Change your clock, change your smoke alarm battery

Daylight savings ends on Sunday 7th April 2013


Like everything in this world, things get older and don’t work quite as well as they should. It is the same for smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms have a 10 year life. After this time the efficiency of the alarm declines in doing the job it was designed to do. This can be due to accumulation of dust, insects, contamination and corrosion of the electrical circuitry. This applies to all smoke alarms whether or not they are powered by 240 volts or 9 volt batteries.

The most common smoke alarm fitted to homes is the ionisation smoke alarm. These are the ones with the yellow sticker with the radiation symbol on them. These alarms were the most available and affordable at the time. Thankfully there is better technology and improved reliability in smoke alarms these days and replacing all alarms over 10 years old gives you the opportunity to take advantage of these.

The fire services of NSW and the Australian Fire and Emergency Services Authority Council recommend the installing of Photo Electric Smoke Alarms. These alarms have the advantage of being:

  • less prone to false alarms(burnt toast) therefore people will not disconnect or remove batteries to avoid these
  • able to detect smouldering fires. Smouldering fires are fires where there is no flame but heat that produces large quantity of poisonous gases. These will continue to build up heat and smoke till it reaches a temperature when it will produce a flame and then rapid combustion will take place. These may occur in electrical equipment, lounges and bedding material as some examples. These types of fires are the main cause of deaths in homes as they can occur at night when families are asleep.
  • they do not contain a radioactive element.

 So what’s your home like? Do you live in a two level home with only the staircase as your exit from up stairs? Do you sleep with your bedroom door closed? Do you have a higher level of security that would hamper your exit from your home in the event of a fire? Are some of the occupants disabled or elderly and as such would have difficulty exiting the house in case of a fire?

Where to place smoke alarms

Where to place smoke alarms

Since May 2006, legislation requires that all homes in NSW have a smoke alarm fitted to each level of the home but this is the minimum requirement. Fire Services recommended the fitting of photo electric smoke alarms to all bedrooms and the escape route from your home- hall ways, stair wells- and that they are all interconnected so when one alarm senses a fire they all activate.

When you go to purchase your new smoke alarms it can be a daunting experience when confronted by shelves of different smoke alarms at varying prices. It is worth taking your time and buying the correct photo electric smoke alarm to suit your situation. There are even battery powered photo electric smoke alarms that do not require battery replacement as they fitted with a 10 year life battery. At the end of the 10 years you replace the whole unit. Choice magazine have done some testing and have published the results here:

Article1 – Review

Article 2 - Buying Guide

When installing the photo electric smoke alarms they should be mounted on the ceiling at least 10 cm from the walls and then tested at least once per month. Get the kids to do this so as to create an understanding of what the photo electric smoke alarms are for. Also get the whole family involved in an escape plan for your home. See the following for some ideas.

As always, if you live in the Arcadia, Fiddletown, Berrilee area and require further information, you can contact James Baird on 0415 969 900 or