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Sometimes a great invention fails to hit it big simply because the financial circumstances aren’t just right — the Firelight Safety Switch is one of those potential innovations waiting in financial limbo.  When a small fire filled his son’s house with smoke, Tony Abuiso came over to assess the damage, and the idea hit him: a switch that could “hear” a smoke detector’s alarm and then turn on a light or activate an exhaust fan.

The switch can replace any household light switch.  The distinctive sound made by smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors activates internal electronics in the switch.  In case of a fire, the Safety Switch automatically turns on the lights, helping to prevent panic and facilitating a safer exit from the house. Currently the Firelight switch isn’t in production — Mr. Abuiso is looking for funding or a suitable distributor.

The Firelight Safety Switch [Official Site]
Story Of Tony And His Invention [Pocono Record]


8 Responses to Lights On With The Firelight Safety Switch

  1. Gapsard de Coligny says:

    Maybe… it’s just a bad idea… because if the fire is electrical… there is not anything to turn on anymore. Give false sense of security… Backup lighting in case of power failure or linked to the fire alarm (directly) seems a little more safe and smart…

  2. Zathrus says:

    A few issues that I see — first, the cost. Made in China at $15 ea, that’s still about 20x the shelf price (not production cost) of the average 15A contractor grade switch, or around 5x the shelf price of a good quality switch. It’s unclear what the construction quality is on the switch itself. For that money it’d be cheaper to buy smoke detectors with built-in lights. The downside being that it wouldn’t light as much area unless you have a bunch of smoke detectors, all wired together, all with lights.

    Second, the hole in the front plate just begs for children to stuff things in.

    Third, the circuit board looks kinda large; how much space does it eat up in the box? How much complication does it add to getting the wires in the box properly and safely? I know I already have enough problems with some boxes if the idiot electrician undersized them and then ran a bunch of wires in (ok, more an issue with receptacles, but I’ve had an occasional issue with switches too).

    Fourth, run a spell checker on the official website. Please.

    It’s an interesting idea; I think the receptacle version with built in lights (LED I presume; unclear how much runtime it has w/o power) is more viable though; I’d even consider buying a few. If that was combined with a night-light then it’d be an easy buy.

    Oh, and there’s the obvious question of how far away can it sense an alarm going off?

  3. Michaelk says:

    @Gapsard: So having this extra thing and having it not work is worse than only having had the smoke alarm in the first place how?

  4. SuperJdynamite says:

    There’s no word on whether these switches are code approved. Without that widespread adoption isn’t going to happen.

    I think a better idea would be to hook a few pot lights into your hard wired smoke detector circuit using a (currently uninvented) switch that detected the signal from the detectors.

  5. Perry Jones says:

    Is turning on an exhaust fan a good idea in a fire? Sure it’ll help remove smoke and improve visibility, but wouldn’t it also pull in fresh, oxygen-rich air at the same time?

    It’s an interesting idea, but I suspect you could install a home automation system with a lights-on-in-a-fire function for about the same cost.

    I agree with Zathrus that the outlet widget is probably the best stand-alone item proposed here.

  6. Sparkydave says:

    If it isn’t UL or CSA approved, then there is no chance.
    Electrical inspectors are required by the NEC to insure that UL listed or equivalent listing devices are used.
    Zathrus is right on, never enough space in those switch boxes.
    Any new home or remodel construction requires all the smoke detectors to be connected such that if one is set off they all sound off.
    I’ve seen so many electronic devices fail in my field, that I to am skeptical of reliability. Any safety devices that we install typically have a redundant failsafe type system, (industrial applications). If this fails, you would never know ,as mentioned above. As a contractor, I couldn’t recommend this one. I’d be liable if I installed it.

  7. Brau says:

    These kind of features are already quite feasible using home automation equipment like Insteon or X10 and can be had at similar prices. As an added bonus you can program these devices to operate when and how you like, as well as operate them remotely. Therefore I see little market for little more than a switch that turns on the light every time somebody’s alarmclock, watch, smoke detector or phone beeps.

  8. Bill says:

    I can only imagine the disaster of using this with a FAN. Gee, let’s see, how could we make the fire worse? Oh, I know, PULL AIR INTO THE SPACE! Sure, you’re exhausting smoke, but that means FRESH AIR is going to get pulled in to replace it. From a property damage perspective I’d think it would be better not to turn the place into a blast furnace.

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