Smoke Detectors – A Rant
[With Apologies to Dennis Miller]
People’s lives are saved by smoke detectors every day. This is a good thing. But, how many people’s lives are inconvenienced each day because of smoke detectors?
I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but the people who design smoke detectors must be smoking something. Here’s a vital piece of your house, one that can save your life when fire threatens to destroy it, and most of them run on the same battery that powers your TV remote control. The battery powering these things has a life expectancy that is typically shorter than the people the smoke detectors are designed to protect. So, the genius engineers have worked to devise a way to warn you if your batteries are starting to die.
My house has three smoke detectors, one on each floor. About a year ago, I replaced all of them because they kept going off spontaneously for no reason. The instructions said this could happen when they get dusty. Hmmm…dust in a house? Who ever heard of that? They came with the silver eveready batteries, the kind I wouldn’t trust to power my garage door opener, but I didn’t have any other batteries on hand, so I installed them.
Well, it’s a year later, so I guess the batteries are getting a little tired. The other night, (it always happens at night!) the one on the main level started chirping to let me know the battery was low. You would think that if you were going to start to try to get someone’s attention about a low battery condition, you might chirp once every hour and after 24 hours, once every half hour, etc. No. This sucker chirps every thirty seconds. I laid there looking at my clock radio and it chirped twice for each minute that elapsed. Now, you might argue that the smoke detector needs to alert people quickly because, if the battery is dying, there’s no telling how much longer the battery might last. Great. There are only two problems with that:
First, it’s the middle of the night and I don’t have any spare nine-volts lying around. So, my choices are: Ignore it. (And not get any more sleep that night.) Get dressed, pull a baseball cap over my unruly bed-head hair, drive to the store, buy a battery and install it. (Sure, that’s going to happen.) Pull the detector down, yank the battery and throw it all on the counter until I get a new battery. Which would you do?
Second, the smoke detector IS WIRED TO MY HOUSE! So, it could chirp forever as long as the power doesn’t go out. Which begs the question, why are these batteries wearing out? My power doesn’t go out that often. Wanna know my theory? The little circuit they designed to make sure the battery isn’t dead is draining the battery! It’s the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in action!
I mean, I guess, if the battery died while it was chirping once an hour and then the power went out and then my house caught fire, I’d be vulnerable. But not nearly as vulnerable as I am with the smoke detector lying on the counter!
With all of the engineering talent we have in Taiwan, you would think someone could design a better smoke detector. I’d like to see one that has a clock and it waits until 6 PM to say, “Excuse me Mr. Whitehead, but your batteries are dying, please add them to the shopping list.” Hell, put a motion detector in and only beep when someone is around. Give it Internet access and have it e-mail me when the batteries are getting low! There has to be a better solution! Oh, and I’d like it to cost no more than $19.95.
Of course, that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.