Keep your vacation home and your rental guests safe with the proper use of smoke detectors.

The Insider's Guide to Renting Your Vacation Home

Free Rental Guide!

Learn what it takes to rent your vacation home and maximize your rental income.

Free Rental Guide!

Learn what it takes to rent your vacation home and maximize your rental income.

If you’re renting out your vacation home while you’re away, the safety of your property and your rental guests is a top priority. One item that’s easily overlooked but critical for accident prevention is the smoke detector. Here are a few things you’ll want to consider to make proper use of this lifesaving device.

The first thing you’ll want to check is the age of your smoke detectors. They are manufactured with an expiration date and typically require replacement every 8-10 years.

There are two primary kinds of smoke detector sensors: ionization and photoelectric. You can click here to learn more about the differences. The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) has recommended the use of photoelectric smoke detectors. According to the IAFF:

Research has demonstrated that photoelectric smoke alarms are more effective at warning of smoke from smoldering fires than ionization smoke alarms. With earlier warning, people have more time to escape a burning structure and call 911 sooner. Photoelectric smoke alarms also are less susceptible to nuisance alarms. To prevent nuisance alarms, citizens often disable smoke alarms, placing themselves, others in a home or building and fire fighters at greater risk.

Photoelectric smoke alarms contain a light source and a light-sensitive electric cell. Smoke entering the detector deflects light onto the light-sensitive electric cell, triggering the alarm. These alarms are more sensitive to large particles given off during smoldering fires — the kind of fires that typically occur at night when people are asleep.

Ionization smoke alarms have a small amount of radioactive material, and establish a small electric current between two metal plates, which sound an alarm when disrupted by smoke entering the chamber. But the technology leads to a delayed warning in smoldering fires that can lead to greater loss of life among people and fire fighters in a burning structure as a result of a more developed fire. A delayed warning during a smoldering fire, especially at night, can incapacitate people who are sleeping and lead to death as fire spreads.

Smoke detectors are not something you can just install and forget about! Remember to check the batteries frequently and replace them annually.

Also be sure that the sensor remains unobstructed. For example, if you renovate your home, drywall dust or paint can cover the sensor, rendering the smoke detector useless.

Another consideration is your rental guests’ unfamiliarity with your home. In the event of a fire, give them the best chance of survival by making sure there is a smoke detector in every bedroom, as well as every hallway leading to bedrooms. Other rooms you should where you should have a smoke detector include the furnace room, living room, and dining room. You should have smoke detectors on every level of your home, as well as at the top of stairways. It might not hurt to also leave your rental guests with a map of fire escape routes so everyone will know where to go in the event that a smoke alarm goes off.

Smoke detectors may be an easily overlooked item in your home, so be mindful of their importance. Your home and the lives of your rental guests as well as you and your family may depend on your vigilance.

Jeremy loves the northern Michigan outdoors, and his hobbies include hiking, biking, exploring, and photography.

Jared Hammond has over a decade of experience in the real estate industry including real estate sales, property management, and condominium association management. Hobbies include camping, hiking, home improvement projects, and making the finest maple syrup south of Canada.

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The Insider's Guide to Renting Your Vacation Home

FREE Rental Guide!

Learn what it takes to rent your vacation home and maximize your rental income.