Are 10 Year Old Smoke Alarms Still Reliable?

Smoke detectors have become a necessary fixture in homes across the world. The risk of fire is ever present and therefore we need an early warning system in order alert us to this potentially fatal problem. Whilst countless lives have been saved thanks to smoke alarms, there are still issues surrounding these devices. For example, are smoke alarms still reliable after 10 years or should you replace them? When discussing how reliable smoke alarms are after a decade, there are two distinct issues at play. The first issue is the type of alarm which is being used as there are two main types to choose from. These are the older ionization type and the newer photoelectric type. Ionization smoke alarms have been popular within the UK for many years and therefore, if you have had the same alarm for over 10 years, it's very likely that it's going to be this type.

This can be a problem as ionization alarms are not seen as reliable as they once were. This is because they can only detect quick flame fires and therefore ignore other types such as slow burning fires which produce a lot of smoke. This means, by the time the alarm has gone off, your home may have already filled with toxic smoke. Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem and it comes in the form of photoelectric smoke alarms. These devices are much better at detecting smouldering fires straight away, before they become deadly. Many would argue that a device which combines these two different technologies would be ideal but this isn't always the case. Ionization devices are also prone to false alarms and can be triggered by steam or dust. Customers have another option as they can install a device which incorporates photoelectric and heat detection technology.

This means early detection of both smouldering and quick flame fires, with no false alarms. The other issue affecting fire alarms over ten years old, is the age itself. Whatever alarm you may be using, whether it's battery powered or mains powered, will deteriorate with age. Some authorities recommend testing your alarm at the ten year mark and replacing if it doesn't function properly. This is fairly obvious advice as homeowners should be testing their alarms regularly anyway and any non-functioning devices should be replaced at their earliest convenience. Many fire safety websites take a more proactive approach and recommend that all alarms should be replaced at the ten year mark, whether they are malfunctioning or not.

This opinion isn't just based on an assumption of deterioration over time, but actual evidence. For example, a piece of research undertaken in America, by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, found that after ten years, 27% of fire alarms were no longer functional. After twenty years, they found that 46% of alarms were no longer working and therefore a correlation can be observed. With this in mind, the advice is that it's better to air on the side of caution rather than risking a faulty device and the disaster that it could cause. Fire alarms do not just protect us, they also provide peace of mind and this isn't something you can put a price on. Whatever alarm you may be using, and however old it may be, ensure that you test it regularly and replace the batteries whenever necessary. This could mean the difference between life and death.