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It Is Not Wise To Mix And Match Smoke Detector Ages And Brands

During a home inspection I pointed out to my client the different smoke detectors and said it is not wise to mix and match smoke detector ages and brands.

The house is only 12 years old and I found three different detectors in there.

Clearly there are three different smoke detectors here, and of different ages!

The one on the bottom is the FireX brand that is no longer made.  That is the one that I had in my house, had to replace, and was the subject of a previous post

I replaced mine with the recommended brand which you see here in the center photo.  Perhaps someone had my same experience.

When I called the manufacturer that had taken over the brand I needed to replace, they said that it is best to replace all of them with the same brand.

They suggested that detectors of the same brand are guaranteed to communicate one with another.

Smoke detectors are a wonderful invention.

When they first came out the detector would usually be placed near the bedrooms.  Perhaps only one would be in a house.

Things have changed where they were then placed on every level, and now the codes require that every level and every sleeping area be equipped with one. 

AND THE CODE NOW REQUIRES THAT THEY ARE ALL INTERCONNECTED AND CAN COMMUNICATE ONE WITH ANOTHER.  THAT WAY, IF THE FIRE IS IN THE BASEMENT THE ONES IN THE BEDROOMS WILL SOUND OFF.  AND VICE VERSA.

This is from the National Fire Protection Association: 

NFPA 72-2002 C.1 Directly-connected system smoke detectors, commonly referred to as two-wire detectors, should be listed as being electrically and functionally compatible with the control unit and the specific sub-unit or module to which they are connected.  If the detectors and the units or modules are not compatible, it is possible that, during an alarm condition, the detector's visible indicator will illuminate, but no change of state to the alarm condition will occur at the control unit.  Incompatibility can also prevent proper system operation at extremes of operating voltage, temperature, and other environmental conditions.

Here is why.  If you call them, smoke detector manufacturers will always suggest that their products be installed with detectors within their brand, of similar age and with model numbers that are stated to be compatible one with another.  What the manufacturers are worried about is that each manufacturer's unit voltage and amperage characteristics are slightly different from the others and as such these differences can cause smoke detectors to falsely report, and/or fail to operate in a timely manner, or draw too much power off the loop and keep other smoke detectors from activating.

My recommendation:  if you go to replace a smoke detector, it is probably best to replace all of them.  If the replacement detector is pretty similar in age, and is the same brand, it might be appropriate to replace just the one.  But if your detectors are older, why not go ahead and replace them all?  That way you are sure they are compatible and will communicate with each other.  And you are safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 33 commentsJay Markanich • January 16 2014 02:15AM

Comments

Well here is another example of what I go to ActiveRain for.  Great post (recommended)

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 6 years ago

Thanks James.  Information is information!  And good information is best.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Well, this was news to me! Thanks for the heads-up. Every morning I log onto Active Rain and learn at least one new thing!

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Realty) over 6 years ago

Happy to contribute to the database Nina!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Thank you, Jay. 

     My question is, how do smoke detectors "communicate with one another"?   Does that only apply to hard-wired, or does it apply to battery operated detectors?

Posted by Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker (Fred Griffin Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Jay, I cannot believe I did not know the information on smoke detectors in your post. Brand, Age, Code, Compatibility and Communication between detectors. Will definitely follow through on the advice. Thank you so much.

Posted by Jane Chaulklin-Schott, TeamConnect Luxury Homes - Orlando, Florida, 32836 (TEAMCONNECT REALTY - (407) 394-9766) over 6 years ago

Hi Jay,

At least there were detectors in your home you inspected. I had a Two story home with attached garage that was four bedroom. Only one detector and that was by the kitchen. This was  a home built in 2010. Can you say JHA?

Crazy. Your post is a very informative post for the readers. Thanks.

Have a good day in Bristow.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 6 years ago

Jay, the way you explain it certainly makes sense to me. Is there an easy way to check to see if the connectivity is functioning properly? I think pressing the "test" button only sounds the one unit...

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) over 6 years ago

Smoke alarm is only part of it...The other part is being responsive to the alarm...yes?

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 6 years ago

Jay, good advice! I will need to make a trip to Lowe's. Thanks!

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 6 years ago

Surf and turf for smoke detectors, mixed brands, mix like oil and vinegar ... got it. Now I know.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 6 years ago

Surf and turf for smoke detectors, mixed brands, mix like oil and vinegar ... got it. Now I know.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 6 years ago

This is excellent advice Jay.  I will share this with my clients.

Posted by Rosie Moore (Serving Sugar Land, Richmond, Rosenberg, Missouri City) over 6 years ago

Jay,

This information is very helpful.  It also is important to have smoke detectors communicating with one another.  Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Andrew Payne Realtor® Richmond VA Homes For Sale~804-938-5257~, Richmond, VA, Real Estate, SRES®, NAR Green (Piedmont Real Estate) over 6 years ago

That was answered in this post in December, Fred.  There is a red wire, which electricians call a "traveler," which connects all to each other.

