Smoke alarms in basement
November 10, 2019 3:59 AM   Subscribe

I’m a first time home owner. My basement has furnace, water heater, and laundry (all gas powered) and the electrical panel. Should I put a smoke alarm in my basement? If so, how will I be able to hear it in the middle of the night? My bedroom is in the finished attic 3 floors up.
posted by Jason and Laszlo to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In my house I have battery-operated smoke alarms on each floor except the attic. I recommend that you put one on every floor including the attic. It's not only an issue of your not hearing the alarm when it goes off -- there needs to be a smoke alarm in the vicinity of every possible fire if it is to sense the fire when it first breaks out.
posted by orange swan at 4:11 AM on November 10 [5 favorites]

Yes, you need to have one in the basement. If you're worried about being able to hear it, hardwired systems can make the smoke detectors connect such that one will trigger the rest.

However, there are also wirelessly connected systems like this one where you program the location into each smoke alarm, and when it goes off a chain of smoke alarms will also go off but it'll tell you where the fire is. You'll want to study the range and likely will need to have the entire system in your house on the same type, however.
posted by Karaage at 4:17 AM on November 10 [4 favorites]

The fact that you sleep in the attic is more reason to have a smoke detector in the basement than if you slept on the ground floor. You need all the warning time to get out that you can possibly get.

The smoke detector in the basement is to prevent you from going to bed, as usual at 10 PM, after you've been to work and come home, done dishes and watched two episodes of a show. Your basement has been silently filling with smoke during this, ever since a corroded wire first melted the plastic insulation that covered it at 7 AM that morning. The charring that is producing the smoke will hit ignition point to produce actual flames three hours after your regular bed time. The downstairs smoke detectors will start going off after there have been visible flames beside the furnace and the wall for twenty minutes, but you will still make it safely out of the house, unless you have been drinking, or you took a benedryl, or you stop to grab you laptop and wallet, or look for the cat.
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:41 AM on November 10 [18 favorites]

What Jane the Brown said. Plus, they're pretty cheap ($20-$30), so not putting one downstairs isn't going to save you a lot of money or anything. It's worth the peace of mind, IMO.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 5:06 AM on November 10 [2 favorites]

The nest ones alert each other. So one upstairs near you and I e in basement. The one upstairs will talk and say "smoke(or fire etc) detected in the basement" a few times before it goes off in the traditional manner. Smart home stuff aside their detectors are really good.
posted by chasles at 5:14 AM on November 10 [2 favorites]

Forgot to add they are also co2 detectors (which you should also have), are battery powered and claim a real long battery life (wanna say 10 years?)
posted by chasles at 5:15 AM on November 10 [8 favorites]

And the CO detectors are REALLY loud - that should be near where you sleep though.
posted by leslies at 6:40 AM on November 10 [3 favorites]

I was going to say the CO detector should be in the basement, but thought I should be sure about that. Where Should I Put A Carbon Monoxide Detector?
the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) suggests in 720, 2-1.1.2* 1998 -
"A carbon monoxide alarm or detector should be centrally located outside of each separated sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms. Where bedrooms are separated and the audibility of the alarm or detector to occupants within the bedroom area could be seriously impaired, more than one unit could be needed. Each alarm or detector should be located on the wall, ceiling, or other location as specified in the installation instructions that accompany the unit."
So yeah, upstairs.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:50 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]

In addition to smoke/CO2 detectors on every level, plan for how you will evaluate from your bedroom without using the stairs, if need be. A $20 rope ladder is a reasonable hedge against burning to death in my book.
posted by Candleman at 9:58 AM on November 10

And the CO detectors are REALLY loud - that should be near where you sleep though.

i'm on the 3rd floor of a brownstone and you can hear mine out on the street, it's horrible.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:48 PM on November 10

Kidde makes wireless interconnect smoke detectors if you want to avoid the spotty long term support of google(NEST) or other IP products. You should have one SD on each level (usually in a hallway) and one in each sleeping area/bedroom that are all interconnected. They also make a combo SD/CO with wireless interconnect.
posted by Mitheral at 1:53 PM on November 10 [1 favorite]

i'm on the 3rd floor of a brownstone and you can hear mine out on the street, it's horrible.
Yes, but dying of CO poisoning or a fire is even more horrible, and exposure to CO and/or smoke can impair alertness. The CPSC and other safety organizations have done extensive studies on the effectiveness of various types and volumes of alarm sounds at waking people from sleep, and the current standards are as loud as they are for good reasons.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 2:23 PM on November 10 [3 favorites]

i'm on the 3rd floor of a brownstone and you can hear mine out on the street, it's horrible.

It's great that you can hear it out on the street. That's so that someone coming home drunk at three in the morning will hear it going off and start pounding on the door, becoming an unexpected and shaken hero who saved your downstairs neighbours. That's a feature, not a bug.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:04 AM on November 16 [1 favorite]

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