on a smoke detector work?

    3) The manufacturers' recommend that the alarms be replaced every 3-10 years, depending on model.

    4) We do not know when these were installed.

    5) These are an inexpensive item to replace.

    5) For these reasons, I recommend that you replace ALL the smoke alarms at this property when you move in, in accordance with the guidelines at <link depends on property location>.

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post

    2) The common tested performed by unit occupants DO NOT determine if the alarm will detect a fire - the test button tests the power supply and alarm mechanism, NOT the sensor. For additional information see: How does the test button on a smoke detector work?
    Pressing the test button DOES actually test that the sensor is working.
    Pressing the test button IS preferred to testing with canned smoke, burning paper or whatever.

    Using canned smoke can actually cause harm the smoke detector.

    The most reliable and always acceptable method of testing a smoke detector/ alarm is to PRESS THE TEST BUTTON.

    ' 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: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    I think we should all be recommending to our clients to add Photoelectric alarms.

    Smoke is the killer in structural fires and photoelectric is much better at alarming when it is present.

    I think everyone should go read the Texas A&M study. Go to page 14 and it give the probability of failure for each detector.

    http://hrrc.arch.tamu.edu/media/cms_...558/95-01R.pdf

    There may be some issues with the testing protocol performed by UL where as the Texas A&M studies where performed using more realistic models.

    Don Hester
    NCW Home Inspections, LLC
    Wa. St. Licensed H I #647, WSDA #80050, http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    RickC - regarding the test button - to the best on my knowledge the test button only connects the horn and battery. Can you give us the reference where you found it actually tests the sensor?

    Michael Thomas - The US Fire Administration say "Most alarms installed today have a life span of about 8-10 years. After this time, the entire unit should be replaced. It is a good idea to write the date of purchase with a marker on the inside of your alarm so you will know when to replace it. Some of the newer alarms already have the purchase date written inside. In any event, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for replacement."

    Kidde says every 10 years on their detectors.

    Where are you seeing shorter time periods?

    Don Hester - The Texas A+M report is 20 years old and by many is viewed as pro-Photoelectric alarm. However if you look on page 15 in the Interpretation they basically state that the type of burning material determines what alarm will sound first. UL performs 50 tests on each smoke alarm to give its approval. A board of about 12 experts determines what tests are required for UL217. NIST does real world testing and if you notice in the report they are recommending a mix of technology.



    //Rick

    Last edited by Rick Bunzel; 01-30-2013 at 10:56 AM.
    Rick Bunzel
    WWW.PacCrestInspections.com
    360-588-6956

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    Pressing the test button DOES actually test that the sensor is working. Pressing the test button IS preferred to testing with canned smoke, burning paper or whatever.
    On all consumer-grade alarms I'm aware of, pressing the test button simulates a detection event, it does not determine the threshold at which a detection event would have occurred.

    This is a bit more useful in the case of a photoelectric sensor (where the test determines that that the sensor can detect the complete absence of light from the LED, which is typically de-powered by the test button) than an ionization sensor, but in neither case does it verify that the detector would have alarmed at its design threshold.

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Bunzel View Post
    Michael Thomas - The US Fire Administration say "Most alarms installed today have a life span of about 8-10 years. After this time, the entire unit should be replaced. It is a good idea to write the date of purchase with a marker on the inside of your alarm so you will know when to replace it. Some of the newer alarms already have the purchase date written inside. In any event, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for replacement."

    Kidde says every 10 years on their detectors.

    Where are you seeing shorter time periods?
    A lot of the older (15 yr+) alarms had shorter recommended service lives and no suicide timer - I still occasionally see them, and assuming that someone has bothered to replace the batteries, they still ""test" as good,

    The newer detectors are labeled with a manufacturer date and, yes, clients (or inspectors) could check these, and continue to use in-date detectors.

    How many clients are going to do that?

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    The easy solution to the Ionization / Photoelectric quandary is to install a dual mode detector.

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    .....

    Using canned smoke can actually cause harm the smoke detector.

