A Home Owner’s Guide to Smoke Alarms

Category: Tips
Date: March 2, 2020

As a new homeowner, understanding the legislation around smoke alarms is extremely important and needs to be understand before building or renovating.

Smoke alarm legislation in Queensland has already started changing. Current home builds and major renovations are already under the new guidelines as of 1 January 2017. These effects will come into place for sold, leased or released dwellings in 1 January 2022, and for existing dwellings by 1 January 2027.

It is important for new homeowners to know of the existing and changing legislation for properties they are building, may sell or lease.

Current Queensland Legislation States for New Dwellings and Dwellings Being Substantially Renovated That:

  • Smoke alarms in the dwelling must:
    • be photoelectric (AS 3786-2014); and
    • not also contain an ionisation sensor; and
    • be hardwired to the mains power supply with a secondary power source (i.e. battery); and
    • be interconnected with every other smoke alarm in the dwelling so all activate together.
  • Smoke alarms must be installed on each storey:
    • in each bedroom; and
    • in hallways which connect bedrooms and the rest of the dwelling; or
    • if there is no hallway, between the bedrooms and other parts of the storey; and
    • if there are no bedrooms on a storey at least one smoke alarm must be installed in the most likely path of travel to exit the dwelling.

To see a complete fact sheet on the QFES smoke alarm legislation, for all dwelling types, click here.

What is a Photoelectric Smoke Alarm?

Photoelectric or photo-optical alarms detect visible particles of combustion. They are good for smouldering fire and dense smoke, not as prone to being set off by normal cooking, contain no radioactive material, and are suitable for general home use. Research used by QFES indicates that these types of smoke alarms are generally more effective across a wider range of fires, particularly those experienced in homes. They respond quicker foam filled furnishings or overheated PVC wiring. These alarms are connected so that if one goes off, they all go off, giving everyone the same amount of time to react and respond to a house fire.

Older and Inadequate Smoke Alarms.

It is always recommended you use the most up to date information and alarms. Smoke alarms only have a 10-year life. There are 5 reasons why smoke alarms often fail, and they are:

  • The age of the product, nearing 10 years or older.
  • The backup battery requires replacement.
  • The wrong type of alarm is being used.
  • The alarm has a build-up of dust and insects.
  • The alarm is in the wrong location.

Alarm Placement and Maintenance.

QFES recommends smoke alarms be placed on the ceiling and smoke alarms should not be placed:

  • Within 300 mm of a corner ceiling or a wall
  • Within 300 mm of a light fitting
  • Within 400 mm of an air conditioning vent
  • Within 400 mm of the blades of a ceiling fan

NSW Legislation.

According to NSW Fire and Rescue, legislation requires that there be 1 smoke alarm per dwelling level and recommends smoke alarms in all bedrooms and living areas. Alarms must meet the Australian Standard AS 3786. They recommend hard wired alarms and where those cannot be used then an alarm with a 10-year non-removable battery, be used. If not hard wired, alarms must be replaced every ten years.

Don’t forget 15 seconds is often all you have to escape from a house fire. Using the best smoke alarms under the most up to date information, is your best chance of survival and safety. Having an escape plan for your home is highly recommended.

When you build with Ben Campbell Building Group, you can trust that we are up to date with all the latest laws and legislation regarding building and renovating.

Information for Queensland has been sourced from QFES. To see complete Queensland smoke alarm information, click here.

Information for NSW has been sourced from Fire and Rescue NSW. To see complete New South Whales smoke alarm information, click here.