Smoke alarms play a crucial role in every home’s security system. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that 57 percent of households with a deadly fire didn’t have a well-functioning smoke alarm. NFPA analysts also believe homeowners with operational smoke detectors have a 55 percent lower risk of dying in a fire.

While most homeowners know smoke alarms are essential, many aren’t familiar with standard safety protocols. For instance, where’s the best place to put a smoke detector? How often should homeowners change batteries?

Although it’s easy to forget about smoke alarms when they’re not beeping, they are one of those things everyone must add to their annual checklist.

Where Do Smoke Detectors Go…And How Many Should People Buy?

There’s no set number of smoke alarms for every home model. However, fire safety experts encourage homeowners to put smoke detectors inside and outside bedrooms. It’s also crucial to put at least one smoke detector on each floor and in high-risk areas like garages and basements.

One place it’s not ideal for a smoke detector is in the kitchen. At the very least, keep this smoke detector 10 feet from the stovetop to avoid false-positive readings. It’s also vital to keep smoke detectors away from windows as the air could delay detection.

Since smoke always rises, it’s a good idea to mount smoke detectors on the ceiling. The NFPA recommends keeping wall-mounted sensors 12 inches or less below the ceiling. Also, please never install smoke detectors in the center of a pitched roof.

Are Battery-Operated Smoke Alarms OK? 

Data from the NFPA suggests hardwired smoke alarms may have greater accuracy than battery-operated units. According to the latest data, hardwired smoke detectors caught 94 percent of large fires, while battery units had an 82 percent detection rate.

The issue many safety officials have with battery units isn’t the devices—it’s human laziness. People tend to neglect non-hardwired smoke detectors. Since batteries run out of juice roughly two times per year, there’s a greater chance they won’t be working during a fire.

However, this doesn’t mean homeowners shouldn’t get smoke detectors if they can’t use hardwired units. Battery-operated detectors will still provide superior protection in the event of a fire. However, homeowners need to be extra vigilant about checking these units.

The Texas Department of Insurance recommends changing a smoke detector’s batteries at a minimum of once per year. Some battery-operated units have automatic sensors that alert homeowners when batteries are low. If this isn’t the case, it’s a good idea to make battery changes a part of your yearly schedule.

Plan to check fire alarms on two occasions throughout the year within six months for the best results. For instance, you could check safety alarms around the Fourth of July and Christmas each year.

No matter which alarms you own, you should change them completely after about ten years.

Should Smoke Alarms Also Have CO Detection? 

A few smoke alarm models can detect carbon monoxide, but most home safety experts recommend purchasing these units separately. CO doesn’t rise like smoke, so it’s best to put CO detectors about five feet above the floor.

Don’t “Deflect” On A Smoke Detector Check! 

Smoke detectors may not play a central role in day-to-day life, but they should always be on in the background. In case of a fire, homeowners need to know these units will alert them in time to escape. Taking a few moments each year to ensure smoke alarms are functioning properly could avoid significant tragedy.