In part 1 of this series, we discussed the types of fire alarms and the advantages of each. Here, we’ll discuss a few essential fire safety accessories and where to place your alarms.
Alarm relay modules are great tools to link your smoke, CO, and heat alarms to auxiliary devices, such as sirens, strobe lights, door closers, exhaust fans, etc. When one of the alarms sounds, the alarm relay module activates your connected auxiliary devices. These devices are excellent for providing additional warning in the event of an emergency.
Strobe lights are another great tool for providing early warning for fire and CO dangers. Strobe lights must be connected to smoke, heat, or carbon monoxide alarms. When an alarm sounds, it activates the strobe light, giving off an intensely bright light.
Even though strobe lights are designed for those with hearing impairment, they can still be used in homes without hearing impaired individuals, especially for those who may have a hard time being woken up by fire or CO alarms. Since they are not designed to detect any fire or CO threats, these are not standalone devices.
Alright, so you’ve decided which fire alarms are right for you, but where do you put these alarms for maximum efficiency?
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) recommends you put smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. Since many fatal fires typically start late at night or early in the morning, the USFA also recommends installing alarms both inside and outside of sleeping areas. Installing alarms inside and outside is especially helpful if you have heavy sleepers in your home or sleep with the bedroom door closed.
For large houses, make sure you have more than the recommended number of fire alarms. Put these in living rooms, studies, and other non-sleeping areas. Also keep in mind that smoke and deadly gases rise, so fire alarms should be installed at proper levels. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on placement height.
For an example of fire alarm placement, check out this diagram.
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One of the most overlooked, yet vitally important safety features of any house is the smoke alarm. You’ve spent a lot of time and money turning your house into your home, filling it with irreplaceable things like wedding pictures and family heirlooms. An early warning from the right kind of alarm could help save those things, not to mention you and your family.
Protecting your home from fire and carbon monoxide threats is serious business. In this two-part series, we’ll discuss the different types of alarms, the advantages of each, the placement of alarms, and necessary fire safety accessories. First up are the types of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms available and their individual benefits.
Ionization alarms detect invisible particles produced by fast, flaming fires, usually caused by things like grease or paper, or candles too close to curtains. Ionization sensors are generally better at detecting invisible fire particles sooner than photoelectric alarms. These alarms are either battery powered or wired directly into a power source, which is a definite plus as this prevents the alarm from not functioning due to dead batteries. Many of the wire-in alarms also feature a battery backup, protecting you even during power outages. These alarms have tamper-resistant features, preventing the battery from being removed for other uses, such as for video game console controllers or TV remotes.
Photoelectric alarms can detect the large particles associated with smoldering fires, such as an electrical fire that starts in the walls, sooner than ionization sensors. Photoelectric alarms, just like ionization alarms, can either be battery powered or wired into your home’s power source and also provide battery backup. Since there are many different types of fires that can strike your home, it is recommended to install one alarm with ionization sensors and one with photoelectric sensors.
Dual Photoelectric and Ionization
Dual photoelectric and ionization alarms provide protection from fast, flaming fires and smoldering fires. These types of alarms are generally wire-in alarms and also feature a battery backup to keep protecting you during a power outage. Since there is no way to know which type of fire can strike your home, these alarms are recommended because they protect you from both types of fires..
Heat alarms detect high levels of heat, and alarm when the temperature reaches a preset level or when the unit detects a steady rise in temperature. Heat alarms are meant to supplement smoke alarms and give early warning of heat from a fire. These alarms are ideal in garages, kitchens, or other places with conditions not suitable for smoke alarms. Garages are usually not heated or cooled, so the temperatures can be below or above the alarm’s operating temperature, while smoke alarms installed too close to cooking appliances can lead to nuisance alarms. Heat alarms are generally interconnectable, meaning if one alarm is triggered, all the alarms sound, giving you enough time to safely escape.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Carbon monoxide alarms are pretty straightforward. These alarms detect dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO). What makes CO so dangerous is that it cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted, so a CO alarm is definitely recommended, especially if you have gas appliances, as these can malfunction and leak the deadly gas. Even if you don’t have gas appliances, a CO alarm is recommended if you have a fireplace, as the burning wood gives off carbon monoxide. Just like the photoelectric and ionization fire alarms, the CO alarms are generally wire-in with a battery backup.
