Free Startup Idea – Friendly Smoke Detectors

As I was trying to put our daughter to bed Saturday night, an infrequent but extremely annoying thing happened: a smoke detector began to let out its *chirp* that it was in need of a fresh set of batteries. The thing would chirp, our dog would bark for 45 seconds, there would be 15 seconds of silence, and then the whole thing would happen again. Finally, after a few cycles of this I abandoned any hope of Operation Child Sleep. I put the dog in the closet and grabbed the ladder to change the batteries. It could be worse – the guy who lives in the house around the corner broke his leg in three places last summer when he fell of a chair while changing smoke detector batteries in the middle of the night.

Which got me thinking: I can’t remember the last time a smoke detector in my house needed to new batteries in the middle of the day. It always seems to happen at night, usually when everyone is asleep and in no condition to go to the garage for the ladder and a 9 volt.

So why not add a feature to smoke detectors that prevents the “middle of the night chirping noise” problem?

How about an internal clock that registers what time it is? Too complicated/expensive? Ok, how about a light sensor that knows to chirp if it senses light (a room light is on or sunlight is coming in the window) and one that stays quiet if its dark? What about a chirp that grows progressively louder starting when the battery has 10% of its life left – so it’s almost inaudible at first and SLIGHTLY increases volume every hour until it is changed? That way if it starts chirping at 2am, it might not be loud enough to notice until later the next evening when you are home from work sipping a beer and watching Sportscenter.

The tradeoff is minimal – my house has 13 smoke detectors. The odds that I will be turned in to embers because the ONE night I didn’t change the batteries my house catches on fire and the other 12 smoke detectors don’t work is a risk I’m willing to take.

Is it a huge problem that smoke detectors go off at night when they need new batteries? No, but it is a problem that is solvable that would make people a little happier, even if they never knew it.

So have at it…

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