Smoke Alarms


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Smoke Alarms

Installation and Maintenance

Smoke alarms are commonplace now. The law requires that a certain number of smoke alarms are installed in new homes. The law is always being reviewed and there are time frames outlined for exinting homes to eventually have smoke alarms installed.

If you have an older house without existing smoke alarms you need to consider the need for these devices.

Other factors that need to be considered regarding your smoke alarms are maintenance and replacement as needed.

Requirements for Smoke Alarm installation

Recently, smoke alarm legislation has become the strictest Queensland has ever seen, this is due to an increased yearly count of house fires and loss of life. Without these safety devices installed in homes occupants are at risk. Without these laws, more and more homes will be lost and sometimes tragically lives are lost also.

These new laws will make our homes safer. Ultimately, they will save lives by alerting those in the dwelling that there is smoke in the house somewhere.

One of the major requirements is that a smoke alarm must be installed in each bedroom, hallway and on each storey of the house. This, in conjunction with the requirement for interconnection of all smoke alarms will make this early warning system extremely effective in alerting the occupants to smoke. These alarms are also require to be hard-wired with battery backup, or alternatively if hardwiring is not possible, to have a 10 year battery and to be wirelessly interlinked.

Another requirement is that older ionisation smoke alarms are to be swapped out for photoelectric smoke alarms. So, what’s the difference between the two, and how are photoelectric smoke alarms better than ionisation?

Ionisation and Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

All smoke alarms detect small particles in the air such as those that make up smoke. So what’s the difference between ionization and photoelectric type smoke alarms? Ionisation alarms produce a small amount of radiation that is scattered during the presence of smoke to detect particles of combustion. These alarms are slower to react, meaning the fire has to be burning longer for it to detect the fire.

On the other hand, a photoelectric smoke alarm works faster. it uses a light beam that is scattered during the presence of smoke, alarming the user to the danger of a fire.

These alarms are the best at detecting smoke before the fire advances to greater levels.

Photoelectric are faster, and have a lower false alarm rate to steam from cooking or showers. This means the alarms stay on the roof and active rather than being taken down by the occupant due to false alarms. They also contain no radioactive material (even tho this is safe) . To find out what type you have, remove the alarm and read the information on the base of the alarm, it will have the type of alarm there.

Maintenance Requirements

Smoke alarms need periodic maintenance to continue to work without disruption. The recommendation from Clipsal for their smoke alarms is to push the Test button every month. Other manufacturers have a similar recommendation. Every three months clean around the smoke alarm to remove dust and insects, and most importantly each year replace the 9v back-up battery.

Smoke alarms have a lifetime, and after that they need to be replaced. The current legislation says that if a smoke alarm is due for replacement it should be replaced with a photoelectric smoke alarm. The lifespan of a smoke alarm is 10 years, and a date code is on the back of the unit. Best practice is to replace it before the date written on the alarm or if it fails to sound when the Test button is pushed.

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