Smoke alarms

Working smoke alarms save lives by alerting occupants to harmful smoke and can reduce your risk of dying in a home fire.

The toxic effects of inhaled smoke can overwhelm occupants before they can escape or even wake up from sleep. When properly installed, tested and maintained, smoke alarms are the best early warning system in the event of a home fire.

What you should know

Test smoke alarms once a month by pressing the test button and replacing the batteries as required.

Certain smoke alarms have a ten-year battery that does not need to be replaced for the life of the alarm, while others have replaceable batteries; consult your manual for the proper maintenance and replacement.

Replace smoke alarms after ten years. If you discover a smoke alarm is defective or broken after testing, replace it immediately.

Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home, including the basement, and ensure there is a smoke alarm inside every bedroom or outside every sleeping area.

Sleep with bedroom doors closed. Test smoke alarms to ensure you and your family will be able to hear and wake up at the sound of the alarm and if not, install smoke alarms inside bedrooms to ensure residents will hear when sleeping.

There are several types of smoke alarms and detectors. Alarms using ionization technology are best suited for detecting fast-flaming fires. Alarms using photoelectric technology are best suited for detecting slow, smouldering fires.

For the best protection, install both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms in your home or consider installing dual-sensor smoke alarms.

When purchasing a smoke alarm, look for a product that has been manufactured and tested to an acceptable standard, as indicated by a marking for the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC).

10 year smoke alarm

Note: Certain smoke alarms have a 10-year battery that does not need replacing for the life of the alarm, while others have replaceable batteries; consult your manual for the proper maintenance and replacement

How to tell if your smoke alarm is expired

Smoke alarms expire after ten years.

To find out how old your smoke alarm is follow these steps below:

  1. Remove the smoke alarm from the wall or ceiling.
  2. Look at the back of the alarm for the date of manufacture.
  3. If it was made less than ten years ago, put the alarm back on the ceiling or wall.
  4. If it was made ten or more years ago or you cannot find the manufacture date, replace the alarm with a new one.

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What kind of smoke alarms are available?

Smoke alarms may be powered by battery (9 volt), hard-wired to your home’s electrical system or hard-wired to your home with a battery backup. Regardless of how a smoke alarm is powered, it should be replaced after ten years.

Basic care instructions for a smoke alarm include:

  • Regular vacuuming with a soft bristle attachment can help keep a smoke alarm working properly. Follow manufacturer's instructions for cleaning.
  • Do not paint or decorate smoke alarms.

Installation information:

Install all alarms as per the manufacturer's recommendations, keeping in mind the required clearances.

Installing smoke alarms on the ceiling is recommended as smoke, heat and combustion products rise to the ceiling and spread horizontally.

Smoke alarms may be installed inside bedrooms and can be interconnected with alarms installed in hallways and common areas.

When your smoke alarm is activated without the presence of smoke or fire, it is called a ‘nuisance alarm’. This may happen because the smoke alarm needs to be cleaned or is too close to kitchen appliances that emit smoke or steam and set the smoke alarm off. Consider relocating the smoke alarm further away from kitchens and bathrooms or install a smoke alarm with a ‘hush’ feature, which allows temporary silencing of the alarm.

Hard-wired smoke alarms can be interconnected so that every smoke alarm sounds when smoke is detected by just one alarm. This is an advantage because residents are given more time to escape if they are in one part of the home and a fire breaks out in another part. Alarms that are hard-wired should have battery back-ups in case of a power outage.

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