Image by Pixabay via Pexels - An hourglass sand timer running down
Image by Pixabay via Pexels

In this post, we’re taking a look at stove timers for vulnerable people and an alternative that might just change your mind about hob safety. The safe use of a hob is still the responsibility of the person cooking, but do hob timers really improve hob safety? Are they really good enough for an elderly person or someone suffering from a cognitive impairment or disease such as dementia? As a carer or relative, you will likely have many concerns about hob safety and the people under your care. Hob fires are almost always caused by human error and this risk is greatly increased in elderly and disabled users. So, it’s never a bad thing to install a safety device to protect those in need and prolong their independence. Let’s look at what a hob timer is and what’s involved with using one. We’ll also show you why an alternative device provides far greater safety and value for money.

The what and how of hob timers

A hob timer is a device that is installed to an existing electric hob, or is included as part of a specific electric hob design. The unit cuts the power to the hob either when the timer runs out, or after the timer has run out and a subsequent alarm has sounded and been ignored. Some are user programmable but most are preset to a specific time limit, usually 15-60 minutes. Timers often require the user to activate them before, or in conjunction with, turning the hob on, adding an extra step before cooking can start and an extra step for the user to learn. They are also indiscriminate toward temperature so it makes no difference whether the hob is set to simmer or on full power.

So, knowing this, do you think hob timers can help with forgetfulness, loss of functional capacity, or unintentional misuse? Are they suitable for people with a mental disorder or disability that affects memory, or for an elderly person who just wants to turn the hob on and start cooking, without setting a timer first? Does a timer also present a false sense of security, encouraging you to leave the hob unattended while something is cooking, knowing that in 15 minutes it will turn itself off?

Hob Fires and Hob Timers

Image adapted from Pixabay via Pexels
Image adapted from Pixabay via Pexels

How long does it take for a hob fire to start? You might be surprised but a hob fire can start in well under 10 minutes, so timers rely on the user being present and able to turn the power off if anything goes awry before the timer runs down. This is fine if you’re simmering a soup or a casserole, but if you’re unable to react immediately to an issue with a hob on high power then the risk of a fire starting remains as high as before, regardless as to whether you have a timer fitted or not.

The fact that timers do not take into account how an incident develops can be a major problem as they are unable to react to dynamic situations and act before a fire starts. It is complete guesswork as to whether a fire will start before or after the timer runs out, and therefore whether it will leave the hob safe, or remain blind to a potentially fatal situation in full swing, unbeknown to the person it is trying to protect. It becomes a moot point if a fire starts before the timer runs out. And the risk is increased further if the pan is already hot when the timer is set. A fire could be only seconds away.

So, in practical, everyday use, a hob timer can in fact turn out to be wholly unsuitable for a vulnerable person, or anyone for that matter.

"A stove fitted with a timer is not safe enough in the home of a person with a memory disorder."

Southwest Finland Memory Association

But before we look at an alternative, let’s get a better idea of the pros and cons of a timer.

Pros and Cons of Hob Timers

A table showing the pros and cons of hob timers

The table above gives a good idea of the pros and cons of hob timers so you can more clearly decide if they are suitable for you or not. But before you make a final decision, we are about to throw a cat amongst the pigeons and show you something that is far more effective and that connects the issue of hob safety directly with the risk of fire.

Stove Guards: the Sensible Alternative

A close up of the Airis stove guard sensor by Unicook
Airis proctively avoids fires by disconnecting the power to the hob if a dangerous situation is unfolding.

It’s a little bit of a misnomer calling a stove guard an alternative to a hob timer. They both sit in the same market under the same remit of fire safety, but one of them proactively prevents fires from occurring, no matter how long you have been cooking for, and the other one – as you will have discovered above – is just a timer that may or may not actually do anything productive, or just cause an inconvenience. So a stove guard is less of an alternative, and more like the right product for the job. So, let’s have a closer look at the trick card and delve into stove guards.

