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Jan Doherty

How much should smoke detectors cost?

Jan Doherty, Public Education Officer, No Phone Number Available

Tuesday, January 19, 2016 at 11:56 a.m.

How much should smoke detectors cost?

You perhaps heard local news reports indicating someone in the Spokane area was going door-to-door identifying themselves as members of the Fire Department's “safety team” and requesting permission to inspect smoke detectors and the household fire evacuation plan. Two individuals were interviewed by Spokane Police and Fire investigators. It was discovered that the purpose of the door-to-door inspections was to provide a pathway for sales of the Crossfire wireless smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detector system.

The Crossfire system has UL- listed components and typically sells for about ten times the cost of a stand-alone photoelectric smoke alarm, heat detector or carbon monoxide detector. The company claims their lithium manganese batteries will last at least 20 years. However, since codes from the National Fire Protection Association require that smoke detectors be replaced every 10 years, Crossfire offers to replace their smoke detector units every 10 years at the request of the original owner. This is similar to the guarantee of the MasterGuard photoelectric smoke detectors that were once sold in conjunction with free dinner presentations at local restaurants. Although MasterGuard photoelectric smoke alarms are no longer manufactured, they can still be serviced through Crossfire.

Crossfire feels their product is the “Rolls Royce” of detectors because there is a wireless connection that means all detectors will sound if any smoke, CO or heat detector in the system goes into alarm. Their photoelectric detector has a removable filter that can be washed to extend the lifetime efficiency of the product. The battery life of their units can go beyond 10 years. However a longer battery does not guarantee that the product itself is still able to function correctly, particularly in the case of any carbon monoxide detector. CO detector sensors have not been tested for reliability beyond five years. Crossfire installations cost between $1500 and $7000 per home.

Basic photoelectric smoke detectors with sealed-in lithium batteries that should last 10 years are readily available at most hardware stores for about $20. You can also purchase an interconnected wireless photoelectric smoke and CO alarm that is battery-operated for about $50. Heat detectors begin around $20. They are intended for spaces such as attics or garages because they are designed to protect property but are not efficient enough to protect life.

The Rolls and Ford are both cars. In terms of Underwriters Laboratory (UL), both the Crossfire and common brands of smoke alarms are tested to the same standard. 

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