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There are two kinds of smoke detectors we commonly encounter: photoelectric and ionization. You can tell the difference by looking at the label on the back of your detector. Photoelectric detectors can safely be placed in the trash after removing the battery. Ionization detectors contain a small amount of a radioactive isotope, Americium 241. Due to state regulations, the Tompkins County Recycling and Solid Waste Center is unable to accept ionization detectors. The best way to dispose of ionization detectors is to contact the manufacturer as many of them will accept the detectors for recycling. Contact information can usually be found on the back of the detector, in the user’s manual or via a quick search on the internet.
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If you think you smell natural gas (much like rotten eggs) you should immediately vacate the residence and call 911 from a safe distance. The Ithaca Fire Department will respond and investigate the odor. It is important that you do not operate and lights, equipment or anything that might cause a spark, potentially igniting the fumes.
There are three different types of smoke detectors commonly found for sale: photoelectric, ionization, and combination. Ionization detectors utilize a small amount of radioactive material to create air flow between two electric plates. When smoke is drawn into the detector it changes the flow, sending the detector into alarm. Ionization detectors tend to work best for fires that flame up quickly. Photoelectric detectors utilize a beam of light within, when smoke enters the chamber; it reflects light into a sensor, sending the detector into alarm. Photoelectric detectors tend to work best on slow smoldering fires. Combination detectors utilize both ionization and photoelectric technology in one detector.
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) suggests using both technologies in your home as you cannot predict which type of fire you may have. More information can be found on the NFPA website referenced below.
The Ithaca fire department recomends replacing your detectors at least every 10 year or sooner depending on the manufactures instructions. If you are unsure on how old your detector is a date should be printed on the back side of the detector. It is also good practice to write the date on the dectector when you install it and replace and check your batteries whenever possible.
Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are an essential component of life safety in the home. As it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, CO alarms provide the best defense against potentially deadly CO. The CO alarms should be placed on all levels of a home, especially outside of sleeping areas and by any fuel fired appliances such as gas dryers, boiler, water heaters, etc. It is important to test CO alarms as you do your smoke detectors.