Inexpensive Home Alarms Can Save You Money & Save Your Life

Important Alert!There are as many as five different types of alarms you can install in your home, and none of them require expensive hard wiring or monthly fees for monitoring. In fact, there are several reasons we like the idea of battery powered alarms over hard wired:

> Battery powered alarms are more affordable.
> Battery powered alarms continue to work during a power failure.
> Battery powered alarms do not have lines that can be cut by intruders.
Battery powered alarms do not involve use of an alarm service who may have employees that can hack into your system to obtain private codes. Don’t think this is a far fetched paranoid idea. I personally know someone who worked for a security company and they found he did just that.

Smoke, Fire, Explosive Gas, Carbon Monoxide, Burglar Alarms. Investing $5 to $55 per alarm can save you thousands (even hundreds of thousands) in repairs due to fires, smoke damage, or theft. They can also save your life.

Smoke alarms are required by law in all states. In some cases you may be required to hard wire smoke alarms or you may need to use models that communicate with each other across the home. You can read about laws in your state by visiting this FEMA web page.

We also suggest bookmarking this FEMA / U.S. Fire Administration website and check for alarm recalls once a year. Set a reminder on your calendar. We suggest checking for recalls on the day you change your batteries, perhaps New Years Day, or your birthday, or any other date that comes once a year and you won’t be forgetting.


SMOKE ALARMS

Everyone should have these in their home. There’s no question about that. Not only is it common sense safety, but they are required by law.

Basic-Smoke-DetectorAccording to the U.S. Fire Administration you should install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement and attic (electrical fires are common in attics). Many fatal fires begin late at night or in the early morning. For extra safety, install smoke alarms both inside and outside sleeping areas. That seems like over kill to some, but isn’t your life and your home worth the extra $15 to $25? Since smoke and many deadly gases rise, installing your smoke alarms at the proper level will provide you with the earliest warning possible. Always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions as to what position on the wall or ceiling the alarm should be placed. Don’t assume, each style of alarm may be different, especially if you have a smoke alarm that is also a carbon monoxide or fire alarm. In standard type battery powered smoke alarms, the batteries need to be replaced at least once per year and the whole unit should be replaced every 8 to 10 years.

Additional food for thought; if you choose to go with more expensive hard wired smoke alarms you still need to install batteries for back up, those batteries still need to be replaced once a year, and the alarm itself still needs to be replaced every 8 to 10 years.

The two most popular and respected residential brands are Kidde and First Alert. You can usually find basic battery powered smoke alarms at Home Depot, Lowes, Sears, and most hardware stores. You can also use Amazon.com as a search engine to see what models and brands are available and how consumers rate them, but we suggest you check your local stores for better prices, before buying. You’ll want to buy several (depending on the size of your home, follow manufacturer recommendations) so look for the best price. Sometimes you can get a 2-pack or 3-pack special. Basic smoke alarms are inexpensive. You may be able to find Kidde or First Alert in special packs as low as $10 per alarm.

CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) ALARMS

Carbon monoxide is an invisible odorless gas that kills. It is produced from:
• Oil and gas furnaces
• Motor vehicles
• Stove/Gas range
• Gas line leaks
• Gas water heaters
• Generators
• Meat smokers 
• Gas or wood grills & bar-b-ques
• Anything that burns natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood, coal, or other fuels

Carbon-Monoxide-DetectorEvery article I’ve read on this subject says not everyone needs a carbon monoxide alarm. They say these alarms are only needed if you use anything from the list above. I respectfully disagree for two reason. First, as of now most cars pose a carbon monoxide poisoning risk and you don’t have to be in a garage with a car to be poisoned by the exhaust. We added grills, smokers and bar-b-quest to the list above because non-electric bar-b-que grills and smokers also produce deadly carbon monoxide. Exhaust from your car or grill, or a neighbors car or grill, can make it’s way into your home with just the right flow of wind through an open window or crack in a wall, attic, or crawl space. Do you want to take that chance?

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, you should install a CO detector/alarm that meets the requirements of the current UL standard 2034 or the requirements of the IAS 6-96 standard. Install a CO detector/alarm in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home. Make sure the detector cannot be covered up by furniture or draperies. You may want to consider getting a combination Smoke/CO alarm to save money, rather than buying one of each for each area.

