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How to install and test a smoke alarm

Having purchased something that could potentially save your life it, is important that it is installed correctly and tested regularly. Each smoke alarm comes with its own comprehensive installation instructions, but here is a brief overview.

Mains powered alarms should only be installed by a qualified electrician.

Battery powered alarms can be installed by a householder using just a screwdriver for fixing it to the ceiling. It is recommended that they be located on every level of the building and in rooms where people sleep with the doors closed. Mounting the smoke alarm on the ceiling in the centre of the room places it closest to all points in the room. Additional alarms can be located in stairways as these can act like chimneys for smoke and heat. When installed in an ‘A’ frame type ceiling it should not be placed within 10cm (4”) of its peak.

Kidde Slick Mains Powered Radio-Interlinked Smoke and Heat Alarms

Avoid installing smoke alarms in garages, in an area where the temperature may fall below 40ºF or rise above 100ºF, such as attics or in dusty, humid or insect infested areas. They should be away from kitchen and bathroom areas (although heat alarms can be used in kitchens). 

There are two types of smoke alarm sensors with slightly different characteristics. Ionization sensing alarms may detect invisible fire particles (associated with fast flaming fires) sooner than photoelectric alarms.  Visible fire particles (associated with slow smouldering fires) may be detected more quickly by photoelectric alarms. Therefore some people elect to protect their homes with a mix of alarms for maximum protection.

It is recommended that smoke alarms be tested every week; each unit has a button on its cover which, when pressed, will sound the alarm for a few seconds. Unless it is fitted with a ten-year battery, the battery should be changed annually.