Protecting your home from fire and carbon monoxide threats is easier than you think, and we hope we just made it easier. If you have any questions about these products or just want to share how your home is protected, drop us a comment in the box below or visit us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus!
For this week’s issue of Light Post, we’ve collected some excellent lighting stories, from a Dallas-area Christmas light tour, to some last-minute holiday lighting tips, and even a scoop on how LED lights are helping astronauts sleep. So, post up in your favorite spot and enjoy Light Post.
Farmers Branch Offering Tour of Lights
If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, check out the Tour of Lights in Farmers Branch. This drive-through event features hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights and displays. To get there from the intersection of Interstate 35E at Valley View Lane, follow the candy cane signs down William Dodson Parkway to Farmers Branch City Hall, through the DART station area and to the Farmers Branch Historical Park. What makes this event even sweeter is that it’s FREE. The Tour of Lights runs through December 1 to New Year’s Eve.
Holiday Lighting Safety Tips
These tips come all the from Wayne County, NY, but lighting safety tips are universal and will ensure you have a safe holiday season.
Make sure you inspect your lights each year before putting them on the house. Look for worn or frayed receptacles, cords, and loose connections. If you find anything out of place, replace your lights with new ones from 1000Bulbs.com.
For those who’ve seen ‘Christmas Vacation’, you know that electrical cords and cats don’t mix. Well, neither do toddlers and electrical cords. Make sure cords are out of reach of your four-legged friends and the kiddos.
The only hassle with live trees is keeping up with all the stray needles and refilling the water when your cats drink out of the tree holder. Having a live tree takes a few more safety steps. Cut the base of the tree at a 45-degree angle to allow water absorption. Also, use mini lights as they produce much less heat than regular lights and reduce the drying effect on the tree. Pesky, water-drinking cats aside, your tree will drink anywhere from a quart to a gallon of water each day, so refilling the water prevents the tree from drying out.
All of these safety tips are no replacement for checking and replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors.
LED Lights to Combat Astronaut Insomnia
Apparently sleep is tough to come by on the International Space Station. NASA flight surgeon Smith Johnston explains why: “The station is noisy, carbon dioxide is high, and you don’t have a shower (seriously?).” This is why NASA is spending $11.2 million on switching out the space station’s fluorescent lights for color-alternating LEDs. The LEDs will alternate from blue, white, and red, based upon the time of day. NASA says it plans to have the switchover completed by 2016.
LED Lighting Options Help Christmas Displays Go Green
One year, I put about 7,000 lights on my parents’ house. They liked the lights, until they got their electric bill. However, there are a lot of money-saving options like LED mini lights. LEDs are the most efficient lights you can buy, and will save you a ton in electricity costs. Powering 600 incandescent lights for six hours a day will cost about $80, while the same number of LED lights will cost only $7.
If you read last week’s article, you learned about the mercury content in compact fluorescents and just how much of a threat it can be to your health. However, you were probably left with this question: If a CFL in your home breaks, what do you do? You don’t need to call a hazmat team, but you will need to follow these 4 tips for your safety:
1. Don’t Panic
First, don’t panic. As noted in the previous article, your exposure to mercury from a broken CFL is less than that in a tuna sandwich. Though the danger of mercury exposure is minimal, use common sense: Get everyone out of the room and make sure they don’t step on the glass.
2. Close Off the Room
Next, close off the room and open the windows to let any mercury vapors ventilate. It’s also a good idea to turn off your HVAC system to avoid circulating the vapors throughout your home. The room should be safe to re-enter after about 10 minutes*.