Here are two carbon monoxide detectors that get good reviews:
First Alert CO400 Battery Powered Carbon Monoxide Alarm (about $18)
Kidde KN-COSM-B Combination Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarm w/ Talking Alarm (about $25)

We include the links to these alarms at Amazon.com mainly so you can see the alarm, see the specs, and read reviews. You can also use Amazon.com as a search engine to see what other models and brands are available and how consumers rate them. You may be able to find alarms a few dollars cheaper at Home Depot, Lowes, and other stores that sell smoke alarms. We suggest you check your local stores for better prices, before buying.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

These guidelines from the CDC can help you avoid exposing your family to carbon monoxide:
• Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
• Install a battery operated CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
• If your CO detector sounds, evacuate your home immediately and telephone 911.
• Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseated.
• Do not use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window.
• Do not run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open. We add this warning – don’t run a vehicle close to your home for long periods of time either. Remember, poison can travel through the open air into a window or other opening to your home.
• Do not burn anything in a stove or fireplace that is not vented.
• Do not heat your house with a gas oven.

EXPLOSIVE GAS ALARMS

Residential explosive gas alarms are also known as natural gas or combustible gas alarms or detectors.

Natural gas is commonly used in homes and businesses for cooking and heating. Natural gas is primarily composed of methane. Propane is also used for cooking and heating, usually by small tanks mounted on the outside of the building (home or business), inportable bar-b-ques, and mobile homes and recreational vehicles. Propane is a liquid form of natural gas. Both Propane and Methane are highly flammable chemical compounds.

San Bruno CA Gas ExplosionWe use to think of gas leaks and explosions in the United States as something that rarely happens, but unfortunately in the last few years we’ve found this is no longer a rule we can rely on. Aging homes and local infrastructures that bring gas into our homes brings increasing threats of gas leaks and explosions. The massive explosion that leveled a neighborhood in San Bruno California in September 2010 finally brought this reality to light.

If you get your natural gas from a local gas company they are supposed to provide adequate warning in the event of a gas leak. But that’s assuming they know about the leak. And even if they do, recent incidents show that even when the gas company and fire department are on the scene there still can be catastrophic explosions.

Because natural gas has no odor gas companies add a “rotten-egg” smell (mercaptan or a similar sulfur-based compound) that can be easily detected by most people. However some people who have a diminished sense of smell may not be able to rely upon this safety mechanism.

Gas Drilling (fracking) Causes Water Pipe Contamination with Gas that causes fires & explosionsEven if you don’t have natural gas or propane in your home or business your neighbor might, and a natural gas leak or explosion blocks away can be deadly. And, even if you don’t have natural gas in your home or business, if a gas company is drilling (fracking) near your home or neighborhood it is possible natural gas from under the ground can penetrate your water supply.

Add it all up – aging homes, aging infrastructure, drilling/fracking, possible inability to smell the chemical added to gas being pumped into homes and businesses, possible leaks in propane tanks or hoses, and you’re playing with fire (no pun intended).

A natural gas alarm and/or propane leak alarm can be purchased in many forms. Some are plug in, some are battery powered. You can get a battery powered alarm shaped like a pen, which is perfect for portable detection, but that’s not really practical for your home and daily life. Currently there aren’t too many stand alone battery powered gas alarms available for mounting on the wall. Most are plug in, portable, or combined with smoke and/or CO detectors. But we hope this doesn’t discourage you from getting one. Although prices can run from about $50 to over $500 we think this is a purchase every family and business owner should consider because it’s something that can save your life and help prevent a costly explosion.

For additional information visit the National Institute of Health’s website.

MTI-Gas-DetectorExplosive gas detectors are either battery-operated, or have a battery back-up system for a 110-volt electrical power supply. Often, there is a “test” button on the gas detector that will allow you to make sure that the detector’s alarm and batteries are working properly. Remember to check the batteries and the alarm regularly. Some gas detectors will warn you if there is a power loss or other malfunction. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully so that you know how and when to test your detector to make sure it is working properly.

Gas detectors use sensors to find out if there are dangerous levels of natural gas nearby. Like batteries, sensors can wear out. When purchasing a gas detector, ask about the average life of the sensor. Also ask if there is a warning to indicate when the sensor needs replacing. You also may want to know whether the sensor can be replaced if it wears out.

Pen-Gas-DetectorSome types of gas detectors must be calibrated in order to continue functioning properly. Calibration is the method by which an instrument is fine-tuned to provide accurate measurements. Ask if the gas detector model that you are buying will require this service. If the answer is “yes,” find out how often you need to have it checked, and ask for the name of the firm that can perform the calibration.

Currently, availability of battery powered home units are few and far between. Most home unites (not portable) are hard wired or must be plugged into an AC outlet. If you are on a tight budget we recommend you buy the least expensive batter powered model that has a good rating, even if it’s considered to be a portable model. The idea is to save money but not at the risk of getting something that does not do the job. Before you buy, make sure you understand how to use the model you’re interested in. You may want to consult personnel form your local fire department and/or gas company about what they recommend – keeping in mind employees of gas companies will most likely tell you that you don’t need a gas alarm because admitting you do would mean they are not doing their job or their product is faulty.

