An electrician tells you everything you need to know about smoke alarms for your home or business

Smoke alarms – why have them?

Working smoke alarms save lives. Although there were 1,500 preventable house fires in Victoria during 2018, damage to property far outweighed the loss of life (1). Insured property can be replaced or rebuilt, the same can’t be said for families and colleagues. So, whether you’re assessing smoke alarms for your own home or for a business, you can be confident they will make all the difference in a fire emergency.

Types of smoke alarms

The two most commonly used types of smoke alarm are Photoelectric and Ionisation. Photoelectric alarms ‘see’ the smoke via their sensors and are best at detecting slow, smouldering fires from things such as faulty or damaged wiring, and burning soft furnishings such as couches and mattresses. This is why they are so commonly used in homes. They work by directing a light beam past a photocell, and smoke in the air causes the light to scatter onto the cell, setting off the alarm. Because of this ‘visual’ mechanism, they should be cleaned occasionally to prevent false alarms. Ionisation alarms, on the other hand, contain a very small amount of radioactive material that reacts with particles emitted by a fire. These alarms are very good at detecting fast-burning, hot fires. They do detect smoky, smouldering fires, but not as quickly as a photoelectric alarm.

Which type to choose?

Ionisation alarms are an older technology that is being phased out in some Australian states and is already banned in some countries overseas (2). This is because they can take up to 20 minutes to detect the same fire that a photoelectric alarm would only take 3-5 minutes to detect (3). Some people use a mixture of ionisation and photoelectric alarms in their home, prioritising the photoelectric alarms in vulnerable areas such as your escape route and children’s bedrooms. The other thing to keep in mind is that ionisation alarms are easily set off by things such as burnt toast, so placing those in the kitchen will lead to a lot of ear-piercing false alarms. On balance, it’s easy to see why photoelectric alarms are the alarm of choice for most professional fire-fighting authorities, and governments alike. Check out our full range of smoke alarm services here.

DIY smoke alarms

If you’re going the do-it-yourself route for selecting and installing smoke alarms in your home or business, here are a few important points you’ll need to ensure your smoke alarms are safe and effective:

  • Certification: your smoke alarm should clearly state on its packaging that it complies with either the Australian Standards or ActivFire Registration.
  • Long battery life: the minimum battery life you should accept is 10 years.
  • Automatic battery test function: although your smoke alarm should come with the ability to manually test your battery, it should have a function that alerts you in the event the battery is running low and you’ve forgotten to test it. This is usually done with an intermittent beep.
  • Interconnection: if one smoke alarm goes off, it should have the ability to set the rest of them off. This ensures the whole household or business is alerted to the fire, giving the occupants the maximum amount of time to escape.
  • Hush function: in the event of a false alarm (hello burnt toast!), your smoke alarm should come with the ability to ‘hush’ and reset the alarm.
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Placing your smoke alarms is another important consideration. Where you put them depends on the shape and size of your home or place of business, and is too individual to offer a one size fits all guide. Luckily, you can find detailed guidance from DFES here.

Why get an electrician to install your smoke alarms?

Any alarm in your home is only as good as the person who installed it. Electricians are trained in the ideal placement of smoke alarms, which smoke alarms to use where, and can also install a system that is hardwired into your electrical supply with a backup battery. A hard-wired, electrician installed smoke alarm solution takes the guesswork out of your fire protection solution. Choosing a professional to get the job done ensures you will get a system that is hardwired into your electricity supply, comes with backup batteries, is interconnected, and all without the hassle and responsibility of making those choices and doing the work yourself. We can offer documentation of the installation which ensures you can prove it was done by a licensed electrician, using compliant smoke detectors that are best suited to your application. Contact us today so we can help you protect your home or business.

Prompt, hassle-free peace of mind

The Metropolitan Fire Brigade’s figures really say it all. With working smoke alarms you are (4):

  • 4 times less likely to die in a fire.
  • 26% more likely to escape a fire without injury.
  • 57% less likely to have damage to your property.

With facts like these at your fingertips, the only question is how soon can you ensure the best possible, working smoke alarms for your home or business? Check out these great reasons to choose Smillie Electrical Services for your smoke alarm installation!

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