Rapidly evolving hazards like hob fires aren’t interested in whether or not you have set a timer to shut off the power, but shutting off the power would prevent a fire starting if it was done in time. This is where stove guards come into play. They monitor the environment using extremely intelligent technology and an array of clever sensors. Products like Airis monitor the temperature of the pan and hob, taking into account the smoke points and flash points of oils (the temperature at which oils smoke and then ignite). They also monitor human presence at the hob to determine if the cooking has been left unattended and the risk increased.

Airis - How it Works

Using this information, Airis calculates when a risk of fire is present and alerts the user with the usual alarm. If the hob is not manually turned down or off, then it cuts the power before a fire actually starts (this could take only a minute, long before a timer would activate). So if there is a problem and the user can’t act to prevent a fire, Airis will have you covered. Airis monitors throughout cooking and responds in real time to prevent rapidly evolving hazards. It can also tell if a pan is boiling dry and act before food burns. It also meets fire prevention standard BS EN 50615. Conforming to this standard involves passing stringent tests in which the device must prevent a fire from starting.

It really does make all the difference and can prolong the valued independence of a vulnerable person.

"A stove guard is a valuable purchase. When it prevents a fire, it pays for itself many times over."

Southwest Finland Memory Association

How does Airis prevent fires?

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Airis for Those with Memory Loss

A middle-aged man in his kitchen, cleaning a frying pan with the Airis fire safety device protecting the hob in the background

Airis is perfect for people with memory disorders as it does not require any user training. There are no complicated starting procedures or extra steps for someone to learn or become frustrated with. Install it properly, and it just works. So, you can easily see that it’s not an alternative to a timer, but it’s the only thing you should be considering for hob safety. What’s more, it can be installed easily to an existing stove that is already familiar to the user.

If necessary, Airis can also alert carers or loved ones to any dangers, allowing the situation to be investigated, and ensuring repeat issues can be dealt with effectively rather than ignoring them to the detriment of the user.

But What About Cost?

You might be surprised to learn that installing Airis on your existing hob is cheaper than replacing the hob with a new one and a timer. Replacing the entire hob with one with a timer can be extremely problematic if a similar model cannot be found, meaning extensive modifications to the work surface and lower cupboards may be required if the kitchen has a separate hob. This is because most hobs with timers are 50-60cm wide and come as separate units. And that’s before you consider the true cost of a fire, the potential loss of life, lost belongings, disruption, alternative accommodation, insurance claims and premium increases, potentially moving into an assisted home or care facility, and the mental trauma from the event. So, in reality it costs even less than you think!

We have seen what a timer is and how it operates, falling far short of the mark when it comes to practical fire safety, and how a stove guard such as Airis provides proactive fire safety that actually works. We’ve also seen that Airis can be far cheaper than a replacement hob when considering the true cost of a fire. Even so, we would rather pay for an Airis ten times over, safe in the knowledge a fire will never start, rather than take a gamble with a hob timer which doesn’t conform to fire prevention standards.

If you are interested in proactive, practical fire safety then contact us or arrange a callback.

Questions about installing or retrofitting Airis?

We can call you back, or you can contact us by phone on 0208 798 3462 or click on ‘Contact Us’ to send us a message.

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Ok, so you’re now an expert on proactive vs. reactive safety and you’re here. We’ll be delving into the aftermath of David and Angie’s situations and we’ll help you stay in the loop and ahead of the game by making the most of Airis’s capabilities. Fantastic if you’re a property/building manager or a discerning relative and you want to look after your loved one more effectively to help retain their independence. Sounds good, right? To refresh your memory, we’ve included the cases again below. Let’s have a better look now.

A flow diagram comparing reactive and proactive fire safety

The Aftermath: David and Angie

David (Reactive)

Photo by SHVETS production from Pexels - A middle-aged man unpacks his food shopping
Photo by SHVETS production from Pexels

For David, if he is lucky enough to escape harm and avoid starting a fire, there won’t be any records of the incident ever occurring. If the alarm isn’t connected to a telecare system, the alarm will be reset and forgotten about.

If this happens often, it leads to complacency for wardens or building managers just rendering it an annoyance and inconvenience. The root cause of the issue isn’t addressed, and David remains at risk. This, after all, is the exact reason David has moved into sheltered accommodation, but for what benefit?

