Has technology has made the home a less dangerous place? No doubt. Just think, for example, about how smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in residences — now mandatory in many jurisdictions — have reduced death and injury from fire and gas poisoning.
But while the first generations of home safety devices may have kept us safer, they did not get high marks for good looks. They were seen not as handsome accessories, but necessary evils – especially to detail-oriented designers. They also irritated homeowners with low-battery chirps, which always seemed to go off at 2 a.m. Sadly, some will have responded by removing the battery and forgetting that the unit is not operating. That’s a terrible idea: according to the Canadian National Fire Information Database 80 per cent of fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms, often because they are missing batteries.
More recently, monitoring CO levels has come into focus. And rightly so: Statistics Canada reports that there are more than 300 deaths and more than 200 hospitalizations annually related to carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas that can be produced by any fuel-burning device.
Despite the fact that CO alarms are the only way to detect the poisonous gas, more than a third of Canadian homes don’t have a CO detector, according to a 2017 survey conducted for First Alert, which makes a variety of home safety products, including smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers, safes, and security cameras.
Fortunately, the category has evolved in both looks and functionality. First Alert’s carbon monoxide alarm, for example, features a digital display that shows detected CO levels in parts per million. It uses an extremely accurate sensor to detect dangerous levels of CO, and emits an unignorable, high-pitched horn sound. There’s also a “peak function” feature that records highest CO level. ($58)
About the size of a cell-phone or a deck of cards, it can sit on a tabletop or dresser and look like an unobtrusive accessory — allowing it to contribute to both the home’s style and safety. While in use, it also displays ambient room temperature., which is convenient. Check out my Instagram to see how well it fit into my décor.
There’s also a 10-Year Combination Carbon Monoxide & Smoke Alarm ($60), which offers two types of protection in one unit. It has the same non-removable battery.With a low, slim profile that hugs the ceiling, it’s about half the size of standard alarms. Not only is the twist and mount design easy to install, those with high or coffered ceilings will be especially glad not to have to repeatedly climb a ladder to access the unit for battery changes.
Both models have a ten-year battery that lasts the life of the product. The tamper-proof sealed lithium battery, which can’t be removed, makes the unit more reliable and eliminates pricey battery replacements. When either product nears the end of its life, it does emit warning beeps. Hopefully not at 2 a.m. Because let’s face it – technology can’t fix everything.
Sounds like a fair trade, though, for a safer home.
NOTE TO READERS: First Alert compensated me for producing this content. They did not review it prior to posting. You can read the piece I wrote for POST Media here. I really do like the product line, and think home safety should be taken very seriously.