Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Smoke detectors

The installation of smoke detectors is soon to be made obligatory in all homes in France, but in recent tests most models did not comply with performance standards.

In a study carried out by the French consumer watchdog the Institut National de la Consommation, six of out of eight popular smoke alarms on the French market did not work properly in tests they carried out on them.

In the light of the report the French government has ordered trading standards officials to carry out their own tests.

Similar tests also carried out by the consumer body Que Choisir in 2006 found that only three of the twelve smoke alarms they tested could be recommended for use, with some then later withdrawn from the market.

All of this comes at a time when a new draft law is currently making its way through the French Parliament that proposes to make obligatory the installation of smoke detectors in all homes in France over a five year period.

Around 800 people die each year from domestic fires in France and it is estimated that only 1% to 3% of homes in France are currently equipped with a smoke alarm.

The difficulty with any new law is going to be the practicalities of ensuring compliance, unless the government were to employ an army of smoke alarm 'inspectors', which seems unlikely! It could well be that pressure will be exerted through French house insurance companies to make it a condition of insurance policies.

However, even then there remains the difficulty of ensuring the the alarms are installed and maintained properly.

TV Digital Switch over

The digital switchover of French television will begin next year.

Digital terrestrial television has been around in France since 2005, when the TNT (Télévision Numérique Terrestre) came into service.

TNT offers a minimum of 18 free television channels, including the main existing terrestrial French television channels. By subscription, it is also possible to receive many other channels, including Canal+.

TNT does not give you access to UK television stations, for which you will need to buy and install a satellite dish!

The TNT service is already available to most of the population, although many households have chosen not to take it.

From the beginning of 2010 the diffusion of the analogue service will gradually be replaced, region by region, to be switched off definitively by 30 November 2011.

The calendar of implementation by region is as follows:

* 1st Quarter 2010: Alsace, Basse-Normandie and Lorraine
* 2nd Quarter 2010: Pays-de-Loire, Champagne-Ardenne, Franche-Comté and Bretagne
* 3rd Quarter 2010: Poitou-Charentes
* 4th Quarter 2010: Bourgogne, Centre, Picardie and Nord
* 1st Quarter 2011: Haute-Normandie, Ile-de-France and Aquitaine
* 2nd Quarter 2011: Limousin, Côte-d’Azur, Corse and Auvergne
* 3rd Quarter 2011: Alpes and Rhône
* 4th Quarter 2011: Midi-Pyrénées, Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence

Those who receive their television service by cable or ADSL need take no action, as they will automatically receive the digital service.

Likewise, those who have a satellite installed to receive French digital television need take no action.

Those who have purchased a new television within the past year or so should also be able to automatically receive the new service, as all standard televisions will have been equipped with an internal receiver. Larger screens and those offering HD may not be equipped, so you need to check if it is 'TNT Intégrée'.

By contrast, everyone else who receives French television through a terrestrial aerial will need to install a TNT decoder on their television.

If you have more than one television, then you will need a decoder for each one, unless as we said, it is incorporated in the television.

In some cases, even though you have purchased a television equipped to receive TNT, you may also need to upgrade your terrestrial aerial and cable. You may only be able to find out if you need a replacement cable and aerial by first testing the system. Even if you get a reception, if the picture quality is only average or poor, then you will probably still need to change your aerial and cable.

The decoder is easily installed with a SCART plug and cable that will be supplied with it, which is simply inserted into the sockets in the television and the decoder.

The decoder boxes are widely available, either from an electrical shop, major supermarkets, or on the internet. Prices start from around €30. Prices are higher if you want to receive HD, or you wish to be able to view one programme and record another at the same time.

Financial assistance is available for the purchase of a decoder and/or a new aerial or satellite, subject to a test of resources. Eligible applicants are those who are currently exempt from payment of the television licence and living in zones d’ombre, where signal strength is weak.

You need to contact the centre d'appel on 0970 818 818.