smoke/CO detector advice for upgrading a hardwired home

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Old 01-07-12, 12:09 AM
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smoke/CO detector advice for upgrading a hardwired home

Hi,
I have a few questions regarding smoke and CO detectors. First, some background: I have a 2 floor + finished basement house that currently has 4 hardwired and interconnected ionization smoke detectors, all beyond their useful life. There are two on the main floor (which has a wood burning fireplace insert), one in the finished basement room (isolated by wall/door from unfinished room with oil fired boiler), and one in upper floor hallway between all bedrooms. I've read Consumer Reports and see that the absolute safest approach is a combo photoelectric/ionization smoke detector which I plan to upgrade to throughout the house. But, I need to add CO detector(s) too and they don't make a 3 way combo adding in CO as well. So, here are my questions:
  1. should I hard wire & interconnect a separate CO detector alongside the smoke detector? One on each floor? Just seems like an odd look--two detectors next to each other.
  2. should I wire in smoke detectors into each of the bedrooms as well or is this a local code question?

Anything else I'm missing?

Thank you,
Brett
 
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Old 01-07-12, 06:12 AM
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As an example, why don't you use a combination CO/Smoke detector and hardwire them in? First Alert - Products - SC9120B
 
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Old 01-07-12, 07:32 AM
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I read that article too. A few of my detectors are due for replacement this year and I am wondering if they have anything in development that has all three ... and a voice alarm

I have combo ionization/CO units in the bedrooms, separate ionization and CO units in the basement service areas, and photoelectrics in the stairs and halls. Non-bedrooms have just ionization. The voice alarms seemed like a good idea, since I've had to figure out false smoke or CO in the middle of the night with everyone in a panic. But the Kidde talking ionization/CO detectors had some bad online reviews.

I have ten detector "positions" so it's going to cost me a lot to replace them all. I have Firex now, which I believe was bought by Kidde. There's not enough competition in the smoke detector business. I've read about Kidde's tactics to weaken their competitors. So I'd rather do business with somebody else, but the choices aren't out there.
 
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Old 01-07-12, 08:36 AM
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I considered the CO/smoke combo, but they only offer an ionization type smoke detector which all got the worst rating for detecting smoldering fires.
 
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Old 01-07-12, 01:27 PM
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Ionization detectors probably shouldn't even be called smoke detectors because what they detect is particles of combustion where as photoelectric type detectors detect the density of smoke. For the best protection, you should have a mix of both types. A smoldering fire has little combustion and mostly smoke. A fast burning blazing fire would have a lot of the particles of combustion. I have seen a plumbers torch set off an ionization type detector from 30 feet away within seconds of being lighted.
 
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Old 01-07-12, 03:13 PM
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So it sounds like side by side detectors are the way to go.

Still wondering about whether to add smokes to the bedrooms and how many CO detectors are recommended. Since I read here that CO has the same density as air, it seems like as long as there's a device on the main floor, it will protect us since all the sources of CO will be either on the main floor or in the basement.

Thank you all,
Brett
 
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Old 01-09-12, 05:29 PM
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Here's my take.. I'm not a big fan of the voice alarms (the idea of the thing squawking FIRE! FIRE! is a bit goofy to me, especially because they don't synchronize), but they do seem to improve on waking up kids. I remember a disturbing news report a while back that showed kids would sleep right through a standard Temporal-3 alarm going off in their room, but the voice alarms seemed to snap them awake quicker. It seems only BRK makes a combo alarm that doesn't talk.

The thing though is, even if the CO detector you put in is electrically compatible with the smoke alarms, if the CO detector goes off, it WILL NOT trigger smoke-only units on the interconnect. It will only trigger other CO detectors and combo units. (This is because the two alarms require radically different responses). So it basically defeats the purpose of the interconnected unit if you're only going to have it in the basement. Especially given the relatively non-intrusive nature of the Temporal-4 signal. Say if you are sleeping and the detector in the basement goes off, you might not hear it. This is an even bigger problem if the HVAC system is circulating the CO throughout the house.

My suggestion is to have at least one combo or stand-alone unit on each level, with at least one outside each sleeping area. Better would be to install combo units in each bedroom plus the basement, and have the rest be smoke only. Also, it would be wise to install an auxiliary relay on the interconnect which cuts power to the HVAC system if either detector goes into alarm.
 
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Old 01-10-12, 11:01 AM
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This is great info, thanks JerseyMatt. I assumed that an interconnected CO alarm would fire all devices, but it makes sense that the human responses should be different. That said, if combo (CO/smoke) alarms are triggered by an interconnected CO alarm as well, then in the end it seems the same to me, unless the tones are different.

So I'll figure out a good selection of dual smoke, smoke/CO, and CO only detectors all interconnected on the 3 floors to solve this problem.

...to be continued.
 
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Old 01-10-12, 03:03 PM
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Like I said, pretty much all combo units (with the exception of some specific BRK units) are voice. All of them do have different alarms depending on which hazard is present. For smoke, they will say "FIRE! FIRE!" followed by the Temporal-3 alarm. For CO they say "Carbon Monoxide Detected!" followed by the Temporal-4 alarm. The non-voice BRK combo units just do the two different alarm sounds and they have an LED indicator, red for smoke and yellow for CO.

Again, this is because the two alarms require very different responses. In a fire you grab the kids and the dog and run out as you are, closing everything behind you and yanking the main breaker on the way out, and call 911 from outside. Since CO alarms are designed to go off long before there are lethal effects, you can open the windows, turn off the furnace, and take the time to get dressed so as not to greet the fire dept on the front lawn in your underwear.
 
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