Smoke alarms in Jacob's Island - Best Before 2007!
The smoke alarms originally fitted in each flat are mains powered, although they do also have standard 9V (PP3) batteries fitted as a backup. They are not linked to the rest of the building or the concierge in any way.
We all know that the advice is to test the alarm weekly by pressing the button, but I'm sure that most of us only do it rarely, if at all. So I was rather alarmed (!) to check mine the other day, and found that it wasn't working. Worse still, I noticed that the alarm only has a lifetime of 10 years, and the label in mine said "Replace unit by the year: 2007".
The model used (BRK 2002RACE) is now obsolete. Although it could be replaced by any mains-powered alarm (e.g. this FireAngel model available from B&Q), or a combined smoke & carbon monoxide alarm like this one, if you replace the unit with another mains-powered alarm the wiring connector and fixings will likely need to be changed as well - although it's not a difficult job (only two wires to connect, remember to switch the electricity off first!).
Thankfully, BRK do make two models which use the same mains connector, making it a 5-minute job to change over. The BRK7010LBE is slightly more expensive (£37 inc VAT and shipping), but comes with a 10 year lithum backup battery; the BRK7010BE is cheaper (£27 inc VAT and shipping) but has a standard backup battery, which should be changed every 2 years or so.
The mounting bracket for these replacement alarms is slightly smaller than the old one, but fits on top of the old one, meaning you don't have to change the ceiling fitting. If you order the units from yourhomedirect.co.uk, they will modify the bracket so that the existing screws / fixing holes can be used - when ordering online, just add a note in the "Special instructions" box at the bottom of the first page - "Please modify the mounting bracket as this is to replace a BRK2002RACE".
To remove your existing smoke detector, and check the model number
This is the original detector in place. To remove it, rotate it to the left (anticlockwise), and gently pull down. It is connected to the mains, so probably best to turn off the circuit breaker for the lights before doing this. Disconnect the connector plug - you'll need a flat screwdriver to move the plastic retaining clip which keeps the plug in place. You may find it easier to move the foam gasket out of the way by feeding it up the wires a little.
You can then remove the detector and gasket, and see the label - the "best before" date is in the warning section on the left.
To fit the new smoke alarm
The new mounting bracket (left) has been modified by yourhomedirect to add two new holes which line up with the mounting screws on the old fixing plate. Remove the two screws holding the old fixing plate into the ceiling pattress, fit the new plate over the top of the old one - it just clips in nicely - and replace the screws (if the existing screws are too short, you can use the screws supplied with the new alarm). Make sure the connector is rerouted through the gap in the plate as shown - see the pictures on yourhomedirect.co.uk site. You should then have the new bracket fitted, ready to plug in the alarm (third picture).
Connecting up and testing
Finally, plug in the new alarm, remembering to remove the plastic insulating tab from the backup battery, hold it up to the new plate, and rotate it anticlockwise to lock it in place. Switch the power back on, and you should see a steady green light. Put your fingers in your ears, and hold down the test button to check everything is OK.
Where to buy
Remember to add a note in the "special instructions" asking for the mounting plate to be modified.