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Old 04-25-2012, 11:48 PM
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Smoke Detector-False Alarms

In the past couple months I've had a few false alarms with the smoke detector near my basement studio--at least I think this is ground zero for setting off all the detectors in the house. Its hardwired (and the back-up battery isn't the issue). Has anyone else had issues with smoke detectors near their painting area? I've read that paint fumes can set them off, though generally this is in reference to house paints and repainting entire rooms. Lately I've been using gamblin's alkyd based mediums and walnut oil, with limited solvents. My studio is moderately well ventilated (you can smell the paint, but fumes are usually gone by next morning). Any advice? Has anyone had these types of issues? Should I be concerned about my painting practices?

Thanks for any advice you can share.
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Old 04-26-2012, 12:33 AM
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Re: Smoke Detector-False Alarms

I've had problems with a hard wired smoke detector that went bad and wasn't near anything. It just went bad after about 10 years. I would replace it. What eventually happened with mine was it just wouldn't stop. They are cheap enough. I think it was $12.00 and easy to change.

Make sure it isn't a combination fire and Carbon Monoxide detector. You may have a malfunctioning heater or blocked vent if it is also in the basement. Headaches and nausea are a sign of CO poisoning. Additionally, dark purpleish red coloration at the fingernail cuticle is also a sign and usually the first place it shows. It's an old timers mechanics trick to see if you're getting a dose. It works, I have experienced the nail discoloration when I was a mechanic in the winter months.
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Last edited by Newb : 04-26-2012 at 12:44 AM.
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Old 04-26-2012, 12:39 AM
lovin art lovin art is offline
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Re: Smoke Detector-False Alarms

This is not something any of us should take lightly , ... so Im glad your concerned and asking about it ... in my paint room its never happened but then I do have a well securitied home for fire and anti theft but never had it set off yet but Ive not been in it forever either so cant really answer this , and I paint with lots of ventilation as we all should ... I am sure some one on here will have some more helpful words to offer , but I fully understand your concern...

edit :and they did above me ^^
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Last edited by lovin art : 04-26-2012 at 12:43 AM.
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Old 04-26-2012, 12:49 AM
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Re: Smoke Detector-False Alarms

Thanks for the response. I should have mention in my original post that the smoke detector is less than a year old and replaces a 10 year old one that had also started giving false alarms. I went for about 8 months without anything then, as I mentioned, it started happening again (maybe 3 in a 4 month period--not a lot, I know, but enough to make me worry about health and safety). I also have a carbon monoxide detector which gives a zero reading. I know there are about 50 other things that can set them off--from spider webs to humidity--but paint fumes could have other health implications for me and my family.
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Old 04-26-2012, 01:44 AM
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Re: Smoke Detector-False Alarms

Volatiles can set off a smoke alarm, but it takes a pretty heavy concentration, I think you would be bothered by fumes before the alarm went off. Take the suspect alarm to your local fire department, they will test it for you.
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Old 04-26-2012, 08:31 AM
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Re: Smoke Detector-False Alarms

smoke alarms are set off by particulates in the air ( presumably a PPM is built in as a trigger point ) therefore i also set mine off by using airbrushed water mixed acrylics , mine set off once when my flats air was crystal clear ( but always trust them and always test ) as the guy downstairs had left a pan on the hob

never interfere by taking batteries out or covering ( the day you don't put things back will be the day it is needed
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Old 04-26-2012, 11:57 AM
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Re: Smoke Detector-False Alarms

Sorry, but if you are seriously concerned about this ask a professional, someone knowledgeable about fire prevention, detection and alarms. I'd hate to see anyone get a false sense of security based on advice from an art forum (no offense to those who have replied to this thread). If nothing else, visit a local fire hall and ask.
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Old 04-26-2012, 11:55 PM
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Re: Smoke Detector-False Alarms

As an electrician I dont mind giving some feedback.

Fumes from solvents will not trigger a regular smokie. The above reader was correct with the particles detection. Nearly all detect a level of particulate in front of the sensor. The rest read actual temperature.

