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Old 06-01-2011, 04:56 PM   #1
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smoke detector compatibility and radiation question


Hello everyone,

I was a bit surprised to see a Radioactive warning on the side of the box of the smoke detector I brought home yesterday. Apparently it uses Americium 241 in an ionization process.

I googled it and am getting conflicting reports on whether it is an issue or not. I'm leaning towards returning it and getting a photo electric detector. Even though they claim the radiation is neglible, why add even a little bit more radiation to the home.

Am I being over cautious?

Second question. It states on the box that all hard wired (with battery backup) smoke detectors in the home should be compatible. Does that mean I should change the other detector at the same time? I am not opposed to this, just asking?

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Old 06-01-2011, 06:39 PM   #2
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smoke detector compatibility and radiation question


Really nothing to worry about the radiation. Yes on changing out the other, especially if they have been in for a while.

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Old 06-01-2011, 06:55 PM   #3
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smoke detector compatibility and radiation question


You get more dangerous radiation walking around outside without sunscreen or hitting a tanning booth than you will from a smoke detector.
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Old 06-01-2011, 08:05 PM   #4
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smoke detector compatibility and radiation question


Lol, OK. Thanks guys.

And I will go pick up a second one.

Now they say hardwired detectors should be networked.

Does that mean they will be on the same circuit or is there another way they are networked? Cause I am thinking mine are not.
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Old 06-02-2011, 07:37 AM   #5
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smoke detector compatibility and radiation question


If you are worried about the smoke detector, then you don't even want to get close to your microwave, and you'll surely need to get rid of your cell phone.
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Old 06-02-2011, 08:49 AM   #6
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smoke detector compatibility and radiation question


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Originally Posted by drtbk4ever View Post
Lol, OK. Thanks guys.

And I will go pick up a second one.

Now they say hardwired detectors should be networked.

Does that mean they will be on the same circuit or is there another way they are networked? Cause I am thinking mine are not.
I think "networked" means they should all be connected together so that if one goes off, they all do. I don't know if all four of mine are powered from the same circuit, but the wiring between them is 14-3. I assume the "extra" wire is what networks them.
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Old 06-02-2011, 09:22 AM   #7
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smoke detector compatibility and radiation question


You need to be careful when disposing of an old smoke detector with an Americium 241 source. Am-241 is an alpha particle emitter. An alpha particle cannot penetrate your skin, and is generally accepted as safe PROVIDED IT IS NOT INGESTED. Unfortuately, there have been a few instances in which alpha particle sources have been pried out of sealed containers, and that of course is a total no-no. So as long as you do not tamper with your smoke detector, and dispose of it properly, there should be no issue.

The comparisons with cell phones, microwave ovens, and electric sources are interesting but misplaced. Cell phones and microwave ovens are microwave emitters, with totally different properties than alpha sources. Electrical sources have electric and magnetic fields, again totally different. The most common alpha source in your house is likely to be radon gas, which as has been discussed at length on this forum, is said to be a carcinogen by the EPA, however the level of danger posed by radon is controversial at best. Note that radon is a problem because it is breathed in (ingested), it would not be a problem if you stopped breathing.
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Old 06-02-2011, 01:16 PM   #8
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smoke detector compatibility and radiation question


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Note that radon is a problem because it is breathed in (ingested), it would not be a problem if you stopped breathing.
True, but you'd surely have other problems.
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Old 06-05-2011, 12:46 PM   #9
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smoke detector compatibility and radiation question


New interconnected smoke detectors are typically wired in a "daisy-chain" fashion (from one to the next to the next). Use 14-2 Romex to the first unit, and 14-3 between them. The 3rd conductor in the 14-3 provides the interconnection. They don't have to all be powered from the same circuit, but it's usually easiest since you're already running wires between them.

BTW - Interconnected Carbon Monoxide detectors are or will soon be required in many areas. You can avoid a lot of extra wiring by using combination-style detectors (smoke and CO in same unit).

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