Did you know there is a difference between a smoke alarm and a smoke detector? Many people use these terms interchangeably, but they function in different ways. A smoke alarm is a single device with a power supply, such as a battery, and a sensor. Smoke alarms are not typically connected to any other smoke alarm in a home. Also, a smoke alarm does not have the ability to send an automatic call to a fire department. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) defines a smoke alarm as a single or multiple station alarm that is responsive to smoke.
A smoke detector is part of a system and has a built-in sensor. An external device, such as a horn or strobe, and a power source are necessary for the smoke detector to function. Usually, the power source for a smoke detector is part of a fire alarm panel which can be connected to automatically call emergency services. Smoke detectors are part of a circuit, so when one unit is activated, all of the other units on the circuit will sound. The NFPA defines a smoke detector as a device suitable for connection to a circuit that has a sensor which responds to physical stimulus such as heat or smoke and can detect invisible particles of combustion.
With either of these types of devices, as a landlord and homeowner, it is common to see dismantled fire safety devices to due incessant beeping that always seems to happen at 2AM because the battery has reached the end of life. A new product has come out to solve this problem: the 10 year lithium battery alarm. The alarm unit is one solid piece, battery and all. These alarms are tamper free so a tenant cannot remove it and throw it out with the trash. This means you can rest easy knowing that your property has functioning alarms and reduces the risk of someone getting hurt in a house fire.
So far Oregon, California, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Indiana, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Maryland require the 10 year lithium battery, tamper free smoke alarms. It is likely that these regulations will spread to other states soon. Whether you decide to go ahead and make the adjustment to your rental home now, or if you wait until it is state mandated, we want you to know what your options are and what to expect in the future.