Back April 09, 2020

Your Guide to Smoke Alarms

It should go without saying that smoke alarms are an essential in your home, although they’re probably something that you forget about until one goes off as a reminder that you’ve accidentally burnt dinner. However, without this occasional alert, would you know for certain that your smoke alarms are working?

As nice as it would be, smoke alarms aren’t simply a set and forget job. You need to make sure you have the right ones for your home which are installed properly, that they’re in the right spot and that they’re regularly tested. If not, your home and family are at risk in the event of a fire.


Types of Smoke Alarms

For those that haven’t had to purchase a smoke alarm before, you may not be aware that there are actually two different types of detectors. It’s important to know the differences between the two, as it will help with the placement in your own home.



These alarms detect particles that are emitted by fire, and work best for flaming fires that break out quickly with large flames and minimal smoke, such as that caused by paper.



These alarms use light beams to detect the visible particles of smoke. They’re most effective for fires with dense smoke, such as those caused by couches or mattresses.

Your alarms can also either rely on only batteries, or be hardwired to your house’s mains power supply, and backed up with a battery. Although hardwired alarms are considered to be more reliable, battery powered alarms are perfectly acceptable as long as you keep up to date with the maintenance on them.

If you have more than one smoke alarm in your home, it’s also possible and recommended to have them interconnected. This can be done for both battery operated or hardwired alarms, and means that once one is activated, the rest will also start ringing throughout your house.

Selecting the right type of smoke alarm for your home is vital in ensuring that you receive the early warning necessary to escape a house fire. While there’s much debate over which type of alarm is best, unless you live in a studio apartment, you should take into consideration having both alarms installed into your home. For example, an ionisation alarm might be better suited for a kitchen, where quick fires are more likely to start, and the photoelectric alarm is likely to perform better in areas such as common corridors between bedrooms, where it’ll detect the smoke from smoulder fires.


Smoke Alarm Maintenance

Your smoke alarms need to be tested regularly to ensure your household’s safety – probably more regularly than you’d expect.

To be specific, testing should be done every:


One a month you should test that the batteries on your smoke alarm are still working. This can be done by pressing down on the test button for at least five seconds, until there is a loud beep. 

6 Months

Every six months, you should dust or vacuum the smoke detector, making sure it’s clear of any particles that may have built up. This helps to ensure that the smoke can reach the sensor. 


It’s important to get in the habit of changing your smoke alarm’s batteries every year. April 1st is a common date that people use to change the batteries, however if you choose another, you can easily be reminded by setting an event in your phone’s calendar. 

If you find your alarm is letting out loud beeps similar to when you test, this may be an indication that the batteries need changing. If the beeping continues after changing the batteries, this is a sign that the alarm is faulty and needs to be replaced.

10 Years

Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years to ensure they operate properly.


Installing Smoke Alarms

For all states in Australia, it is law for each residence to have at least one smoke alarm, although each state has different specifications. For example, the law for NSW households is that there should be at least one alarm per level of the residence. We also recommend installing at least one alarm per level to ensure you receive as much warning as possible in the event of a fire.

It’s also recommended that smoke alarms should be installed flat on the ceiling where possible. There are also regulations in place for each state that stipulate exactly where alarms can and cannot be located. 

Some battery operated alarms can be installed by any individual. If you do decide to install your own alarms, it’s important that you properly research your state’s laws and regulations, not only to ensure you’re abiding by them, but for the safety of your household. However, hardwired smoke alarms do require an electrician to connect them to the mains power supply. 

If you need any help setting up your smoke alarms, Quay Electrical is here to help! Feel free to get in touch with us here

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