Great Tips for Choosing the Right Smoke Alarm

Installing a smoke alarm is a way of taking steps to protect yourself, your family, your neighbours, and your property. Queensland legislation requires that all homes and units, including rental properties in QLD have at least one working smoke alarm on each level of their house. You can find out if there is a similar regulation in your state by looking on your area’s government site. This legislation covers a scope including properties that are rentals, owner occupied, relocatable, campervans, caravans, and any other residential structure where people sleep. By law, a smoke alarm must be installed on or near the ceiling in a hallway or area close to bedrooms and the rest of the house (in a multi-storey house, a smoke alarm must be installed on each level). Anyone who sleeps with their door closed should have a smoke alarm installed in their bedroom.

Knowing this doesn’t help you when choosing smoke alarms for your dwelling, it just requires everyone to have them. These tips will be your guide to finding the right smoke alarm to fit your needs.

Battery-powered smoke alarms

Battery-powered smoke alarms are also referred to as 9-volt smoke alarms, since they operate on 9-volt batteries. The battery is the sole power source for the device; therefore no electricity is needed for it to operate. If you experience a power outage, the smoke alarm will work as long as you keep good batteries in it.  In Qld only homes built before 1 July 1997  are permitted to have at least one 9-volt battery-operated smoke alarm.

This type of smoke alarm is easy to install and can be done without professional installation. They should be placed in the proper places (hallways or outside of bedrooms) of the dwelling. Most models operate as separate units, but some can be connected together in such a way that if one is activated, they all sound.

Battery-powered smoke alarms are long-lasting, but you should test the batteries on a regular basis to ensure they are working. You do this by using the test button found in or on the device. Many of these devices are also equipped with an indicator light if the battery runs low and a button to turn it off in case it goes off from smoke that occurs from cooking or other activities.

Hard-wired photoelectric smoke alarms

Hard-wired smoke alarms are wired into the dwelling’s electrical supply. These devices come with a backup, long life lithium battery in case of a power outage. These are 240-volt systems that cannot be installed, removed, repaired, or replaced by anyone other than a licensed, qualified electrician. Anything that requires electrical wiring must be performed by a licensed electrician according to the QLD regulations found on the Qld Dept of Justice website. The legislation states:

  • Homes built or significantly renovated after 1 July 1997 must have a 240-volt (hard-wired) smoke alarm.
  • Buildings submitted for approval from 1st May 2014 must have hard-wired and interconnected smoke alarms.

Photoelectric smoke alarms are some of the most reliable for the long term and can be connected to each other to sound off to increase the chances of someone hearing it and helping everyone get out safely. Photoelectric smoke alarms are more effective than ionisation types because they ‘see’ the smoke by detecting visible particles of combustion. For this reason they are good at detecting smouldering fires and dense smoke, and are not as prone to false alarms (from cooking etc.).

Like battery-operated devices, hard-wired smoke alarms also come with a test button so you can make sure it’s in good working order. This not only follows the law, but also ensures your safety. They also have hush buttons so you can turn them off in case they sound off when you are cooking. The biggest downside to hard-wired smoke alarms is the price. They are more expensive than battery-operated devices and you will have to pay an electrician to install them. They are, however still a long-lasting solution that you don’t have to be concerned about once they are installed and you can sleep with peace of mind.

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