Home alarm systems are, as we've discussed, not just about intrusion detection. Another very important role that residential security technology can play in your peace of mind is to add an additional layer of protection, in the form of fire detection.
Unlike intrusion direction, which is only "active" when your alarm system is armed, fire detection devices don't need to be turned on and off: they're on the job 24/7. Good alarm companies will recommend at least one monitored smoke and heat sensor for every system they sell, even though building codes don't require that the sensors be monitored.
In fact, fire monitoring all by itself is a major reason to have a monitored home alarm system in the first place.
- Let's say you're away when the fire happens, so you're not home to hear that non-monitored noisemaker alarm go off.
- How about if you are home – and overcome by smoke? Most fire deaths are caused not by the fire itself, but by smoke inhalation. Wouldn't you rather know that if you are overcome by smoke, help could be on the way?
- An additional advantage is that your insurance company may well offer further discounts for fire monitoring over and above the savings you'll see just from having a monitored intrusion system.
So, let's briefly recap the key benefits of adding fire monitoring to your alarm system:
- Non-monitored smoke alarms – even the extensive systems sometimes required by building codes – will never summon help. They do nothing when you are away, or if at home and overcome by smoke.
- Fire monitoring should not add a penny to your monitoring fees.
- Fire monitoring should provide you with additional home insurance discounts.
- Pets that are home alone need monitored fire protection, too!
Explaining the Smoke & Heat Sensor
The workhorse of home fire monitoring is the wireless smoke and heat sensor, and as with the other sensors we've discussed, wireless is in fact the way to go. (The good devices actually contain three separate fire detection technologies:
- Smoke Detection: using photoelectric technology to sense airborne particulate, the sensor "samples" the air. Photoelectric technology is the best for detecting smoldering fires, and is the most widely used today.
- Fixed Temperature Sensor: the standard trigger point is 135 degrees F. Once the detector senses this temperature has been reached, the alarm is activated.
- "Rate of Rise" Temperature Sensor: the sensor can determine if room temperature is increasing by more than 15 degrees F within a 60-second period. That unusual (and dangerous) "rate of rise" in temperature also triggers an alarm.
Again, the best wireless smoke & heat sensors contain all three technologies, to give you the best protection.
Smoke and heat sensors are best placed high on the wall, or on the ceiling – and as a rule, not in the "corner" where the wall and ceiling meet. I generally recommend one sensor on each floor, starting with the upper floors, and working down (since heat rises, and upstairs is usually where the bedrooms are).
As you may imagine, the kitchen is not a great location for the smoke & heat sensor. There is too much possibility of a false alarm. The same can be said for a bathroom, as the steam may be interpreted by a sensor as smoke.
Monitored Fire Detection is Best
It's great to know that if you are way from home – or if you are at home, and are overcome by smoke – that help can be on the way in minutes. That's why a monitored smoke & heat sensor is the wise choice for homeowners looking for true peace of mind. Frankly, anything else is just a noisemaker. And when it comes to alarm monitoring, remember the best systems rely on a security cellular connections, not a phone line or Internet connection: cellular is just safer.