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Smoke detectors are small devices that alert occupants of the house to the presence of smoke. They emit a shrill sound, designed to wake someone that's sleeping in the event of a fire. Smoke detectors can be battery-operated or hard-wired into your electrical system. They should be placed near bedrooms and near possible sources of fire, such as a kitchen.
Having properly installed and properly functioning smoke detectors is necessary for the safety of your family. A home inspector will check to see that you have detectors where you need them and that these devices are working properly. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that up to one-third of America's smoke detectors aren't functioning properly, most often because of a dead battery.