How To Make Your Home Family Safer-Smoke Alarms Popular FAQ
Answers to Common Questions About Smoke Detectors
When correctly installed and maintained, smoke alarms can save lives, but faulty smoke detectors are often responsible for fatalities in house fires.
In fact, a defective smoke alarm is worse than none at all – it can give you a sense of false security.
We’ve come up with answers to common questions about smoke detectors to help you keep your family safe in the event of a fire.
What Type of Smoke Alarm Should I Buy?
When choosing a smoke detector, bear in mind there are two types of technology:
Alarms with photoelectric sensors.
Alarms with ionisation sensors.
Most fire-related deaths are caused by smoke inhalation. Photoelectric sensors may warn you of a slow-burning, smoke-heavy fire sooner than ionisation alarms, which are better for detecting fires with lots of flames but less smoke.
Ionisation alarms are recommended for areas such as those near kitchens that may contain highly-combustible materials like cleaning solutions – where a fire is likely to spread quickly with more flames than smoke.
Photoelectric alarms are best where there’s more likelihood of a fire that may smoulder for hours before bursting into flame. Careless smoking is one cause of this type of fire, typically in living rooms and bedrooms.
For maximum protection, have at least one ionization type and one photoelectric type smoke detector on each level of your house.
Dual-sensor alarms are also available, containing both photoelectric and ionisation technologies that will detect smoke as well as flames. These types of alarms are recommended by West Vancouver Council.
The City of Vancouver recommends smoke detectors endorsed by a recognised testing facility like the Underwriters’ Laboratories of Canada.
Where Do I Need to Install Smoke Alarms in My Home?
The BC Fire Code states that every home should have smoke detectors. As we’ve already seen, they can give you early warning of fire in kitchens – where most house fires start – and in bedrooms and living rooms.
Canada Safety Council says smoke alarms are needed:
On every level of your home.
On every bedroom
Near kitchens and bedrooms in single-level apartments.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) stresses the importance of a smoke alarm outside each bedroom in the hallway.
Because of the likelihood of nuisance alarms, smoke detectors should not be installed in:
The kitchen itself.
Follow manufacturers’ guidelines on recommended locations for smoke detectors, and replace your alarms regularly.
The current B.C. Building Code also requires dwellings with a fuel-burning appliance or a storage garage to have battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms inside each bedroom, or outside each bedroom, within 5 m of each bedroom door.
How Do I Take Care of My Smoke Alarm?
Smoke detectors save lives but only if they’re working properly, so smoke alarm care and maintenance is crucial.
Vacuum-clean your smoke detectors every six months.
Test your smoke alarms regularly.
Paint over smoke detectors.
Remove the batteries or disconnect your alarms.
How Often Should Smoke Alarms Be Tested?
You should test your smoke detectors every month by pushing the test button.
In addition, Canada Safety Council recommends checking your smoke alarms once a year by carefully holding a piece of smouldering material such as cotton string under the smoke detector until the alarm goes off.
Whether your smoke alarms are powered by batteries or your home’s electrical system, or a combination of both, the Safety Council says you should replace them every five years, while West Vancouver Council recommends new alarms every five to ten years.
Are Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors Reliable?
Combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms feature sensor technologies designed to detect both fire and the presence of carbon monoxide (CO) – the colourless, odorless gas known as the silent killer.
Manufacturers says these combo alarms save space and provide protection from two deadly threats in one device.
However, USA-based Consumer Reports said in June 2018 that it had not yet found a combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarm that was effective in detecting CO and smouldering and flaming fires.
The independent consumer group recommends a mix of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for complete protection.
Do Smoke Alarms Need to Be Hardwired?
Smoke alarms can be powered by batteries or hardwired into your household electrical system. Good hardwired smoke detectors with a battery backup – in the event of a power outage – are generally recommended.
Battery-powered smoke alarms are typically less expensive and are permitted only in older homes, but hardwired smoke detectors avoid the risk of forgetting to check and replace batteries regularly.
Hardwired smoke alarms with battery back-up are required by the current BC Building Code.
It is mandatory that interconnected smoke detectors be installed in all homes except those were built
before 1979 March 31; however, when those properties are renovated interconnected smoke
alarms may be required.
Are Smoke Alarms Required by Law?
In 2010, the BC Fire Code made functioning smoke alarms mandatory in homes. Fines for non-compliance are determined by individual municipalities and regional districts.
By law, smoke alarms in Canada must comply with the Underwriters’ Laboratories of Canada Standard for Smoke Alarms.
Do Electricians Install Smoke Alarms?
Putting in a battery-powered smoke detector is pretty straightforward and within the capabilities of most DIY-ers.
On the other hand, a new hardwired smoke detector needs to be connected to your home’s electrical supply and should be installed by a qualified electrician.
Are Rechargeable Batteries OK for Smoke Detectors?
The answer to our final common question about smoke detectors is that rechargeable batteries are not recommended for smoke alarms because they may not supply a consistent charge.
Another potential issue is that the charge might be too weak to power the sound but high enough so you don’t get a low-battery warning.
Disclaimer: This information is provided for convenience only and is not in substitution of applicable City Bylaws or Provincial or Federal Codes or laws. You must satisfy yourself that any existing or proposed construction or other works comply with such Bylaws, Codes or other laws.