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Archive for December 2018

Smoke Alarm vs. Carbon Monoxide Alarm

December 19, 2018

Smoke Alarm Detector


Statistics show that 30% of smoke alarms in North America are not maintained. Smoke alarms (also called smoke detectors) have been in widespread use since the late 1960’s and in the last few decades are required in all new homes and in some cases fire codes have required retrofitting them into homes. Recognizing smoke alarms are a requirement in a home inspection, but how do you know if yours is working?

What is the Difference between a Smoke Alarm and a Carbon Monoxide Alarm?

Both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are important life saving devices in your home, but they behave in a totally different manner.

Smoke Alarm

The primary function of a smoke alarm is to detect the early stages of a fire in the home and to alert the residents while they still have time to get out safely. The dangers of not having a smoke alarm are burns, suffocation, both leading, in the worst case scenario, to death.


Carbon Monoxide Alarm

A CO alarm measures the amount of CO gas in the home’s air and alerts residents when the levels are too high. CO is colorless, odorless and has an increasing effect on health. The health hazard of not having a CO detector is dizziness, headaches, nausea, and in the worst case scenario, convulsions, and death.

Combination Alarm

This alarm, includes both a smoke and CO detector in one device.

Where does Carbon Monoxide come from?

Carbon Monoxide is an ordinary exhaust gas from burning fuels. It is created in our homes by furnaces, boilers, and hot water tanks as well as gas ovens, car exhaust, and gas fireplaces. CO gas spreads equally in homes so alarms need to be placed on all living areas and mainly near bedrooms.

A professional home Inspector will inspect venting on utility equipment, fireplaces, and kitchen cooking equipment as well as look for an air tight seal between the house and garage. Nevertheless, not all CO defects are visible in an inspection and CO can occur at any time due to a system failure. Having a CO detector in your home is an excellent way to protect yourself and your family from this colorless and odorless gas.

Why Does My Smoke Alarm Always Go off When I’m Cooking?

There are two common types of smoke detectors.


This type of alarm uses an air ionization process to electrically measure smoke in the air. The earliest signs of fire are immediate and while this is possibly an annoyance near kitchens due to false alarms from burning food, it is a benefit near bedrooms when people need the most warning of a fire to get out safely.


This type of alarm looks for smoke hovering in the air. If you are suffering from false alarms due to cooking, replace the smoke detector with one of these alarms. Some alarms also have a silence button to silence false alarms. Never remove the battery from a smoke alarm or you risk not having a working alarm in a real fire.

Where Do I Need to Install Smoke and CO Alarms?

Codes for this vary by municipality, but smoke alarms should be at minimum on every level of the home and outside of bedrooms. idyllically, they should also be in every bedroom.

At minimum, a CO detector should be located near bedrooms yet the best recommendation is to have one on every level of the home and in each bedroom. Since the best procedure is to have both a smoke and CO alarm in all bedrooms, this is simply done with a combination smoke/CO alarm in each bedroom.

Batteries and Life Cycle Replacement

30% of smoke alarms installed in residential properties are not maintained correctly and this is primarily due to unit age and battery life.

Every 10 Years

The measurement equipment in smoke alarms deteriorates over time and as a result, and they need to be replaced every 10 years. Alarms with square 9-volt batteries should have batteries changed annually. A good way to remember this is to do it with the changing of your clocks for daylight savings time. Many newer smoke alarms have incorporated 10-year batteries which make them maintenance free as long as they are replaced every 10 years. Some smoke alarms are hard wired to the home or an alarm system so they never need batteries; Nonetheless, the alarms themselves still need changing every 10 years.

Every 7 Years

CO detection equipment last only 7 years. 

These units are generally run at power outlets which don’t need batteries changed, but there are battery operated detectors which require batteries changed about every year.

If you are having a home inspection done, your home inspector should be looking for smoke detectors at each level of the home and outside of bedrooms. Unfortunately, home inspectors cannot open alarms to confirm the alarm age or battery quality so always plan to replace batteries on move in day. In addition, check the date stamp on the equipment at that time to see if it needs replacement. CO detectors may be portable and many occupants take them when they leave. If so, buy CO detectors for your new home and install them on move in day.