    ...
    Any reference for that comment. I know that canned smoke is used by companies that install large systems in NY and NJ. If there were problems they would stop using it.


  25. #25
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Bunzel View Post
    RickC - regarding the test button - to the best on my knowledge the test button only connects the horn and battery. Can you give us the reference where you found it actually tests the sensor?

    Better still.
    Press the test button on your smoke alarm.
    There will be a momentary delay before it sounds the alarm.
    This delay is the time it takes to detect smoke and sound the alarm.
    Some detectors take 3-4 seconds, some in 1 second.
    If pressing the button was just a switch to the sounder, it would be instant on all models.

    In this link How Does a Test Button on a Smoke Detector Work? | eHow.com

    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


    Breaking the circuit (Shutting off power (to the emitter)) causes the alarm.
    Not supplying power to the sounder.
    First off, The sensor does not detect smoke
    The sensor only detects output from the emitter (Light or Ions)
    Smoke interferes with the light (ions) so the sensor cannot receive light (ions) from the emitter.
    In the same manner, pressing the test button breaks power to the emitter. Either pressing the test button or by real smoke, when there is no (or reduced) light (or ions) detected, the sensor drops a relay which sounds the alarm. (Some photoelectric detectors work in reverse)

    Now I hope that everyone will pardon me if I am somewhat off with my description. I am doing my best.

    Bon Jour

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

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post
    On all consumer-grade alarms I'm aware of, pressing the test button simulates a detection event, it does not determine the threshold at which a detection event would have occurred.

    This is a bit more useful in the case of a photoelectric sensor (where the test determines that that the sensor can detect the complete absence of light from the LED, which is typically de-powered by the test button) than an ionization sensor, but in neither case does it verify that the detector would have alarmed at its design threshold.
    You are 100% correct
    Pressing the test button does not measure the threshold.

    Last edited by Rick Cantrell; 01-30-2013 at 12:07 PM.
    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Goeken View Post
    Any reference for that comment. I know that canned smoke is used by companies that install large systems in NY and NJ. If there were problems they would stop using it.
    Yes, used by companies that install fire alarm systems.
    They also service these same systems, at least once a year.

    In order to properly use canned smoke there are some special considerations.

    There is a tube, open at the top, closed at the bottom.
    The top has a gasket to seal against the surface.
    The tube has a known volume
    The tube is on a pole with a trigger
    The trigger operates the button on the canned smoke
    The canned smoke is inside the tube
    You place the tube over the detector head
    Pull the trigger
    This releases a measured amount of smoke into the tube
    This not only test the detector, but the threshold at the same time.
    After testing, now you clean the head.
    Yeah, I know, the canned smoke said no residue, spray some on paper and see.
    And I know, the guys you saw did not use a tube.
    Just like other contractors, they also don't do things exactly the way it should be done. Likely, they they don't even know a tube exist.

    Smoke Detector Sensitivity Test Equipment*- No Climb Products Ltd*

    If you don't use the tube
    How far away from the detector do you spray the canned smoke?
    How long do you spray it?
    How big is the room?
    Air currents?
    ETC?
    In order to use canned smoke PROPERLY you need to have:
    A Known volume of air
    A Known amount of smoke
    A Known amount of time for the response
    In other words, a tube (or similar)

    Last edited by Rick Cantrell; 01-30-2013 at 12:21 PM. Reason: added link
    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    I don't recommend a specific type of smoke alarm, other than that they be interconnected, inside and outside bedrooms, and on each level.

    Likewise, I don't recommend a specific type of water heater or HVAC system or plumbing pipe or kitchen range....

    Joe Funderburk, CBO, CMI
    Alpha & Omega Home Inspections, LLC
    Serving SC & NC

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Smoke Detector Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Funderburk View Post
    I don't recommend a specific type of smoke alarm, other than that they be interconnected, inside and outside bedrooms, and on each level.

    Likewise, I don't recommend a specific type of water heater or HVAC system or plumbing pipe or kitchen range....
    That's right.

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

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