Well, I can't believe it either Jane.  Kidding... I am glad to add to your understanding!

Clint - um, J ... H ... A?  How'd I do?  It appears they missed it!

Pressing the button they should all sound Tom.  If not there is an interruption somewhere and you have a problem.  DO NOT call Congress.  By the way, the test button proves they make a sound, but does not prove they work.

Richie - I have responded right away every time mine have gone off!  You simply cannot sleep through it!

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

It doesn't matter what brand you choose, so long as they are the same Mike.  See my post in December (linked in my answer to Fred above).

Thank you Kevin!  Good to see you on AR!  I look forward to your posts.  I will subscribe to you.  People here LOVE thermal imaging blogs, so you are the best guy I know for them.  As with most laws, the MD law is very confusing - different years, battery or no batteries, yadda, yadda.  I send my clients to the two smoke detector blogs on my website and I think they, albeit old, do cover the new MD law criteria.  I grew up in Kensington (WJ High School), so I remember MD as being hard to understand...

Andrew - surf and turf are only two of the four biggies - you forgot air and fire.  Oh, and chocolate.

I'm glad Rosie.  Share away.

It's essential Andrew.  Isn't it interesting how much things have changed even in only about 20 years?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Having hardwired smoke detectors is a great feature. I like that they can all "communicate" with each other.

Posted by Suzanne Otto, Your Montgomery County PA home stager (Six Twenty Designs) over 6 years ago

We just bought a new home which had ONE in the entire house. (The seller doesn't have to do a code upgrade here in the Richmond VA area as it is grandfathered in.) My husband and I just went and bought 6 new ones of the same brand. They are not the hardwired kind so can they still "talk" to each other? Now I am wondering if I should be hiring an electrician to hard wire them all in like I had at my last home. (Daughter of a fireman...I don't mess with this stuff)

Posted by Shannon Milligan, Richmond VA Real Estate Agent/Associate Broker, RVA Home Team - Winning with Integrity. (RVA Home Team) over 6 years ago

Smoke alarms do not need to be hard wired.  They are expensive but work well.  A signal is transmitted one to another.  Smoldering fires were not detected by the old style smoke alarms.

Posted by Dwight Puntigan, Dwight Puntigan (DRP Realty, LLC) over 6 years ago

That communication is the important part Suzanne.  And that they have a battery back up.

Shannon - sounds like you have an older house.  You would have to create an entirely new circuit and run wiring to each level and bedroom to locations that can be interconnected.  That is difficult and expensive.  Why not try the new wireless smoke detectors?  Honeywell, Kidde and First Alert all make them.  A client of mine did that and is happy.  There is, however, VERY LITTLE history to report for these, so the whole story may yet to be told.  But the professional reviews are good.

Dwight - the photoelectric detectors sense smoldering fires.  I treat the different kind of detectors in a blog here:

http://www.jaymarinspect.com/smoke-detectors.html

This wireless is photoelectric:

https://www.security.honeywell.com/hsc/products/intruder-detection-systems/life-safety/wireless-smoke-detector/

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Brilliant post, Jay!  This blog is very useful to everybody. Thank you for sharing such useful information.

Posted by Frank Iglesias, Atlanta, GA Real Estate Investor (Working With Houses, LLC - Atlanta Real Estate Investments) over 6 years ago

Thanks Frank.  Glad you find the information useful!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Great advice.  I honestly never thought of that - but it makes complete sense - and such a small cost for something that could save a familes life!

Posted by James Downing - Metro DC Houses Team REALTORS®, CRS, GRI, ABR,MRP, MilRes, When Looking to Buy or Sell - Make the Right Move (Real Living | At Home) over 6 years ago

WOW, I had no idea this would be an issue.  Everyone needs to know about this for their safety.

Posted by Catherine Ulrey, Equestrian and Acreage Property Specialist (Keller Williams Capital City) over 6 years ago

James - it is a simple matter and it does make sense.  So why take the risk?

Catherine - so many posts on AR are instructive.  That's a big reason I come here, to learn.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Minimal expense for a benefit unmatched....!

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 6 years ago

So, understanding, it's unmatched when smoke detectors are matched S&D?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

This is good to know Jay, I know that I never considered changing them all when one goes bad.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 6 years ago

It really depends on the ages Tom, but generally, if they are too old, you want to do them all at once.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Even though the code here does not require the same specifications, I agree with the recommendations. Being safer is always the smart way to go, especially at this low cost level.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 6 years ago

Hi Robert!  Good to see you!  I am not sure as to the same specifications here as regards the code, but it is smart nonetheless.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

 According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there were more than 358,500 home fires per year from 2011-2015, so it is quite important to have your smoke alarms functional and as you said: updated.

Posted by Inna Ivchenko, Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA (Barcode Properties) almost 3 years ago

Yes, Inna.  Updated every 10 years - that is not only the manufacturer recommendations, but now it's the code.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 3 years ago

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