More cities and states are now requiring that “new smoke alarms that are solely battery powered must have a non-replaceable, non-removable battery that is capable of powering the smoke alarm for at least 10 years.” Kidde lists the following states and cities with 10-year smoke alarm laws: Oregon, California, Louisiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Maryland, Phoenix, New York City, Madison WI, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Louisville. Although many of these laws, such as California’s smoke alarm requirements, apply to dwelling units intended for human occupancy and not to mobile homes or coaches, the laws impact RVers by limiting the selection of types of smoke alarms locally available when it is time to replace a 10-year old alarm (its life expectancy).
Our 2007 Airstream Safari is now 10 years old and like clockwork, its OEM Universal Security Instruments SS-775 smoke and fire alarm installed by Airstream (seen below in upper left corner) stopped working and required replacement.
My first impulse was to replace it with the same or similar model so that it would be easier to install in its original mounting bracket. But as I did more research, I thought it would be best to comply with the growing national trend requiring 10-year sealed batteries… and would be a selling point when we sell the trailer (see CA smoke alarm law video).*
Once I decided on getting a smoke alarm with the 10-year sealed battery, I had to choose the sensor type: ionization, photoelectric, or a combination of both. See the excellent video “How do Smoke Detectors Work“.* This video explains that photoelectric sensors are better at detecting slow, smoldering, and generally smokier fires, whereas ionization sensors are better at detecting smaller amounts of smoke that come from fast flaming fires, and are more common and less expensive. Our OEM smoke detector used an ionization sensor.
I found and installed an economical, ionization smoke alarm with good reviews: Kidde i9010 model (aka Code One 10-Year Lithium Battery Smoke Alarm at Home Depot for $17.97). One of its features is that it has a Hush Button that allows nuisance alarms to be quickly silenced, as required by California’s Updated Smoke Alarm Requirements. For example, if the alarm goes off when cooking and the hush button is pushed, you have about 8 minutes of silence, permitting time to open the door, windows, and turn on exhaust fans to clear the air!
Our new smoke alarm (seen below) is about an inch wider and was placed in the same location as the OEM model.
I reused one of the original alarm ceiling holes and started a new hole with a smaller drill bit for the other screw. I used the original OEM model screws since they were shorter than the ones supplied with the new alarm (and I didn’t want to risk puncturing the exterior aluminum panel)! The mounting bracket was screwed in place and the alarm was placed on the bracket and rotated clockwise until it ratcheted in place and automatically activated as indicated by an audible beep and confirmed by pushing the test button. The sensor was tested by blowing out several votive candles under the unit, which then elicited its signature sounding of high pitched triplets.* This unit is equipped with a red LED indicator light that flashes about every 40-45 seconds in the standby mode indicating it is receiving power.
Walter Kidde founded the Walter Kidde Company in 1917 and “produced the first integrated smoke detection and carbon dioxide extinguishing system for use on board ships in 1918.” Kidde is now a division of United Technologies, “built on the pioneering innovation of our founders [such as Walter Kidde] and the industries they created.”*
*This is a link to a YouTube video.