Everything you need to know about smoke alarms
The increasing number of appliances, power points and electricity we use in our homes and businesses means that the risk of property fire has gone up.
Enter – smoke alarms.
Making sure you have the right number, placement and maintenance of your smoke alarms could literally mean the difference between life and death.
Working smoke alarms will also be the final line of defence in case of a fire to protect the property you have worked hard for.
Indeed, early warning from a working smoke alarm is the main source of protection in the event of a fire.
So, to make sure you’ve got yours right, here are the basics:
How Do Smoke Alarms Work?
Smoke alarms contain a glass tube filled with smoke sensitive material, which reacts to smoke particles in the air.
Once smoke enters this smoke detector, it conducts electricity and signals lights or sirens.
The smoke detector is also designed to protect its own batteries from being drained by sounding the alarm continuously while the central smoke alarm system is malfunctioning.
How Many Smoke Alarms Do I Need?
When it comes to smoke alarms, it really is the more the merrier.
However, in Victoria it is mandatory to have at least one per storey of a residence.
Get smoke alarms installed
Where Should I Put My Smoke Alarms?
The Australian Country Fire Authority (CFA) recommends smoke alarms are installed in or near each bedroom and living area.
This is important as smoke alarms need to be located to wake residents up in the event of a fire.
They also recommend that all smoke alarms be interconnected so that if one goes off, they all do and everyone in the residence is alerted.
Smoke alarms should be installed to the following specifications:
On Ceilings – located in the centre of the ceiling, at least 30cm from any cornice or wall.
On Walls – located 30 – 50cm from the ceiling.
The more places you have smoke alarms, the lower the risk of a fire or hazard getting out of control and causing serious injury.
Is There Anywhere I Shouldn’t Put A Smoke Alarm?
While there is no specific room in your house that shouldn’t have a smoke alarm, there are some areas that are likely to cause a lot more false alarms than others.
For example, you should always have your smoke alarm at least 3 meters away from any cooking appliances (ie. toasters, ovens, etc.) as this is far more likely to trip your alarm.
Steam can also sometimes be mistaken for smoke particles so if you have an extremely steamy bathroom you may want to install the smoke alarm a few metres away.
What Type Of Smoke Alarms Should I Get?
There are different types of smoke alarms, some of which can be more effective than others.
Battery Operated Smoke Alarm
Battery operated smoke alarms are the most basic of all home detectors. These detectors tend to be cheap and easy to maintain.
The downside – if the battery fails or is removed, the smoke detector won’t work.
Hard Wired Smoke Alarm
Hard wired smoke detectors are more complex than battery smoke alarms.
These smoke detectors need to be installed by a qualified electrician and there may be an extra cost involved in fitting them due to the wiring changes needed.
The advantage of hard wired smoke detectors is that if there is a power outage, they still work.
Interconnected Smoke Alarms
Interconnected smoke alarms are alarms that can be linked to smoke detectors in other areas of the house (eg. laundry and garage).
The smoke alarm is connected to an electricity supply and works independently.
Having your smoke alarms connected is most effective because it detects smoke and fire quickly and activates smoke alarms on other levels of the house or building.
This means that you will be alerted to a small fire or smouldering fires before they spread into the entire room or through multiple rooms thus increasing safety. This will help save lives and protect properties.
How Often Do I Need My Smoke Alarms Checked?
As of March 2021, Australian Standards and regulations for landlords were updated.
The new legislative requirements outline that in rental properties all smoke alarms must be tested according to the manufacturer’s instructions and replaced if required at least once every 12 months for the safety of tenants.
This new Australian standard also reveals to all other home and property owners that they should have their smoke alarms (including smoke alarm batteries) checked annually to keep their properties compliant.
Indeed, smoke alarms are a very important part of home safety. This service will ensure the smoke alarm emits the sound that will save lives when necessary.
Make sure you check smoke alarms are working correctly every month by pressing the test button.
If you have interconnected smoke detectors, make sure their connections are working and that minor smoke emissions are not causing false alarm.
How To Care For Your Smoke Alarms
Taking proper care of your smoke alarm unit is essential to ensure they are in good working condition.
But smoke alarm maintenance is also extremely important when it comes to ensuring their effectiveness in case of a fire.
Whether you are a homeowner or are just renting, you should do the following to maintain your smoke alarms:
- Press the test button until the alarm sounds every month to check it’s still working.
- Replace the battery every year* or in the event that it emits a warning sound (a high pitched beep occurring every 30 seconds).
- Replace your smoke alarm as per the manufacturers recommendation. New units have an expiration date underneath the battery. Generally smoke alarms will need to be replaced every 10 years.
- Use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust particle build up regularly as this can affect smoke alarms sensitivity and performance.
*If you have a smoke alarm with a life long or lithium battery you will not be able to replace it. The battery should last as long and the smoke alarm itself ie. approximately 10 years.
Need To Get Smoke Alarms Installed, Replaced or Repaired?
We can help you with all three! 181 Electrical will get you up to date as well as providing the paperwork to prove that you are in line with both Victorian Law and Australian Standards for electrical safety.
As part of our services we provide thorough testing on site to ensure the safety of people and property and make sure every alarm is compliant.