If the accommodation has robust reporting procedures and formally logs the event, that will mean lots of questions for David, lots of forms to be filed and lots of margin for human error. The data is easily inputted incorrectly and vital needs that it highlights can be ignored or overlooked. The fire service will likely be called out to check the property over, ventilate the kitchen from the thick smell of smoke, or just find everything is in order and head off to another case where a real fire may have started.

If the situation is worse and a fire has started, or if multiple near misses are recorded, David may face a cohort of strangers coming into the property, lots of smoke and fire damage, rehoming, people asking even more questions, assessing his health and competency, telling him his cooker will be disconnected for his own safety and that of the other residents.

It’s confusing and intimidating that things will be changing, and that he can no longer cook for himself. Meals will have to be arranged at a greater cost and he can’t make his favourite dishes any longer. David is now greatly unsettled and fears that even more of his independence will be taken away from him. He feels angry that he let the hob get out of control, even though he was only away from the kitchen for a few moments. It’s quite a change for David, but this situation is likely when relying on reactive equipment – we see it all the time. We know reactive safety devices do work, but they only operate after the situation has escalated too far. In a modern world, they just don’t hold up against proactive devices like Airis. They’re good failsafes but shouldn’t that be all they’re used for?

And what about Angie, is she in the same boat?

Angie (Proactive)

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels - A young woman prepares a meal in the kitchen
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

The student accommodation that Angie lives in has the benefit of being equipped with smart fire safety equipment, so she doesn’t receive all that unwanted attention and change, leaving her to concentrate on making a dent in her thesis. When she steps away from the hob for a minute, Airis’ intelligent detection algorithms notice that the heat is too high and the oil is reaching its smoke point. The alarm sounds before an issue occurs, and Angie is alerted so she can respond. She acknowledges the alarm, turns the heat down and continues to cook. Airis detects her presence and knows that everything is under control again.

Now, if Angie doesn’t respond, Airis recognises the situation is running away with itself and a fire is imminent. Airis cuts the power to the hob long before the flash point of the oil. Crisis averted – no smoke to ventilate, no building evacuations, no stress for the building/accommodation manager, no sirens down in the street, no interrogation from strangers, and no disconnections or loss of independence. Angie can reset the unit and start cooking again when things have cooled down.

Here’s what’s interesting. These cases apply not only to students or elderly residents in sheltered accommodation. They apply to everyone. You and me. Independent living of any sort comes with the same cooking risks and you can benefit from proactive safety too.

What’s more, Airis logs the data in its memory which can then be downloaded at source (we’ll discuss why this is so important later). But that’s not all. In this modern age, you want to see data at the touch of a button from wherever you are in the world, on whatever device you have at your desk or in your pocket. It’s your lucky day, Airis has you covered.

Airis Sense WiFi: Data that Works for You

The Airis Sense WiFi Multisensor and PCU
Airis Sense WiFi provides all the fire and smoke safety features of Airis Sense, but allows for remote monitoring and data collection

In a smart world, isn’t it best to make smart choices? Mounted on the wall behind the hob, Airis Sense WiFi is the internet-connected model from Unicook. It unlocks all that data so you now have it at your fingertips, wherever you are in the world. No need to physically visit the resident – you can see it all right in front of you. It will even send you SMS and email alerts when an incident occurs so you will know instantly if a resident or loved one has run into difficulty.

The data is a real lifesaver for building managers and for conscientious relatives. It’s without human error, it’s easier to handle, and provides much greater visibility of what’s actually going on, especially if multiple incidents occur. Trends can be seen easily and the appropriate actions taken. It’s precise and it’s accurate, and that’s better for everyone, not just Angie. You can see how often and what times incidents occur.

This is perfect for building managers who need the right information to create an action plan and ensure all residents are safe, especially with the pressures of tightening fire safety legislation and residents’ demands in the wake of Grenfell. It’s perfect for relatives who want to rest assured that their loved ones are safe and can hold on to their independence as long as possible, avoiding the stress of fire service visits and major disruption to their lifestyles.