Here is one battery powered gas detector you may want to consider:
MTI Industries 40-442A-WT 12-V Flush Mount about $50 (Also good for recreational vehicles)

What to do if your gas detector alerts you to a natural gas leak:
>> Leave the house or building immediately and do not re-enter until the gas company finds the source of the leak and corrects it.
>> DO NOT make calls from your home. Phones are capable of producing a spark, which could start a fire or explosion. Contact your local gas utility company or call 911 from a phone outside and away from your home.
>> DO NOT light a match or other combustible material.
>> DO NOT turn any light switches on or off.
>> DO NOT plug or unplug electrical appliances such as a television or vacuum cleaner.

The above activities can produce a spark that could start a fire or explosion.

FIRE ALARMS

Fire Alarm Sprinkler SystemThe fire alarms you see in most commercial buildings detect heat. You’ve seen them in movies, where a character tries to set the alarm off by holding a cigarette lighter directly under a metal sprinkler head installed in the ceiling. These types of heat detect fire alarms are connected to sprinkler systems and are available for residential use (and we recommend this if you can afford it) but these types of fire alarms are not currently available as stand alone battery powered units. Battery powered fire alarms don’t detect heat in the way that commercial sprinkler systems do, instead, they detect particles in the air that come from a hot fire with lots of flames. The difference between a battery powered “fire” alarm and a battery powered smoke alarm is a smoke alarm detects a different kind of particle in the air; particles that are found in smoldering fires with lots of smoke and less flame. We feel very strongly that every home should have the kind of alarm that detects both types of particles; smoldering fires or blazing flames.

Fire & Smoke Alarm ComboWhile battery powered fire/smoke alarms are relatively new for residential use, they are available, and we personally like the idea of having both. The two most popular and respected residential brands are Kidde and First Alert. The First Alert SA302CN is a smoke and fire alarm and as of this date costs about $26.00 if purchased from Amazon.com. The Kidde PI9010 is a smoke and “fire” alarm with a bit more advanced technology over the First Alert SA302CN and currently is selling at Amazon.com for just under $20.00. The Kidde KN-COSM-XTR-B Nighthawk is a combination smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide alarm and as of this date is about $34.00 if purchased at Amazon.com. You may be able to find alarms a few dollars cheaper at Home Depot, Lowes, and other stores that sell smoke alarms.

We include the links to these alarms at Amazon.com mainly so you can see the alarm, see the specs, and read reviews. You can also use Amazon.com as a search engine to see what other models and brands are available and how consumers rate them.

We suggest you check your local stores for better prices, before buying. You’ll want to buy several (depending on the size of your home, follow manufacturer recommendations) so look for the best price. Sometimes you can get a two-pack special. All of these alarms are relatively inexpensive, considering the alternatives; expensive hard wired systems or death and destruction by fire.

INTRUSION (Burglar) ALARMS

No Code Door Sensor / AlarmMost battery powered burglar alarms work very simply. The alarm is in two pieces. When the two pieces move apart from each other, like when a door or window is opened, the alarm goes off. These alarms are usually very inexpensive, cheap enough so you can put one on every window and outer door in your home. You can even mount them to closet and basement doors or medicine cabinets to keep children from opening doors they shouldn’t open. Some models have codes to turn them on and off, others have simple switches.

For a little more money, if it’s within your budget, you can even get one with a motion sensor. But we do not recommend motion sensors if you have pets or children unless you’re willing to be woken up (or wake up your neighbors) with numerous false alarms. When considering a motion alarm, consider some apartment complexes and municipalities will issue fines for alarms that go off accidentally on too many occasions.

Wireless Motion SensorHere are a few to give you an idea of what’s available:
GE Door Alarm with Code (about $14)
GE Door Alarm with Code and no-code basic window alarm kit (about $24)
GE 45132 Choice-Alert Wireless Motion Sensor (about $19)

We include the links to these alarms at Amazon.com mainly so you can see the alarm, see the specs, and read reviews. You can also use Amazon.com as a search engine to see what other models and brands are available and how consumers rate them.

GE Coded Wireless Alarm KitWe suggest you check your local stores for better prices, before buying. You’ll want to buy several (depending on the size of your home, follow manufacturer recommendations) so look for the best price. Sometimes you can get a 5-pack or 10-pack special. Prices will range from $10 to hundreds of dollars. For a basic alert system to let you know someone is trying to open a door, window, or closet/cabinet we see no reason to spend more than $5 to $10 per entry point. The only reason you may want to invest in a wired system or more expensive system, is if the person living in the home is disabled or elderly.

 

Wishing you all a safe and happy life. – Dan

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One Response to Inexpensive Home Alarms Can Save You Money & Save Your Life

  1. Rudy says:

    great reveiw thanks!