Weatherization or energy efficiency programs that visit a lot of homes often install/replace many smoke detectors to increase safety, and/or to bring homes into conformance with state law. This is a small but potentially life-saving measure, so it's good when a program can incorporate this activity.  Many homes visited are missing smoke detectors, have too few or in the wrong location, or have expired or broken ones. The low end models with 9V batteries are often installed by large programs. However when done to scale, the program cost is not insignificant in aggregate. A program installing smoke detectors in thousands of homes (often three units per home) sees the costs add up. Programs have to consider whether they can justify to funders and stakeholders the cost of installing this measure as a routine item, when it doesn't reduce energy costs, and might be considered the responsibility of building owners, not of an energy efficiency program. This general struggle to preserve dollars for energy saving measures is a frequent conflict for any program that deals with existing homes and their numerous maintenance and repair issues that compete with energy-saving improvements for priority. Installing smoke detectors has real labor costs, as well as the hassle and customer service issues associated with dragging out a ladder to screw units to painted walls, etc. In addition, callbacks can arise from a program commitment to replace non-functioning smoke detectors. Traditional low end smoke detectors that test out fine at the beginning of a job may have failed by the time the program inspector comes around months later at job end. 

 

Now some municipalities have instituted ordinances requiring long-life batteries and tamper-proof units for smoke detectors. For a modest cost differential that appears to be around $10, these better smoke detectors provide great convenience and added safety to occupants because you don't need to change the batteries for many years (theoretically up to 10 years). Can large programs consider switching to these better, longer-life units as a program default, even in regions where the laws/ordinances don't require them yet? Does anyone out there have experience doing it yet? Has bulk procurement worked well to get models that programs and home occupants find acceptable? What other tips do you have for managing costs and expectations in large-scale smoke detector installment?

Tags: Design, Detector, Program, Safety, Smoke, Weatherization

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As an FYI - Codes require them including CO for any work being done (except reroof & a handful of other items) - problem is most programs think they don't have to abide by codes / pull permits. 

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