How to install smoke alarms and maintain them for greater efficiency

House fires are a danger that could happen at any time and they could happen due to many reasons, the most common being electrical faults.

Some of these fires may happen without us even noticing, quietly and sometimes in the dead of the night.

Fortunately, smoke alarms are life-saving electrical devices that are designed to detect smoke from potential indoor fires and warn occupants before it’s too late.

It’s estimated that 40% of house fires in Australia are caused by electrical appliances, so homeowners must learn how to install smoke alarms to keep their homes and loved ones safe.

First, a few things you need to consider before installing:

Decide where the alarm should be installed

The first step to installing a smoke alarm is deciding where you want it fitted.

Realistically, one smoke alarm will not be enough to protect your home—you’ll want an alarm installed in every bedroom, the living room, and especially the kitchen.

Under the building code of Australia, all residential homes must have at least one smoke alarm installed at each level.

If you have a basement, it’s highly recommended that you install a smoke alarm here. Places like the basement are rarely visited and fires could go unnoticed.

For smoke alarms in the kitchen, make sure they’re placed at least 10 feet away from the stove to avoid false alarms.

Pick between battery-powered and hardwired smoke alarms

Battery-powered smoke alarms work using their own power, while 240v hardwired smoke alarms need to be connected to your home’s main electrical infrastructure.

Battery-powered alarms are easier to install as they just need to be fixed on your ceiling. Despite this, they have a major flaw—they could run out of power. These alarms need to have their battery replaced occasionally to keep them functioning.

Hardwired alarms will continuously draw power from your home, making them more dependable but more difficult to install.

Whichever kind of alarm you choose, they should be photoelectric smoke alarms as per Australian standard 3786

Let’s now look at how to install the smoke alarms.

Installing a battery-powered smoke alarm

To install a battery-powered smoke alarm, you need to:

  1. Mark the area on the ceiling where you’ll be installing your alarm and mark each drill point. Make sure that the alarm is installed at least 30 cm from the nearest wall.
  2. Using a power drill, make holes at the marked points; this is where the screws for your smoke alarm’s base plate will go.
  3. Finally, screw the base plate into the ceiling, then put the battery pack into the alarm and fix the alarm onto the baseplate.

*It should be noted that unless you are a licensed electrician, you should not attempt to install a 240v hardwired smoke alarm by yourself.

How to maintain your smoke alarm

Keep them clean

Give your smoke alarms a clean at least once every six months; using either a vacuum or a small brush, carefully remove dust and any cobwebs clinging to the alarm.

Test them regularly

At least once a month, if you’re using battery-powered smoke alarms, test the batteries by keeping the test button pressed for five seconds until you hear a beeping noise.

Apply insect repellent around the alarms

Spray insect repellent around the alarm, being careful not to spray directly into the smoke alarm itself. This is done to keep insects out of the vents.

Check if the power sources are in order

Enlist the help of a professional electrician to see if there are any electrical faults. This should be done if you’re using hardwired smoke alarms.

Replace the batteries 

For battery-powered smoke alarms, remove and replace the batteries once every year (the battery type is dependent on the manufacturer).

Replace the smoke alarms

All lithium-ion battery-powered smoke alarms must be certified for a 10-year period and must be replaced after such time, as per Australian regulations. 

How to install smoke alarms—an important thing to know

Smoke alarms are life-saving and should be installed in every home.

Battery-powered alarms are very easy to install and maintain, as shown in this post, so every homeowner must know how to install them.

For the more difficult to install hardwired smoke alarms, always seek help from professional electricians.

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