3. Collect the Debris
Upon returning to the room, collect the debris, including broken glass, powder, and plastic from the broken lamp. Do this by scooping up the broken pieces with a stiff piece of paper. Use the sticky side of a piece of duct tape to pick up any smaller pieces remaining on the floor or stuck in carpet fibers. However, do not use a vacuum cleaner, which could excite the mercury on the floor and release it into the air.
4. Recycle or Dispose
Finally, place all materials in a sealable container such as a jar or pack it within two zipper bags. Dispose of the CFL and its container according to laws in your area. Though most areas allow CFLs to be disposed of in the garbage, the best way to dispose of a CFL, broken or intact, is by recycling. The process is simple, inexpensive, and in some areas, it’s even free. To find a recycling location near you, go to Earth911.com. For added convenience, you may prefer a postage-paid CFL recycling kit from Veolia.
Have you ever had to clean up a broken CFL? Let us know and share your thoughts in the comments below, or visit us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus!
*As recommended by the US EPA. Smaller or poorly ventilated rooms should be left unoccupied for a longer period of time.
Lighting topics don’t get much more exciting than the debate over the mercury content of compact fluorescents (CFLs). Those against the use of CFLs claim that the potential harm of toxic mercury contained within the energy-saving bulbs far outweighs any environmental benefits. On the other side, groups feel such rhetoric is overblown. But what are the facts?
Why Use Mercury in CFLs?
Mercury (Hg) is a naturally occurring element used in applications as varied as thermometers, dental fillings, and fluorescent lighting. The cathodes within a fluorescent tube produce electric current that passes through argon gas and mercury vapor. In turn, the mercury vapor emits ultraviolet light that excites the phosphor coating within the fluorescent tube, producing visible light . The technology is the same for both linear fluorescent tubes (like those seen in office buildings) and self-ballasted compact fluorescents (the “spiral” bulbs used in homes). In short, without mercury, fluorescent lights will not work.
How Much Mercury is in a CFL?
The amount of mercury contained within a CFL varies, and in general, has decreased since their introduction nearly two decades ago. As of November 2010, the US EPA’s Energy Star program concluded that the average amount of mercury within a screw-in CFL was 4 milligrams, comparable to the size of a ballpoint pen tip . This pales in comparison to older thermometers, which contain as much as 500 mg  and even amalgam dental fillings, which contain about 100 mg of mercury .
Mercury Content in Popular Items
Keep in mind, however, that the mercury contained in a CFL, thermometer, or dental filling can be present in these sources in two forms: A liquid, which is what we typically think of when we think of mercury, and a vapor that quickly dissipates. In the case of a broken CFL, the most likely form of exposure comes from inhaled mercury vapor. A paper in the August 2009 issue of the lighting journal LD+A found that the median amount of mercury vapor to which a person is exposed through a broken CFL is a tiny fraction of the total mercury contained within the bulb: Approximately 0.07 micrograms (0.0007 mg). On the other hand, a tuna fish sandwich, which contains the more hazardous methylmercury, is estimated to expose the consumer to more than 48 times that amount due to the more efficient method of consumption (literally eating the mercury) .
Who Regulates Mercury in CFLs?
Despite its relatively low concentration in CFLs, mercury is still a toxic substance. For this reason, the EPA requires that CFLs contain no more than 5 mg of mercury for consideration in their Energy Star program. The European Union and the State of California adopted even tougher regulations, requiring CFLs to contain no more than 2.5 mg of mercury by 2013 . Manufacturers, however, have made the biggest strides. A 60-watt equal, warm white Neolite CFL by Litetronics, for example, uses only 1 mg of mercury, 80% less than Energy Star requirements . Along with other major manufacturers, Sylvania voluntarily capped CFL mercury content at 4 mg, with the 13-watt DULUX EL 29409 containing only 1.5 mg .
So the question remains: Is the mercury in CFLs dangerous? It’s not an easy question to answer. Mercury is a toxic substance, yet it is unlikely that fluorescent lighting would ever expose a person to an amount of the neurotoxin sufficient to cause physiological harm. Want proof of that? Despite putting themselves in a worst-case scenario fluorescent lighting mishap, to the best of our knowledge, these two guys are still alive and well: