Musings On Smoke Alarm Batteries

The switch to Daylight Savings Time was about a month ago.  This is the traditional time to change smoke alarm batteries. Though I’m a little late, I thought it’d be a change to talk about a few questions that have come to mind.  Yes, I actually think of such things.

And since this is a few weeks past the switch, maybe it’ll remind some stragglers!

Do You Change Your Batteries Twice Per Year?

The traditional advice is that you change your batteries around the time switch.  This would mean changing them twice per year.  I’m curious how many actually do that.  And, given that they changed the dates a few years back, the times are no longer even at all.   Daylight Savings Time lasts almost eight months now.  That’s hardly even.

However, I personally don’t change ours twice per year.  I change them only once, around spring time.  All of our smoke alarms are hard wired, so the battery is a backup. Even if a battery did go bad, it would start chirping.  So far, the once per year schedule has never yielded a run down battery.  In fact, I’ve taken the batteries from smoke detectors and used them for other things, and they’ve lasted a long time.

My guess is that I could go much longer than a year on hard wired devices.  I’m not going to chance that. I’m curious how many change their batteries twice per year?

What About When There’s No Daylight Savings Time

Some places don’t observe Daylight Savings Time.  They simply don’t change their clocks in the spring or in the fall.  I guess there’s enough hype that people probably hear about it anyway.  But, I’ve also heard that there are more and more places that want to get rid of it.  What if it went away altogether? Would our built-in reminder to change batteries be put at risk?

Is Battery Changing A Business Opportunity?

It crossed my mind that there are probably many people that can’t change their batteries.  Older people or disabled people might not be comfortable or even able to change batteries. The enteprenuer in me wondered if this could be a business opportunity.

I did a few Google searches and it looks like some people do offer this, but typically alongside other services.  This makes sense, because I guess it’s pretty hard to build an entire buisness model around something that would see peak demand for only a few days per year.

Still, interesting concept.

What About Changing Smoke Alarms?

This year, I changed out most of the smoke alarms.  They say you’re supposed to change them out every ten years.  I’m guessing ours were much older than that.  We’ve lived in the house 10 years and the house was 8 years old when we moved in.  So we probably should have done this sooner.

It was a little more involved of a process. We have eight smoke alarms.  Technically, we didn’t replace all of them, as I only replaced six.  One smoke alarm was added a couple of years ago when we finished off a basement room.  Another had recently been replaced because it did go bad.  But I replaced the other six.  It has a sticker where you’re supposed to write the year it was installed.  So that’ll be a reminder for when it’s time to replace them again.

When was the last time you replaced your alarms?

Sometimes You Tear Your Hair Out

This story goes back a ways but it’s still worth sharing. My previous residence did not have smoke alarms in the bedrooms as it wasn’t code when my condo was built.  So, I’d purchased battery only alarms and kept them in the bedrooms.  I didn’t install them, they just sat around.  When I moved, I threw them into a box and forgot about them.

Fast forward several years and I could hear a smoke alarm chirping somewhere in the house.  I never took the battery out and had stashed it away in some drawer.  It took me a few days to figure that out (it was in the basement) but maybe that helps answer the question on how long a battery really lasts!


Smoke alarms might not seem like the most exciting thing, but they’re so important.  Many people die every year in house fires.  So many stories that I’ve read talk about how it was discovered that there were no working smoke alarms.   I don’t want me or anyone I know to be a victim.

If you haven’t spent the few minutes to make sure your smoke alarms work and have working batteries, please do so.  It could be the difference between life and death!

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Letting Go

Have you ever had something that you held onto that you knew you shouldn’t have?  Eventually the time came for letting go.  For me, the recent example of that was my old artificial Christmas tree.

My First Adult Christmas Thing

I had the tree in question since 1996.  That was the year I graduated from college.  So, that holiday season, I bought myself my very first tree.  It was nothing special.  It was probably around 7′ tall and fit nicely in our small apartment.

This was in the days before pre-lit trees.  The tree was in layers.  Each layer had about 7 or 8 branches that you stuck into the pole.  They were all color coded at the end so you knew which ones went where.

The tree did well for me.  It went up every single year.  For all of the years when I was single, it was my only tree.  I originally had a snowflake theme where most of my ornaments were snowmen.

There was one year after a breakup that I was not much in the holiday spirit.  I still put up the tree and put the lights on.  I just didn’t put on the ornaments.

One of the cats that I used to have was a huge fan of Christmas.  She actually got excited when the boxes came out.  During the time the tree was up, her favorite spot was to lay underneath.  When it came time to put the decorations away, she would purposefully get in the way.  I know that she loved the tree, too.

It was always a very nice tree with a good shape.  Because it went on in layers, I could always get lights on very evenly.  I would put one layer of branches on, then put the lights on, and move upward.  This was a trick my dad taught me.  It allowed lights to go on further back in the tree, which is the secret to getting lots of lights on a tree and having it look good.

Signs of Age

After we moved into our house, we got a bigger tree as our main tree in the living room.  Still, we started putting up multiple trees and this tree got relegated to the ‘second’ tree.  Then, we got a new tree for the family room and this became the ‘third tree’ that got put in the dining room.

By now, the tree was around 15 years old and was showing signs of age.  The tape on the box fell apart and had to be re-done.  A few of the branches were broken.  They had to be put towards the back.

The biggest issue was that the plastic needles started to fall off in mass quantity.  Putting up and taking down the tree literally covered the floor with needles.  In addition, one of the cats took a liking to licking up the needles.  Since they weren’t real, he’d throw up somewhere in the house.  I think he thought this was a fun game.  (It wasn’t)

The original stand that the tree came with broke.  The replacement stand never did the trick.  It held it up but the tree was always crooked one way or another.

Finally Letting Go

My wife found a deal on a new tree and convinced me it was time to let go.  We got a tree that matched another one we have.  We definitely like the way it looks.  Maybe in 10-15 years this tree will hold some nostalgia.  But for now the new tree is the one that pushed out my history.  Even though it was time to go, it was still a forlorn moment to discard the tree.

Of course the tree did give me one last smile.  After the tree was taken out of the house, I grabbed the broom and dustpan, and swept up the trail of needles that fell from the box.

Thanks for the memories, old tree.

Readers, what have you let go of lately?

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Cleaning A Glass Coffee Pot: Testing Three Methods

My coffee maker is probably seven or eight years old.  We use it primarily on weekends.  Even though we wash it out, over time it still gets yucky.  I happened to look the other day and saw that it was noticeably stained.  There were some definite areas of buildup.  Also, it just looked a little off.  Really, the entire pot looked kind of sad.  So, off it was to Google to look up ideas on cleaning a glass coffee pot.

I found three primary ideas as I browsed through the results.  I decided to give them a shot.  I basically started with the easiest, and decided to keep going until it was clean.


We use vinegar a lot.  It’s great for cleaning.  We’ve even recently switched to using it in the washing machine in place of fabric softener.

So it was no surprise that it showed up on the list.  It seemed a pretty easy solution: Mix half water and half vinegar and let it sit.

I tried it out.  I mixed things up and let it sit for about an hour.  And the results were OK.  It got rid of some of the

image from Morguefile courtesy of quicksandala

buildup.  I wiped it off and the rag came out stained.  But, there was still quite a bit left.

So on to the next test.

Salt and Ice

The next trick I saw was to fill the pot with crushed ice and add some salt along the way.  Then swirl it around and it would supposedly clean it up.

This sounded intriguing, and fun!  So I gave it a shot.

Again, it helped, but long story short, there was still quite a bit of buildup.

On to the last test.

Baking Soda

This is another common cleaning tool, so I was again, not surprised.  The method here it so sprinkle some baking soda on the stained areas and get it moist, then rub it off.

Since my coffee pot was still wet from the last attempt, I was one step ahead of the game.  I poured some in the bottom, and shook the pot around until the entire inside was covered in a thin film of powder.  It looked really cool!

I waited a bit and tried to wipe it off.  Voila!  This worked.  The coffee pot looked brand new.

My Potentially Flawed Testing Method

Now I know that I’m going to try the baking soda method first.  However, my caveat is that I’m not sure how scientific my testing was.  Is it possible that the baking soda worked because the first two tries loosened things up?  Maybe.  So, if I tried it again and it wasn’t spotless after the baking soda, then I’ll know.

I can’t wait to try it. I have a coffee pot at work that will be my next test subject.

Readers, how do you clean out your coffee pot after it builds up stains?  

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How Much Would You Replace If You Lost Everything?

Post revision: I wrote this post after seeing images of the horrifying wildfires in California.  This prompted me to think about what would happen in a similar event.  It turns out that someone in the personal finance community was right there.  They were safe but lost everything.  There’s actually a few different posts tied to this topic.  I’m honored to be among them.  See the bottom of the post for the ‘Chain Gang’ on this topic.  

There have been a lot of disasters around the world lately.  Earthquakes.  Hurricanes.  Wild fires.  In each of those tragic situations, many have lost everything.

I live in Michigan.  Many would never consider this a great destination.  Summers are beautiful but short. Because it’s practically surrounded by water, winters are often gray and slushy.

But one thing we have going for us is that we’re not a big target for any natural disasters.

  • Earthquakes – We’re not on or near any known major fault lines.
  • Hurricanes – We’re nowhere near a coastal line.  We might get a day or two of rain a few days after a hurricane fizzles out.
  • Tornadoes – While we’ve had some bad tornadoes, they’re generally not an ongoing, serious threat.
  • Wildfires – We do have a lot of trees here.  There have been instances of fires, of course, but we get enough rain to generally keep things moist enough.  Our worst droughts don’t hold a candle to anything out in California.  Another good benefit from being nearly surrounded by water, I suppose.

What If We Lost Everything?

But it still got me thinking, what happens when you lose everything?  The latest tragedy on the news is the Northern California wildfires.  The images on TV show fire taking out entire neighborhoods.  In many cases, not a thing is left standing.  There is absolutely nothing to save.

So what would you do if that happens to you?

Pretend you have something come in and take out your home and everything inside.  In the scenario, everyone comes out safe, but your stuff?  Gone.  All of it.

So, once you settle with the insurance company, what do you replace?

Nobody will put their house back together exactly as it was.  There’s no way anybody replaces things item for item.  It just doesn’t happen.

What Percentage Of Items Would You Replace?

It got me thinking.  If you lost everything, what percentage of items would you actually replace?

I don’t know if I can have a hard number, but it’s definitely less than 100%.  Let’s think about a few things.


Most people will end up replacing their house.  But in some cases, you might not.  You might not rebuild.  You could sell the lot and buy another home.  Even if you did build a home, it would likely be different.  For one, everything will be new.  You might have a different layout.  You’ll choose different finishes and fixtures.


If you lost everything, you’d need a new wardrobe.  But would you replace, piece by piece, what you had?  I know I wouldn’t.  I’d probably start off with a much smaller wardrobe to begin.  Think of your current clothes in three tiers: New, Good, Near The End.  New items would likely be replaced, as would some good items.  But right now, you probably have a lot of items that you keep but don’t wear often.  Maybe they’re near the end of their life. Perhaps they’re more reminders of something.  In any case, with shirts, pants, shorts, etc. I can almost guarantee I would have less than I do now.

Kids Stuff

We have a lot of stuff from when the kids were babies or younger than they are now.  Some we keep in case anyone else might need it.  Other items we just haven’t gone through yet.  We’ve got a whole lot of toys that can be sold or donated.  The kids would need to replace stuff they use today, but that’s it.

Bedding and Towels

Let’s face it.  When you replace bed sheets or your towels, you probably keep the old ones.  You stick them aside in case you need them for guests or emergencies.  While you’d need to replace what you use, there’s stuff you don’t that you’d skip.

Holiday Stuff

I know for a fact we wouldn’t replace all of our Christmas stuff.  One of the things I have is a Christmas village. I’ve built up the collection for years.  I love it and put it out every year.  But if we lost everything, I’m not sure I would instantly replace it.  Since many of the items were gifts, or bought at special times, replacing the whole thing piece for piece wouldn’t be the same.

Heirlooms and Other Irreplaceable Items

We’ve got some items that were passed along from family.  You simply couldn’t replace the item.  Even if you did find that exact same china set, it’s not the one your grandmother picked out and used.  The same goes with pictures (pre-digital era) and other treasures.

What Does This Mean?

Thinking about this gives me a few takeaways:

  1. I need an updated digital inventory. It’s hard to imagine going through and documenting things by the item.  But a video walkthrough would let you see much of what you lost.  This would help for insurance purposes.  It’d also help you create a list of items to replace.
  2. There’s a lot of excess. If you could live without something after you lost it, could you now?  I wouldn’t get rid of the heirlooms.  But, chances are you’re sitting on a lot of items that you wouldn’t miss.  Maybe now is your chance to reduce some clutter.
  3. It’s hard to imagine.   You live with the stuff you have.  You spend hours buying it, cleaning it, keeping it.  To imagine not having any of it is pretty hard, isn’t it?
  4. It reminds you of what’s important.  As hard as it is imagining life without your items, it’s just stuff.  I know that if something bad did happen, none of it would matter.  My wife and my kids.  That would be my list of what I’d need.  It would suck to lose everything else.  But even if you did lose everything else, guess what?  Life could still get back to normal one day.

The Chain Gang

Here are other posts.  Please give them a read.

Anchor Post: DadsDollarsDebt – Tubb’s Fire – A Sudden Evacuation19
Co-Anchor: Chief Mom Officer – A Harrowing Escape Inspires The Personal Finance Community – Beyond The Emergency Fund5
1: OthalaFehu – Cool As A Cucumber2
2: The Retirement Manifesto – Am I A Prepper?1
3: Mrs. Retire to Roots – In Case Of Emergency Follow The Plan
4: The Lady In Black – Emergency Preparedness1
5: The Green Swan – Preparing For The Worst1

6: Minafi – Minimal Hurricane Preparation3
7: A Gai Shan Life – Earthquake and disaster preparedness1
8: The Financial Journeyman – Emergency Preparation: Be Proactive1
9: John And Jane Doe – Thinking the Worst: Emergency Planning or Fighting the Last War?
10: Adventure Rich – Emergency Preparation Up North

11: Money Beagle – How Much Would You Replace If You Lost Everything?
12: Crispy Doc – Fighting Fire With FI/RE1
13: She Picks Up Pennies – How Can A Planner Be Unprepared?
14: Chronicles Of A Father-Getting Ready for a Natural Disaster
15: Rogue Dad MD- Disrupting the Equilibrium1

16: Unique Gifter-10 Ways To Help Disaster Victims
17: SomeRandomGuyOnline-Friday Blog Roundup – Emergency Preparedness Edition3
18: 99 to 1 Percent: 15 Frugal Ways To Prepare For An Emergency
19: I Dream Of FIRE – Your house is burning and you can only save 10 things – what do you choose?

Readers, have you ever thought about potentially losing everything?  If every material possession went away, how much do you think you’d replace?  What does this tell you about how much you have now?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.