For decades, smoke alarms have been a staple of Queensland homes, and for good reason – those living in houses without a functioning smoke alarm are more than 3 times as likely to be involved in a fatal house fire. With this fact, you’ll understand it’s critically important that your smoke alarm is properly installed and maintained.
9 volt or 240 volt
All homes built since 1st July 1997 have been fitted with 240v smoke alarms, as required by legislation. Houses older than this are likely operating on 9v retrofitted smoke alarms. The advantage of the 240v smoke alarm is increased reliability and convenience; the smoke alarm is still fitted with a 9v battery, however this is only as a back-up, with the unit being powered primarily by the 240v mains. The result is far fewer battery changes (and fewer intermittent beeps in the night).
Ionisation or Photoelectric
There are two leading technologies in household fire detection: ionisation and photoelectric. Each offer unique advantages.
Ionisation is found to be more responsive to active, flaming fires. In addition to this, the initial unit price is generally around half the price of the photoelectric.
Photoelectric is more responsive to slow-burning, smouldering fires. For this reason the Queensland Government recommends the use of a photoelectric smoke alarm over ionisation.
Smoke alarms should be positioned on ceilings, as far from corners as possible. The smoke alarm must be installed in a hallway near bedrooms. Multi-storey houses must have a smoke alarm on each floor; levels without bedrooms should have a smoke alarm near the stairwell.
Areas with excessive air movement (near air conditioners, windows, or fans) should be avoided, as air currents may prevent smoke from reaching the detector. Ideally the smoke alarm would be kept away from kitchens and bathrooms, as steam and smoke may set off false alarms.
It’s important to perform regular tests on your smoke alarms – although they have failsafe measures built in, like any electronic device they can fail suddenly and silently. Try to remember to press the ‘Test’ button at least once a month on each of your smoke alarms.
Remember to replace the batteries every year, and avoid painting the unit. False alarms do happen, but try to avoid taking out the batteries, instead use a fan or open a window. Once batteries are taken out they are often forgotten.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that smoke alarms have a service life of just 10 years. Any units older than this should be replaced.
If you would like your smoke alarms replaced or upgraded, contact a licensed electrician. And since you’re already here…