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smoke detector advice needed
Posted by: wurm
Date: January 26, 2014 10:58AM
We need to replace the smoke detectors in our house. When we had some remodeling done back in '01, the contractor installed all new ones in order to get the permit, etc. They're Firex 120-890 hardwired with battery backup. Now, more than 10 years later, it's time to replace them, and of course that model is discontinued. Firex recommends a replacement, but it doesn't get very good reviews. Frankly, pretty much every smoke alarm I've researched has several "false alarm" reviews, but that's another issue.

I don't mind continuing the research, but I'm wondering if anyone here knows whether I can replace my old Firex units with....well, anything. They're hardwired and interconnected; black, white and yellow (for interconnect only). Can I be looking at any manufacturer? I know Kidde and Firex are the same, and First Alert and BRK are the same, but is it okay to mix and match?

Also, I've learned that the photoelectric sensor type is recommended (required in MA) within 20' of kitchen or bathroom. And ionization sensor is okay for anywhere else. All of our existing old ones are the photoelectric type.

So for an extreme example, would it be possible to install two First Alert photoelectric type detectors and four Firex ionization type detectors into our existing wiring as described above? I know I probably won't be able to use the existing 3 pin connectors, but new ones come with their own connectors and all I'd have to do is rewire a connector.

What do you think? Thanks.
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Re: smoke detector advice needed
Posted by: J Marston
Date: January 26, 2014 11:13AM
I had a similar issue, but I had purchased a half dozen just before mine were discontinued, so I lucked out. Kidde smoke alarms use (often) the same wiring harness and same base across different models, so you might be able to mix older and newer models with minimal work on your part: unplug the old, plug in the new. Mixing and matching different models shouldn't be a problem, but I would start with one sample and see if it sets off the other alarms; if not, you are probably good to go.
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Re: smoke detector advice needed
Posted by: testcase
Date: January 26, 2014 11:39AM
Contact your local Fire Department and ask questions. What maker(s) / model(s) have the most false alarms? What do they buy to protect their loved ones? They have a vested interest in your house not suffering false alarms that cause them to respond needlessly. If you get reluctance in them making a recommendation, ask about public records available. Such records should show what calls they've responded to. See if there's a pattern of false alarms with particular units. Years ago, a local volunteer FD was repeatedly called out to false alarms of CO problems. ALL false alarms were from Kidde units the development builder had installed. I personally handled many of these false alarm calls (in the middle of the night) as the police usually had a faster response time. I felt so bad that all these volunteers got dragged out of bed in the middle of winter for no good reason (at least I was paid to be there). Of course, all of the families in homes with the faulty units were scared needlessly as well.

I was surprised that, after about the 10th false alarm, the FD never went after Kidde to replace all the faulty CO alarm units in the development. Even though they were a volunteer FD, it still cost thousands of tax dollars to repeatedly roll all that equipment and, volunteers can only stand so many false alarms before they decide their time is being wasted and stop volunteering.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/26/2014 11:46AM by testcase.
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Re: smoke detector advice needed
Posted by: wolfcry911
Date: January 26, 2014 12:09PM
why do you want to use the ionization? Everything after '08 requires photoelectric or dual detection and everything after '11 requires photoelectric only. Not that those apply to you, but I'd be looking at photoelectric or dual myself...

@testcase, most departments (in my area) do not track the model of detectors giving false alarms. If you ask 5 firefighters/officers what they buy to protect their house you may very well get 5 different answers. Further, we usually can not give recommendations to a specific product (or service) for liability and conflict of interest reasons. As stated, the information is not often collected and records are not going to help, not to mention that while the records are public there is a cost associated with obtaining them, and could be costly to pay for enough records to base a purchase decision on (if even possible).

For what it's worth, I protect my home and family with Kidde CO detectors



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/26/2014 12:17PM by wolfcry911.
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Re: smoke detector advice needed
Posted by: wurm
Date: January 26, 2014 02:33PM
Quote
wolfcry911
why do you want to use the ionization? Everything after '08 requires photoelectric or dual detection and everything after '11 requires photoelectric only. Not that those apply to you, but I'd be looking at photoelectric or dual myself.

Because I recently bought a four pack of the ionization before I realized that's what they were. D'oh! But irrespective of that, the house is small enough and the layout is such that each photoelectric unit will be installed less than 10' from the ionization units on each floor. That, and the fact that I've read as many complaints about false alarms with photoelectric as I have the ionization.

And I did learn after a bit more research that
if yours are hardwired together they have to be all the same manufacturer, or you risk them not operating correctly.
and
Do not ever connect the interconnect from one Brand of Smoke/CO Detector to another Brand Detector unless they list the compatibility above and/or on the installation manual. Some Detectors apply a low voltage to the interconnect wire, and some apply 110 volts to the interconnect wire. This could cause a fire and or a malfunction on all of the interconnected devices.
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Re: smoke detector advice needed
Posted by: M A V I C
Date: January 26, 2014 04:25PM
I recently put kiddie/firex ones in and they've been fine. I've had one false alarm. Also check to see if codes have changed in your area. Around here CO detectors are required near sleeping areas.

I also mixed models. Most are CO, but one isn't - it's dual smoke. It does go off when the others trigger for CO, but it doesn't say what the alarm is for like the others.




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Re: smoke detector advice needed
Posted by: wurm
Date: January 26, 2014 04:42PM
Well, I can return the four-pack of the new Firex ionization ones I bought. I've found better reviews on a photoelectric hardwired/battery backup First Alert for a few dollars more, anyway. Not so good reviews on the Firex photoelectric which would be the upgrade to our older ones.

So the question is, if I get six new First Alert photoelectric, will I be able to hook them up where my old Firex were installed. Like I say, I'm sure the connectors won't match, but black to black wires and white to white, no? The only question is that yellow interconnect wire. But the newer First Alerts have the same capability, so I'd think that should work.
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