Where to Mount That New TV?

December 16, 2018

With the Super Bowl fast approaching, many of you sport fans may be thinking about purchasing a new TV, especially a larger model. Prices really do drop ahead of the Big Game. Big screens run 5 to 10 percent cheaper during the week leading up to the Super Bowl than they are in the previous three months.

Whichever team you're rooting for, the Super Bowl has become a great excuse to go shopping for a new TV. Once you get that huge new TV home, you may be contemplating where to mount it.

You may seek creative ways to incorporate a TV into a space. How do you include that big box in your everyday life without it overpowering the room?

TV Mounted One

Some people have both a living room and a family room, which allows a separate space for casual TV viewing and a more formal space for sitting or entertaining. However, many households need to squeeze that television into just one main living space and a common solution among renters or homeowners is to mount the television above the mantel.

Mounting the television over the fireplace establishes one focal point instead of two, so it’s a sensible solution for that reason, since furniture can be arranged around that singular viewing zone.

One thing homeowners must plan for when mounting a television above a fireplace is the location of wiring. An electrician can assist with that and where to place the equipment and speakers and in the clever hiding of unattractive wires.


TV Mounts

A sure way to achieve balance is to closely align the size of the television screen with the size of the fireplace box. The temperature is always a concern for any television mounted above a fireplace, so take precautionary measures with framing and Sheetrock ensure the heat to the flat screen doesn’t rise above 90 degrees.

Opting for a gray frame when making a purchase is one way to help the television recede into a lighter background. Incorporating software that will project landscapes or other soothing images when it’s not in use is a clever way to make the television mimic artwork.

How big should your TV be? The answer often varies when you ask women and men. Most men prefer larger screens, especially the sports fans!

The general rule of thumb is that the distance from the television screen and your viewing spot should be between two to three times its width. Ex: with a 32” screen, sit between 5 ½ and 8 feet (96”) away for the best entertainment experience.

Winter Brings Increased Fire Dangers -- Does Your Home Pass the Fire Safety Test?

December 8, 2018


Fire House Fire

During the upcoming winter months accidental house fires remain a serious safety threat to homeowners and their families, but the main causes of home fires are clear and so are the ways to prevent them. The best way to avoid them is to first acknowledge their roots.

Cooking and Hot Oil

According to the National Fire Protection Association, unattended cooking causes 40 percent of house fires and 36 percent of fire-related injuries.

When a pot or pan overheats or splatters greases, it can take only seconds to cause a fire. It is a good idea to mount a fire extinguisher where everyone can find it in the event of a cooking fire. Never try to extinguish oil fires with water, as this will only spread the fire over walls and counter tops.

Stay in the kitchen when cooking. Even if you leave the kitchen for a short period of time, turn the stove off. Keep combustibles like oven mitts, dishtowels and paper towels away from heat sources.

Electrical and Appliances

Lighting related electrical fires can be prevented by not exceeding the maximum light bulb wattage for your lamps. Exceeding the maximum wattage may cause the light to generate too much heat, igniting the lampshade. Never place anything over a lamp, such as cloth or paper, because these can heat up and start a fire.

Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords and do not run cords under rugs or furniture. Extension cords are meant for temporary use only. If you find that you are permanently using an extension cord, have an electrician install another outlet.

If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.

Fireplaces and Wood stoves

Inspect and clean wood stove pipes and chimneys often to check for damage or obstructions. Never burn trash, paper or green wood. Use a fireplace screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.

Portable Space Heaters

These types of heaters are very dangerous because of their small size and the fact that they can be easily knocked over, or moved too close to walls, furniture or fabrics.

Keep combustible objects at least three feet away from portable heating devices. Check to make sure the portable heater has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over. Don’t use your heaters to dry shoes or clothes.

