This is the time of the year when we're supposed to change the batteries in our smoke alarms. But what if the smoke alarm itself needs to be changed? If your smoke detector is more than 10 years old, it’s time for a new one because the sensors inside can lose sensitivity.
Consumer Reports tests smoke detectors by creating two types of common household fires. Photoelectric alarms are best at detecting smoky, slow-building fires, and ionization alarms are best at detecting fast, flaming fires.
Consumer Reports says the best type of alarms have a dual sensor and can be interconnected. These two 30-dollar models from First Alert (Model # 3120 B) and Kidde (Model # PI 2010) are top-rated. When they’re interconnected if one alarm goes off, every alarm in your house will go off as well. That will protect you from a distant fire and give you more time to get out of the house.
Some newer smoke alarms are made with lithium-ion batteries that last as long as the unit — ten years and those batteries are not replaceable. Consumer Reports says it’s a good idea to note in marker on the back of the alarm when you got it and when you should replace it.
Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website. Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org.