Smoke and Heat Alarm Frequently Asked Questions

What types of Smoke Alarms are available?

There are three types of smoke alarm – Ionisation Alarms which are very sensitive, Optical Alarms which respond well to slow burning fires, and Combined Alarms that are good at detecting both slow burning and flaming fires.

What type of Smoke Alarm should I fit?

Ideally, it is a good idea to fit one ionisation smoke alarm and one optical smoke alarm. This is because each alarm caters for different types of fires. Optical detecting slow-burning fires and Ionisation detecting flaming fires.

How should I maintain my smoke detector?

It is important to keep the smoke alarm clean and free from dust so that the sensors can function properly. Vacuum the smoke detector twice a year with the soft brush attachment. This will also help to reduce the amount of false alarms. Most battery powered smoke detectors will ‘chirp’ when the battery is weak. The batteries should be changed once a year. It might be a good idea to change them every year on the same day to make sure you remember – e.g. on January 1st.

Battery or mains-powered detectors?

Neither one is best. Some people prefer battery powered alarms and some prefer mains-powered alarms. Hard-wired (AC-powered) are powered by your main electricity supply. This can be considered beneficial as it means you don’t have to keep checking the batteries or buy new batteries but, it can be a problem if the power supply fails due to a power cut. However, many of the new alarms now come with a back-up battery supply as well to cater for these situations. As an alternative, it might be an idea to install a battery powered unit near each AC-powered unit. This will also provide you with double the detection!

Are there Smoke Alarms for people with hearing impairment?

Yes. It is possible to purchase alarms which have vibrating pads and/or strobe lights together with an audible alarm which are activated when smoke is detected. Unless hearing is severely impaired, most people should be able to hear a conventional smoke alarm. However it is a good idea to make use of interconnecting alarms so that if an alarm goes off in, for example the living room, it will also activate the alarm in the bedroom.

Will my Smoke Alarm detect cigarette smoke?

It is not likely. It is very important for smokers to install smoke alarms in all rooms even if smoking is likely to take place, as fire from cigarettes is a major cause of deaths and injuries in the home.

What if my Smoke Alarm goes off while I'm cooking?

If it goes off whilst you are cooking, clear the air by waving a towel near the alarm. If the alarm continues to go off when you are cooking then you might need to consider re-locating it. Alternatively, you can buy smoke alarms which have a ‘silence’ button on for incidents such as these. The ‘silence’ button stops the alarm going off but does not disable the alarm altogether so that if the smoke situation continues, the alarm will go off again. Remember, don’t disable the alarm when you are cooking by taking the batteries out, as you may forget to put them back in later.

What should I do if my Smoke Alarm 'chirps'?

This is a sign that your smoke alarm is running out of battery. If you hear it ‘chirp’ then replace the batteries immediately.

How often do I need to replace my Smoke Alarm?

It is recommended that you change your smoke alarm approximately every 8-10 years. It is a good idea to write on the alarm when you bought it so that you don’t forget, although many alarms come with a ‘Replace-by-date’ so that you know when to buy a new one. Always follow the manufacturers' instructions for replacement.

Where in the room should I fit my Smoke Alarms?

Smoke alarms should be fitted to the ceiling – as close to the centre of the room as possible and at east 30cm (12 inches) away from any wall or light fittings. If installed on a side wall, they should not be more than 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) below the ceiling. Always follow the manufacturers' instructions supplied with the smoke alarm.

What rooms should I fit a Smoke Alarm in?

A smoke alarm should be fitted into every room apart from the kitchen, bathroom and garage. It is important to install one in all bedrooms, living rooms, hallways and landings.

Where should I not fit a Smoke Alarm?

There is no point fitting a smoke alarm in the kitchen, bathroom or garage as they may well cause false alarms. Cooking fumes from the kitchen, steam from the bathroom and exhaust fumes from the garage can all set the alarm off. Therefore it is a good idea to set heat alarms in these rooms instead.

How many Smoke Alarms should I fit?

At least two alarms should be fitted within a house – one optical and one ionisation and preferably they should be interconnected. At least one alarm should be fitted per level of the building so in a house with two levels – a minimum of two smoke alarms should be installed. For maximum protection, an alarm should be fitted into every room apart from the kitchen, bathroom and garage (see above). A mix of optical and ionisation alarms is recommended.

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