Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide

smoke alarmAbout Smoke Alarms – We all understand the need to keep ourselves safe from fire, but it’s all too easy to forget to put good intentions into practise and sadly, the fire service is called out to more than 600,000 fires every year.

Carbon monoxide is equally lethal – often called ‘the silent killer’ – you can’t see it, smell it, or taste it and it’s the cause of about 50 fatalities a year, but both fire and carbon monoxide poisoning can be avoided with the right equipment.

Types of Smoke Alarms

The right smoke alarm for your home will depend on how big it is, whether it has one or more levels and where you want to place it. Models can be battery operated, wired into your mains supply, or a combination of both with the battery providing back-up if you have a power cut.

There are four main types of smoke alarm available, you can choose from:

  • Ionisation alarms – these are the most cost-effective choice. Inside the alarm is a current which is ‘tripped’ when small smoke particles make contact. These are sensitive to ‘fast fires’ that burn quickly (like those caused by paper or wood) but offer less warning against slow burning fires. These alarms are best for hallways and landings.
  • Optical alarms – as the name suggests, these ‘look’ for smoke by sending a beam to a sensor every few seconds. If there’s smoke, the light beam is broken which sets off the alarm. These are good for detecting slow burning fires and are suitable to put near (but not in) kitchens. They’re also suitable for living and bedrooms.
  • Heat alarms – these aren’t technically a smoke detector as they don’t sense smoke but detect changes in heat instead. If you wanted an alarm in the kitchen, this is the most appropriate type of detector. It’s worth knowing that coverage isn’t great with heat alarms so if you’re using one in a large room, you may need a few for it to provide an early enough warning.
  • Combined alarms – these typically combine a heat and optical alarm and are good for living and bedrooms, hallways and landings.

Smoke detectors are best placed on the ceiling, at least 30cm (12inches) away from light fittings and preferably somewhere within earshot so you’ll hear the alarm when you’re asleep. If your home is on two levels having one on the landing ceiling close to bedrooms, is ideal.

Carbon Monoxide – The Silent Killer

smoke detectorCarbon Monoxide (CO) is released when carbon fuels don’t burn properly – at home this is most commonly caused by faulty heating equipment.

Like fires, CO can be detected before it becomes lethal and a simple alarm will do the job – with some costing less than £20. You can also buy combined smoke and CO detectors giving you peace of mind and convenience.

While detectors are hugely important when it comes to alerting you to carbon monoxide, prevention should be your main priority. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend using a qualified professional for any sort of heating installation or repair to reduce the risk of faults occurring.

CO alarms often come with sealed batteries which last a number of years – up to ten in some cases. One thing to be aware of, is that it’s not always obvious when the batteries of your CO detector run out. It’s best to make a note of the day you bought and activated it, so you can test it periodically.

At home, take the time to check that appliances such as your cooker and washing machine work properly, as these are often the source of electrical fires

Poor quality electrical products can also be a hazard so read our blog post on substandard goods to make sure you don’t get caught out.

Help and expert, friendly advice

Both fire and the devastating effects of carbon monoxide can easily be prevented – simply install the right detectors and ensure you use qualified professionals when it comes to any sort of heating appliance or electrical work. At Barton Electrical we are able to supply and install Nest Protect which is able to detect both smoke and carbon monoxide, it has an industrial grade smoke sensor, can be silenced from your phone, tests itself automatically and lasts up to 10 years. This intelligent alarm can be managed from your phone, alerting you to a potential problem even when you are not home.

The Nest Protect is able to detect both fast and slow burning fires with its split-spectrum sensor using two wave lengths of light to detect smoke. It self tests itself over 400 times a day and will both alert you to a problem and will tell you what sort of problem there is, on your mobile, by audibly issuing a warning (speaker 80dB at 1 meter, siren 85dB at 3 meters) or by its coloured light ring turning red.

Connected to your phone through the Nest App, its many phone alerts include a low battery warning, smoke and carbon monoxide warnings and sensor failure. The Nest Protect can also be silenced from your phone for those “cooking accidents” that do not warrant a full scale alarm.

The alarm can be linked to the Nest Learning thermostat to automatically shut off your heating when an alarm is sounded and to the Nest Cam to trigger an emergency recording.

Of course, if you need any advice, or want to find out more about installing a mains operated smoke detector, call us on 07976 685746 or email your query to to see how we can help.