Most homeowners take the basic steps to protect against fires, but there are flammable sources in homes that are commonly overlooked. By identifying and removing these fire hazards you can effectively take steps to protect your family and property.

Smoke Alarms

Be sure the smoke alarm has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button.

Install smoke alarms following manufacturer’s instructions high on a wall or on a ceiling. Save manufacturer’s instructions for testing and maintenance.

Replace batteries in all smoke alarms at least once a year. If an alarm “chirps”, warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.

Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they are 10 year old or sooner if they do not respond properly.

Alarms that are hard-wired (and include battery backup) must be installed by a qualified electrician.

Working Fire Alarms Save Lives

December 4, 2018

Fire Alarm


Fire alarm systems are electronic devices used in commercial businesses and in some residences. These systems are designed to help minimize the number of lives lost to fire and smoke emergencies, and also to help protect property and buildings from fire damage. Fire alarms come in a variety of designs, and are installed based on the requirements of an individual building.


The need for fire alarm systems is determined by local building codes. In most residences and small commercial buildings, a system of smoke detectors is usually adequate for fire protection. For larger commercial structures, a fire alarm system is virtually always required, yet the design and scope of the system varies from region to region. During the project design phase, the project architect or mechanical engineer will review local building codes to determine compliance. If they determine that a fire alarm system is required, a system will be designed in agreement with the Standards of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). NFPA Standard 72 covers fire alarm design and installation in the US, and has been adjusted with only minimal alterations by most municipal governments.


A fire alarm system consists of a number of different components. The core of the system is the control panel, which contains monitoring and control devices that affect all other alarm components. The panel is powered by a dedicated power supply, and then supported by a backup battery power source in case of emergency. The system is triggered when a manual alarm pull is used, or when smoke or heat detectors detect signs of a fire. On activation, a system of alerts is put in motion to alert occupants of the fire. These may include strobe lights, horns, buzzers, or verbal evacuation signals.

Types of Systems

Fire alarm systems may also be manual or automatic. Manual systems are operated through the use of pull handles, which may be installed behind a sheet of protective glass to prevent tampering. Most manual systems can also be triggered manually by means of a switch or button on the panel. Automatic systems use technology to sense fire danger. They will often feature heat, smoke, or fire detectors placed on ceilings or walls. Certain detectors can even sense non-fire related emergencies, such as toxic gases or chemicals. NFPA 72 ordains how many of these detectors must be used, and where they should be placed.

Types of Alert Devices

By tradition, audio alerts were the customary type of notification device used with fire alarm systems. They featured a buzzing or ringing sound that alerted occupants to fire danger. When the American With Disabilities Act was established in 1990, fire alarm standards were changed to include both visual and audio notification. This was implemented to accommodate the nearly ten percent of Americans who are hearing impaired. Visual signals may include a red or white flashing light, and are ordinarily built into the same device as the audio speaker. Meanwhile, NFPA has discovered that typical audio alerts are becoming ineffectual. Instead of buzzers or bells, NFPA 72 now requires that voice evacuation systems are used. These devices are far more efficient for fast evacuations, and can clear a building much quicker by combining exit instructions with the conventional fire warnings.

Auxiliary Devices

When a fire alarm is triggered, the foremost response is an attempt to evacuate the building. Contingent on the location of fire, though, this is not always possible. To help protect lives and property, auxiliary devices are automatically set into action as fire alarm alerts are taking place. Initially, any smoke or fire doors that are being held open by magnetic holds are electronically released. This prompts the doors to automatically close and latch, preventing the spread of smoke or fire past these openings. After that, the alarm system motions air duct controls to the presence of smoke. When this transpires, duct dampers will shut and fans will cease operation, helping to stop the spread of smoke to occupied spaces.

Fire Alarm Inspection

Fire Alarm Systems are required by law to have a yearly inspection and testing performed (NFPA 72).

For further information, or to schedule an inspection or consultation, please contact McCurdy Electrical Services. Ph. 781-595-7074 | Em. info@mccurdyelectric.com | www.mccurdyelectric.com