Every home should have proper functioning Smoke Alarm/Detectors. The required location of these devices has evolved over the years to the current standards that call for them being installed in every room that can be used for sleeping and on every floor level. In modern construction, they also have to be “hard-wired” as well as have battery back-up. They should be tested frequently and replaced every 10 years. I routinely see smoke detectors that are 20 to 30 years old that people still feel safe with, but it may very well be an imagined safety.
The reality is that the “actual” functionality of these units will vary and most likely they will continue to work long after the manufacturer’s recommendations. Welcome to the world of conservative engineering, and planned obsolescence. To protect themselves—-the manufacturers are going to be as conservative as possible when “predicting” the life of units that save people’s lives. We could call this “well justified planned obsolescence” or “CYA Engineering.”
It be nice if there was a way to easily test these units—-beside standing on a chair and pushing the test button—-or poking it with a broom handle, but unfortunately all we have to go with is the manufacturer’s recommendations. Of course they would not have any reason to want to sell us new smoke detectors—would they?
While not designed with this function in mind—–this toaster I found in a recent kitchen would also function as a smoke alarm tester.
There is no way that a toaster located under wood kitchen cabinets is ever going to be safe. Sooner or later the bottom of the cabinet will catch on fire. There was some overheating/discoloration on the bottom of these cabinets—-the occupants have gotten away with this installation for 8 years.
This unit is apparently much older than the kitchen and has been recycled from days gone by—-perhaps from the 50’s when all kinds of built-in kitchen gadgets were created. While it was an interesting idea and might be acceptable in a different location—-there may be a good reason no manufacturer seems to make these recessed wall toasters anymore.
Even a regular toaster will function as a smoke alarm tester if so desired, so don’t use them while they are still under the upper cabinets either.
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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