Have your smoke alarms expired?
Smoke alarms are your last line of defence when you and your family are sleeping. They have been designed and installed to protect you and your family and your biggest asset, your home, safe from fire.
May 1st 2016 has marked the 10 year anniversary of smoke alarms being mandatory in homes across NSW. Old smoke alarms have a life span of 10 years.
It’s the law to have at least one working smoke alarm installed on every level of your home. This includes owner occupied homes, rental properties, relocatable homes, caravans and camper-vans or any other residential building where people sleep.
- Test your smoke alarm batteries every month by pressing and holding the test button for five seconds. Replace batteries every 12 months.
- Vacuum dust off alarms every six months.
- Replace smoke alarms with a new photoelectric alarm every ten years, or, earlier if specified by the manufacturer.
- Assistance with battery replacement may be available in some circumstances.
Fire & Rescue NSW recommends the installation of photoelectric smoke alarms, ideally hard-wired and interconnected.
Areas to avoid placing a smoke alarm
- Near window or doorway, ceiling fan or air-conditioners, as the smoke will easily escape the smoke alarms.
- Away from ceiling fans and air condition units.
Best locations to install smoke alarms
- As smoke rises, the best location is always on the ceiling, If this is difficult or not possible as high up on a wall as possible should suffice, especially if you are installing a battery smoke alarm.
- Smoke alarms should be located as close to bedrooms or the corridor just outside a bedroom.
Main types of Smoke Alarms available
Ionization smoke alarms
Ionization smoke alarms are best at detecting the small particles typical of the smoke from fast, flaming fire - as opposed to smoldering fires, which produce smoke with larger particles.
When smoke enters the chamber, it disrupts the current and activates the alarm.
Ionization smoke alarms can be triggered by the smoke produced by burnt food or by steam from a the shower
They tend to nuisance trigger quite a bit if placed in the wrong area like a kitchen (toast, cooking etc) or outside the bathroom (shower steam) so you may get more false alarms if the alarm is placed in the kitchen or near a bathroom.
Photoelectric smoke alarms
In a photoelectric smoke alarm, a light source is aimed into a sensing chamber at an angle away from the sensor.
When smoke enters the chamber, the light is diffracted and reflected onto the light sensor, which triggers the alarm.
These types of smoke detectors are best at sensing smoldering fires that create a lot of smoke without many (or any) visible flames.
While not as prone to false alarms as ionization smoke detectors, photoelectric alarms may be randomly set off by a buildup of dust in the unit.
Dual sensor smoke alarms
Dual sensor smoke alarms combine ionization and photoelectric sensors into one unit.
Some models require both sensors to be triggered before the alarm will go off, but this may delay the alert from sounding.
Other models only require one of the sensors to be tripped, but that also creates the potential for more false alarms.
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Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. Not doing so will not only put you at risk but may also void your home insurance. Westcork Electrical suggests installing hard wired photoelectric smoke alarms with battery backup when installing.
To be fully protected from a house fire, smoke alarms should be installed on each room and each level of your home, including the basement.
The average cost to install smoke alarms is between $150 to $270. The range still depends on the quantity and type of smoke alarms also if they require to be IR connected.