For houses built in the U.S., smoke alarm placement is dictated by local building codes. This assures that all new construction provides an acceptable level of fire protection.
Most inspectors are only concerned with 110-volt detectors, since
that power source is usually specified. Battery backup is also required
in most areas of the country.
The information supplied here is for general planning purposes only. Regulations change constantly, and are subject to interpretation by local authorities. Always check with your local building inspection office for requirements in your particular city or area.
Low voltage smoke detectors tied to home alarm systems aren’t usually required by code, but can be a very important part of an overall fire safety plan.
Let’s see what’s involved with each kind of detector.
Each city has its own set of restrictions and guidelines for 110-volt
smoke alarm installation. These vary across the country, but tend to comply with recommendations of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Some of
the most common locations where smoke detectors are required are:
As an example of how codes can differ, Scottsdale Arizona has required for years that smoke detectors to be installed in every bedroom of a new house. Nearby Phoenix only required them outside the sleeping areas.
Many areas of the U.S. don’t have code restrictions for placement of
low-voltage residential smoke detectors. Installing alarm companies
usually try to match key locations of selected 110-volt smoke detectors
with the low voltage units. Some of the areas most commonly covered are:
Standard 110-volt smoke detectors contain loud sounders, and are very good at alerting people to a fire. However, they don’t have any way to notify anyone outside the house.
In a home where 110-volt smoke detectors already exist, adding low voltage smoke alarms will give the ability to report alarms off-site. These detectors can be connected to a home security system, which is programmed to communicate with a central monitoring station. In case of an alarm, the central station operator can send the fire department or other authorities to the premises.
Insurance companies are increasingly requiring homeowners to install monitored smoke detectors, for houses above a certain value. Some may even specify smoke alarm placement according to floor plan, square footage, etc.
This only makes sense, since damage by fire typically
costs several times as much as a burglary loss.
Installing smoke detectors after a house is built can be difficult. Hard wired smoke detectors can be used in homes with attic space or other access for wiring. If wiring smoke detectors isn’t possible, wireless smoke alarms are available.
After work is complete, the installing Alarm Company can issue a certificate to the insurance agent verifying compliance with their terms.
Installing smoke detectors incorrectly can reduce or even eliminate
their effectiveness. Poor smoke alarm placement is also a major cause of
smoke detector problems.
Here are some general guidelines to follow when choosing smoke detector locations:
These are general best practices to follow. As always, check with your local building inspector for specific restrictions for your city. Local security alarm dealers can also be a good source of information on what’s required in your area.
Looking for smoke detectors? See Smoke Alarms at Amazon.com.
Other ideas for Preventing Smoke Alarm Problems.
More information on using Hardwired Smoke Detectors.
For nuts and bolts info on fire alarm wiring, see Smoke Detector Circuit Basics.
If you're a real do-it-yourselfer, check out Smoke Detector Wiring - Connecting Multiple Runs.
If you'd like to add or replace smoke alarms but don't have a home security system, check out these pages: