Hard-Wired or Battery-Powered: Which Smoke Detector Is Safer?

I am one of those people whose smoke alarm works a little too well for my liking. On any given night of the week, I will be making dinner and it will go off with its obnoxiously insistent wail. I tend to take it as an insult to my cooking skills until I remember that it's an inanimate object, and an inanimate object can't insult me. (Right? Really, I'm a good cook!) Anyway, part of me is really glad that this little piece of equipment works like it is supposed to. It gives me peace of mind that if a fire does start in my home, my trusty little kitchen critic is going to do it's real job and let me know.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, smoke alarms sounded in roughly half of the home fires reported to US fire departments. Only half. There is a good chance that the other half was unaware of the fire until it had caused significant damage and perhaps injury or death. Half is not good enough!

Now here is the kicker: Nearly two thirds of the smoke alarms in home fires were battery-operated. In more than half of reported fires in which detectors did not operate, it was because they were battery-operated detectors in which the batteries were missing or disconnected, 1 in 5 because the batteries were dead. Only 7 percent were due to hardwired power source problems.

According to the same study, the death rate per 100 reported fires is twice as high in homes without working smoke alarms. That's twice as many preventable deaths, all because of a small piece of inexpensive and easily-accessible equipment. While hardwired smoke detectors are much more reliable, even a less reliable battery-powered smoke detector is better than none at all. They take only a few moments to install, and those few moments could make all the difference.

Of course ideally the failure percentage for hard-wired smoke detectors would be zero, but still the numbers don't lie: a hard wired smoke detector with a battery back-up is the smartest, safest option. Fires can break out unexpectedly, and a fire doesn't care what kind of smoke detector you have. One of the main factors to determine whether you and your home can survive a fire relatively unscathed is the effectiveness of your smoke detector. Don't you owe it to yourself and your family to make sure you are protected?

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