Last week, we published a post sharing some Autumn Fire Security Tips for Your Home. In response, we’ve had some homeowners ask us how to add monitored fire detection in the first place. However, this question has more than one answer. We offer several solutions to help you monitor your home for fire and carbon-monoxide related emergencies. In this post, we share some of the many ways that we can add this invaluable security to your home.

We will begin by explaining the “basics” regarding home smoke and carbon monoxide (or “CO”) detection. This will provide a solid base of knowledge before we move forward with more specific information. From there, we will look at how homeowners can add monitored smoke and CO detection to houses under construction. Of course, if you’re house is already completed, we can still find ways to provide this security. We will also look at a couple unique ways that we can approach this task in completed homes. Now, let’s begin with a look at the technology and terminology that defines this equipment!

Scrabble pieces spelling our "Fire Safety"

The term “Fire Safety” can be used to describe a wide variety of life safety equipment.

The “Basics” of Home Fire Safety Devices

In the security industry, the term “fire safety equipment” covers quite a large set of devices. For starters, fire devices do not simply alert you to “fire.” Rather, manufacturers design this equipment to look for specific conditions. For example, most “fire” alarms activate upon sensing smoke. However, as we pointed out in our post on Life Safety Ideas Beyond Smoke Detectors, these alarms do not fit every application. Some rooms see regular smoke and fog that can create false alarms. Hallways outside of bathrooms and areas near kitchen stoves fit this description. In these cases, we use devices that sense heat, rather than smoke, before sounding an alarm.

Additionally, we also generally lump carbon monoxide-detecting devices in with “fire” devices. While carbon monoxide can certainly be present without the presence of a fire, these devices are generally installed at the same time as smoke and heat-detecting equipment. Furthermore, local fire codes determine how and where homeowners must install carbon monoxide (or “CO”)-related equipment. Due to the relative similarity in technology and their relation to fire codes, we still rank these among our grouping of “fire safety” devices.

Finally, people often use the term “alarm” and “detector” interchangeably. However, the terms actually refer to different equipment. Smoke, heat, and CO alarms produce a “local” alarm. This means that you will hear a siren upon activation of these devices. However, fire-related alarms do not connect to an alarm panel or dial out for help. On the other hand, the term “detector” refers to an alarm-connected device. Smoke, heat, and CO detectors activate your home’s alarm system. A monitored alarm will then dial out and create a fire department dispatch if necessary. Now, let’s look at how our customers building homes can set themselves up for this security from the get-go!

Building a Home with Monitored Fire Detection in Mind

Many of our customers know that they want monitored fire detection as they build their homes. In this case, we run all of the wiring necessary for these devices before wall construction. Local codes determine the placement of these devices. Our post on Residential Fire Alarm Requirements in Massachusetts explains where we need to install smoke, heat, and CO equipment based on state fire codes. We can use a blueprint or perform a site survey to map out device locations. From there, we complete our “pre-wire.” This process involves running wiring to all of the devices on the security system. Many home alarms include burglary equipment as well as fire devices. We can wire for this equipment at this point as well.

A house under construction

As a general rule, the most efficient way to create monitored fire detection is to have your house pre-wired for smoke, heat, and carbon monoxide detectors during construction.

Upon completion of the home’s construction, we return and install the devices themselves on our pre-run wiring. This process provides homeowners the tremendous security of monitored fire detection. Whenever possible, we recommend that customers have us install this security during construction. However, customers in homes without this equipment can still add it. In our next section, let’s look at how we can install monitored fire detection to existing homes.

Adding Monitored Fire Detection to an Existing Home

In many instances, customers call us to add monitored fire-related security equipment to an existing home. In these cases, we cannot usually run wiring in order to power these devices off of our alarm panel. However, we can still add this security after a house has been built. In this section, we will look at a couple ways we can do so. First, we will look at adding wireless detectors to an alarm system to create monitored fire detection. From there, we will look at a newer security product that allows us to monitor an existing high-voltage series of smoke detectors with one wireless device! Now, let’s get started with a look at wireless equipment that can monitor for fire-related emergencies.

Wireless Smoke, Heat, and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Several months ago, we created a post on Smart Security System Design. In that post, we explained the choices our customers have in choosing alarm systems. Some alarm systems require us to run wiring from an alarm panel to every single device on the system. Other alarms require us to use wireless devices that communicate back to the panel over a radio frequency. Finally, some alarms allow us to install both hardwired and wireless devices. These alarms include both an antenna for wireless communication and an electrical board for hardwired devices. For customers already living in a finished home, we always install one of the latter two types of alarm panels. Doing so allows us to install wireless smoke, heat, and carbon monoxide detectors.

These devices allow for installation in areas not accessible by wire. In houses with a complete, non-monitored system of fire alarms, we can install our wireless devices for “spot detection” in important areas of the home. For example, customers may want one monitored smoke detector on each floor of their home. This ensures that if a fire occurs in their absence, the monitored detectors will activate the alarm to call for help. Still other customers ask for other unique coverage, such as wireless CO detectors near their heating unit. The flexibility and security these devices offer make them quite popular! Next, let’s take a look at one more way we can install wireless monitored fire detection!

The Interlogix wireless Firefighter relay

A wireless relay device, such as the “Firefighter” by Interlogix, allows us to monitor an entire smoke alarm system with one easy-to-install contact.

Adding a Wireless Relay to “Listen” for Your Smoke Alarms

Houses built after the year 1975 require an “interconnected” series of smoke alarms. This term refers to connecting a home’s smoke alarms so that the activation of one alarm causes all of them to sound. In the last few years, a wireless relay has entered the security market that can detect the sound of smoke alarms. This device, generally called a “Firefighter” relay, then creates an alarm system response. In this way, we can monitor all of the smoke alarms in a home with just one wireless security contact! This relay only monitors smoke alarms, and not heat or carbon monoxide alarms. However, many of our customers use it as a building block towards creating an all-inclusive monitored fire detection system!

Putting it All Together

We hope that this post has helped you understand what adding monitored fire detection entails, and how it can add security to your home. Moreover, we encourage you to contact us with any questions you may have. We will happily offer our knowledge to help you with fire safety, or with security in general. Furthermore, we offer free site surveys to both new and existing customers alike. While on site, we can address any concerns you may have. Additionally, we can make suggestions of our own based on what we see during our visit. We will be happy to create a complete security plan for your home that fits your family’s unique security needs. Together, we can work to keep you, your most valued possessions, and your loved ones as safe and secure as possible!