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Smoke alarms and CO detectors should be tested every month. Simply press the button and listen. (Protect your hearing, the alarm will be loud!)
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According to the NH State Fire Marshal, as well as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), "install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement." This applies to all single-family dwellings, multi-unit dwellings, and rental units.
For each individual dwelling unit (house, apartment, rental unit, etc.) CO detectors shall be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every occupiable level of the home, including the basement.
Smoke alarms and CO detector components will deteriorate over time. Smoke alarms can only be expected to work effectively within 10 years of their Date of Manufacture (DOM). Carbon Monoxide detectors can only be expected to work effectively within 7 years of their DOM. The DOM can be found printed or stamped on the back of the device itself. If the device is a smoke alarm more than 10 years old or a CO detector more than 7 years old, it must be replaced and should not be expected to function properly. Devices should also be clean of dust or cobwebs, and they should never be painted or covered with anything: cloth, plastic, stickers, etc. – this could defeat their functional ability.
This one will require a little explanation, as there are several factors that may influence your choice:
Carbon Monoxide detectors are all the same on the inside, so there is less of a debate here. CO detectors are available in several different varieties, and they can have additional functionality, like explosive gas detection in addition to CO detection. They can be wall-mounted, outlet-mounted, stand-alone units, or included as part of a dual-sensor smoke and CO alarm. Heat rises, and CO is associated with heating appliances, as it is most commonly encountered as a product of incomplete combustion. Additionally, on a molecular level, CO is slightly lighter than air. The EPA recommends wall-mounted units about 5 feet from the floor. But ultimately, the best CO detector for you and your family is one that works, has fresh batteries, and that is less than 7 years from its date of manufacture.