Photo by Anna Nekrashevich from Pexels
Photo by Anna Nekrashevich from Pexels

Airis is also incredibly flexible. It can be connected to telecare services and be configured to send alerts automatically when it acts. Additionally, it can be set to send alerts if it has been triggered more than a certain number of times within a specified time frame, or even if the stove has not been used in a certain amount of time (i.e. they have stopped cooking for themselves). This supplementary data can be used in support of assessments of the resident.

So what does this mean? It becomes more a question of the person’s overall wellbeing, rather than whether or not their independence and right to cook should be taken away from them. That’s a huge step in the right direction. Airis removes all the guess-work, dramatically increases safety and peace of mind, improves data collection, prevents damage, and saves money that would be spent on repairs, care, or meal provision. It’s proactive fire safety, and it does much more than save lives.

A Quick Recap

So, we’ve looked at David and Angie’s cases in more detail and shown you what the wider consequences are. The life-changing events for David with his potential cooker disconnection, loss of independence, and decline in wellbeing, and Angie’s unobtrusive Airis that helps rather than hinders.

We looked at why the data Airis collects is important. It’s accurate and enables a proactive, constructive approach to addressing any issues that are apparent, and you can access it from anywhere!

If you have questions about Airis and how it can help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to help.

Questions about installing or retrofitting Airis?

We can call you back, or you can contact us by phone on 0208 798 3462 or click on ‘Contact Us’ to send us a message.

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There is an abundance of information out there on stove guards and it’s easy to get yourself in a twist, so you may be wondering exactly what a stove guard is and how it can help you. Is it a protective mat to stop spills? A set of knob covers to prevent children turning them? A surrounding barrier to prevent easy access to the hob rings? They are all known as stove guards in a loose sense, but they are not really what we are talking about here. We will be telling you about something far more intelligent and far less inconvenient.

If you want to know what a true stove guard is and why, with the right one installed, it will save you a shed load of hassle then you are in the right place. We have been the UK experts in stove guard technology since we introduced it in 2014 so we can clear up any confusion for you. Keep reading…

What is a Stove Guard?

The Airis stove guard fire safety device protects an elderly couple while they cook on the stove.
Airis stove guard protects the stove by intelligently monitoring it and cutting the power in case of danger.

Forget the products above – whilst they have their uses in stovetop safety, what we mean by a “stove guard” is a proactive safety device that cuts the power to the stove when there’s a chance a fire can start. They were invented to keep elderly and vulnerable people safe when cooking on the stove, but their application has extended way beyond this to student accommodation, extra care and assisted living, apartments, and homes like yours. There really isn’t a limit for safety.

In essence, all stove guards are comprised of two components: a sensor, which monitors the stove, and a controller, which controls the power supply. The sensor sends messages to the controller if it detects signs of risk. This is usually sensing too high a temperature or detecting smoke rising from the pan. The controller will analyse the data and spring into life, alerting you to the risk and, if no action is taken to turn the heat down, it will cut the power. This is proactive because it does all this before there is a chance of a fire starting. So you’ll never have one, and you’ll never set the smoke alarm off again when using the hob.

This is where Airis comes into its own. It uses advanced sensor technology and data analysis to assess the situation properly and effectively. Meaning you won’t have false alarms, annoying “learning periods” that other brands need in order to work, and you can rest assured that the failsafe protocols will keep you protected and alert you immediately if anything goes awry. But how do you know they’re going to work and what should you look out for?

Stove Guard Standards

A close up of the Airis stove guard sensor by Unicook
Airis prevents fires on the stove and goes far beyond the BS EN 50615 standard

Well, that’s the not-so-easy part. Stove guards should conform to an EU standard called BS EN 50615: Particular requirements for devices for fire prevention and suppression for electric hobs (cooktops) – you can find out more about the BS EN 50615 standard here.

The standard ensures that stove guards meet a set of functional criteria to make sure they operate effectively and do what they are supposed to do. That being said, many stove guards available only partially comply with the standard, for example, your hob may be too wide. Now this is the easy part, and this is why we love Airis, because it not only complies with all aspects of the BS EN 50615 standard, it exceeds it in many ways. What’s more, it has lots of exceptional features that place it leagues ahead of any other models.

