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  • Writer's pictureScott Isacksen

Smoke Alarms, CO Alarms, and Bundled Technology

Glancing over the article?

Here is important information to be sure you know: Smoke alarms expire after 10 years.

CO alarms expire after 6 years.


Smoke alarms are a great life-saving technology.

Many deaths during our industrialization resulted in technology and regulation that we now benefit from and need to have in place as housing providers today.

Carbon Monoxide alarms are now included in requirements of housing providers if there is a source of combustion in the apartment. These alarms protect from something very hard to be aware of without the presence of such an alarm. Carbon monoxide is odorless and results from the exhaust of burning fuel. A stove or heater not operating properly can cause this.

Smoke alarms have had upgrades recently where a battery with 10 years of life is built into the unit. The price is a bit higher than those meant to work with a removable battery, but it reduces the danger of a resident removing the battery because a) they need a battery for something else or b) they often set off the alarm with some activity in the unit.

The technology that makes a smoke alarm work degrades over time and a smoke alarm is considered expired after 10 years. Annual testing with a button is not enough, the alarm should be checked for a manufacture date as well.

The 10-year life battery smoke alarm works well, since a battery will not need to last past the 10 years the smoke detector has to work.

The technology that makes a carbon monoxide ( CO ) alarm work expires in only 6 years.

Companies that have updated smoke alarms with new technology and higher selling points have started combining carbon monoxide alarms with smoke alarms.

The combination Smoke and CO alarm looks great on the shelf as a simple solution and is less things to mount and check in a unit at first glance. The problem with this is the combination of technology that has different expiration periods. You will need to replace the combination Smoke / CO alarm every 6 years rather than every 10! That is almost half the life of the smoke alarm.

I see a similar problem happening in the area of lighting. LED ( light-emitting diode )lights are very popular now. California Title 24 requires certain levels of efficiency in new windows, lights, heaters, and water heaters.

Energy efficiency is great, and I love that there are simple dome lights that I can put up in an apartment that the tenant will never have to worry about changing a bulb in. The LED lights do not contain mercury like fluorescent and compact florescent ( CFL ) lights.

Many LED lights for exterior use have photocells built into them. Manufacturers compete on price and it is unlikely that top of the line photocells are being combined with technology that is supposed to have 10 to 20 years of life.

This isn't an off the cuff thought, I had a lighting distributor warn me about purchasing lights with photocells built into them for that reason.

I try to avoid putting in things that combine multiple technologies for this reason. Your equipment ends up being at the mercy of the part that has the shortest lifespan that is built into it.

Keep smoke and CO alarms separate.

Keep your lights and photocells separate as well. This will keep your equipment costs down.

Don't forget to check those dates on the alarms during your annual inspection.

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