My guess instead is that something you did in the past repeatedly has coated the sensor making it dirty. Each time it reads even just a little bit more particulate it can go off. I would replace it again and look at you hobbies and think of any that may create alot of airborne dust like sanding, pottery, or making your own pigments.

It may be annoying but better that is working as intended than the other option.
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Old 04-27-2012, 12:41 AM
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Re: Smoke Detector-False Alarms

Thanks again for all your replies. I think a trip to the local fire department for a test is in order. Wraett, I have no problem replacing the detector again, but I'd like to find out what the root problem is, so this doesn't become a biannual event (likely as you and others pointed out particulates in the air set it off; I renovated the basement about a year and a half--and at least one smoke detector--ago, who knows how much that left over dust gets kicked up by the fans when I paint). Kathy, thank you for the concern, but I never intended the forum to be the final word, only a starting place, you are quite correct it would be foolish to place all my faith here. My initial worry was that I had somehow accidently built up a toxic level solvents (despite being very careful with them), I'm glad that this likely isn't the case. Other possible causes are annoying and need to be dealt with, but are much less threatening (and yes, I do have other detectors around the house, heaven forbid there is an actual fire).
Thanks again to those who responded
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Old 04-27-2012, 02:28 AM
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Re: Smoke Detector-False Alarms

Quote:
Fumes from solvents will not trigger a regular smokie.

Not to get one-uppy on this, it sounds like we are all on the same page, that is erring on the side of caution, but this is incorrect. Some vapors will set off detectors. Ammonia vapors are a notorious trigger for smoke alarms. This is something I learned as a volunteer fire fighter. Its true that particulate in the air is what detectors are supposed to detect, but they can be set off by other stuff too, such as steam, vapors, or a fouled sensor. Again, not starting a whole detector debate, just pointing out fumes can trigger.
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Old 04-27-2012, 05:03 PM
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Re: Smoke Detector-False Alarms

Quote:
Originally Posted by dirtysteev
Not to get one-uppy on this, it sounds like we are all on the same page, that is erring on the side of caution, but this is incorrect. Some vapors will set off detectors. Ammonia vapors are a notorious trigger for smoke alarms. This is something I learned as a volunteer fire fighter. Its true that particulate in the air is what detectors are supposed to detect, but they can be set off by other stuff too, such as steam, vapors, or a fouled sensor. Again, not starting a whole detector debate, just pointing out fumes can trigger.

correct the way a sensor works is by checking not only particles but also how they are electricaly charged at the core of the detection area is a radioactive particle

there are two types of smoke detector but it is best to stick with these sensitive types as the other sort isn't very sensitive and something can be well underway before they go off !!

believe it or not it may also be something totaly innocent setting it off

mine and others where i work have been set off by , steak cooking 2 rooms away , acrylic water based paint being airbrushed , steam from a shower , heat from iorning clothes ,

is it above a heat source so the hot air rising is dragging through VOCS in high percentages ???

the alarm is probably going to be ok , especialy if another was doing simmilar so i'd look at either 1 the alarms siting or 2 what you are doing near it !!
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Old 04-27-2012, 11:17 PM
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Re: Smoke Detector-False Alarms

Thanks again for your responses. Dirtysteev, while I acknowledge that solvent fumes technically can cause detectors to go off, I'm thinking this is not the most likely culprit here, since I am generally pretty careful with them and use solvents sparingly (only in the initial underpainting, really). Also I have not experienced any of the unhealthy side effects one would expect with overexposure; does this sound fair? Shadwell, I haven't really thought about the placement of the detector. It isn't over a heat source, but it is mounted underneath a boxed in heating duct, perhaps the difference in temperature between the cold air coming into the basement from opening a window when I paint and the heat radiating from the duct above the detector messes with the sensor. It doesn't explain why the detector doesn't go off every time there heat kicks on, though I guess this difference in temperature would be much less when I'm not painting and all the windows are closed.
Once again, thanks for your help.
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