We believe that our customers should be as safe as possible and enjoy the benefits of modern technology that fits seamlessly into a “smart” world. Find out for yourself why Airis is the best stove guard.

Questions about installing or retrofitting Airis?

We can call you back, or you can contact us by phone on 0208 798 3462 or click on ‘Contact Us’ to send us a message.

Rated 5 stars by our customers

Airis uses a unique patented temperature measurement technique to accurately measure the temperature of pans on a cooktop

We are often asked how Airis differs from other cooker safety technology. Safera technology works reliably in all situations, thanks to more than a decade of research and development.

The difference can be seen in everyday use. A practical example is familiar to many: traditional cooker shut-off devices may alarm unnecessarily or even fail to work in an emergency. They rely on a simple but flawed method of temperature measurement that ignores a fundamental issue: pots and pans aren’t all made of the same materials. The problem is caused by a familiar phenomenon in physics: different materials radiate heat in different ways, even though they are just as hot. Safera developed and patented a solution to this problem.

The most important consideration for safety is to ensure that the temperature of cookware does not rise so high that an oil fire ignites. However, the real challenge is to ensure that safe, normal high-temperature frying can continue if there’s no danger.

If cooking is to be safe and unencumbered, the safety device must therefore be able to measure the temperatures of different cookware accurately.

Measuring temperature is not as simple as one might think. Oftentimes,  pans of different sizes and made of different materials are used on the hob simultaneously. Identifying a dangerously hot pan amongst them requires more than a single-wavelength type measurement.

Traditional single-wavelength and multi-pixel IR sensors cannot distinguish between the thermal radiation of different materials

The difference between the heat radiation of the pans can be one factor of many. If you were to use an off-the-shelf infrared sensor to measure the temperature of a shiny stainless-steel pan, it might, for example, read 40C, even though the actual temperature of the pan is 100C. If a single wavelength of IR is measured, it is practically impossible to reliably identify the actual temperature of different pans. Airis is the only cooking safety device to overcome this problem.

Some manufacturers are trying to solve the problem by using multi-pixel, even 64-pixel sensors. These can provide information on the temperature differences of the hob surface, but they are not able to accurately measure the differences in the thermal radiation of different materials and thus the actual temperatures of the cookware.

In fact, by adding pixels, more incorrect measurements can end up being taken! Instead of increasing the number of sensors, the problem needs a different, more sophisticated solution.

Measuring the temperature of the pan is difficult because different materials radiate differently

Measuring the temperature directly at the surface of each pan would produce an accurate result, but this is impractical. Infrared measurement is therefore the only practical option for cooker shut-off devices.

The challenge of indirect IR measurement is that different materials radiate heat in very different ways.

Black cookware, such as cast iron pots or Teflon frying pans, strongly radiate heat. In contrast, shiny pans such as stainless steel emit significantly less heat.

Why is pan temperature important?

The infrared ‘seen’ by the sensor comes from the sides and bottoms of the pans. Even where the bottom of a pan is covered in oil, the signature of the infrared emitted still relates to the type of pan underneath. Taking account of the emissivity of the pan surfaces is therefore key to obtaining an accurate assessment.

The sensor system developed by Safera is designed to reliably measure the temperature of various cookware

There are no ready-made sensors for reliable measurements of the hob surface temperature. Safera has solved the problem by developing its own patented sensor system that measures several different wavelengths of thermal radiation at the same time.

By combining several measurements in different wavelength ranges, Airis is able to detect temperatures reliably and accurately for all types of cookware, regardless of what material they are made of.

Thanks to this unique technology, Airis is able to detect a single dangerously overheated vessel amongst several.

The technology in Airis is evident in everyday use

Because the temperature measurements taken by Airis accurately correspond to a real risk situation, Airis quickly detects hazards and does not alarm unnecessarily during normal cooking – whether you have a Teflon-coated pan, a steel kettle, or both at the same time.

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