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It is a small round usually white or off-white device that mounts on the ceiling of a room. It sits silently by and monitors your house for the presense of smoke. Of course if there is a fire in your house it will produce smoke. Therefore, this cheap little device might save your life someday if used properly. Here's a handy little guide.

How much does a smoke detector cost?
About $5 to $20 plus the cost of batteries. Estimated gross cost to power 4 smoke detectors in your house for 10 years (including the original cost of the detector) is about $240-$300. Based on the cost of death it's not that expensive.

How many smoke detectors do I need?
There should be at least one detector on every floor of the house. Additional detectors will increase the chance of early detection.

Where should I place a detector?
Smoke detectors should be placed near bedrooms either on the ceiling--at least 6 to 12 inches away from wall--or on the wall, 6--12 inches down from the ceiling. This allows the detector to sense the smoke as it approaches the sleeping area. DO NOT PUT A SMOKE DETECTOR IN YOUR KITCHEN! It will be going off every time you cook or run hot steamy water. It makes people take out the batteries and distrust smoke detectors. If you must have a smoke near the kitchen place it is a hallway that leads away from the kitchen.

What maintenance do smoke detectors require?
Test the detector at least monthly by pushing the test button. Once a year clean the dust from alarm air vents with a vacuum or some canned air. Battery operated detectors should have the battery replaced each year or when the low battery warning sounds. A good tip is to replace the batteries every time the time changes for those areas that follow daylight savings time. Set your clocks and your smoke detectors every spring and fall.

Is there anything else I should do with my smoke detector?
YES! Hold practice drills with the whole family so they will know what to do if your detector ever alerts you of an emergency. Plan an escape route from your home complete with back-up plans if fire blocks your exit.