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Smoke Detector Installation Locations And Positioning Requirements
To install to install a smoke detector and its positioning touch electrical switch are as important as having this life saving device installed at all. Placing a smoke detector in a wrong location might delay its response to smoke or even prevent it from sounding an alarm at all.
Although, you need to install smoke alarms by following device manufacturers guidelines, and the NFPA standards (National Fire Protection Association), your local jurisdiction might have a unique idea. This concept is usually LESS smoke detectors – Chicago is one of the examples.
Since it is your life we are talking about, following just a minimum requirement is not enough – for literally a couple of dollars more, you will get maximum protection.
Proper Placement of a smoke alarm based on IRC (International Residential Code), IBC (International Building Code) and NFPA:
– Smoke detectors must be hard wired (power supply from the electrical panel) and require battery backup. Your jurisdiction might require a dedicated circuit for this purpose – if such isn’t required, just be sure you smoke detector hasn’t been installed on a circuit / tapped to the wall switch controlled ceiling light fixture or outlet receptacle. Putting a smoke alarm on a GFCI protected electrical circuit also isn’t a good idea.
– Do not use rechargeable type batteries for smoke detectors, good quality alkaline type battery is the best choice. Smoke alarms shall emit a signal when the batteries are low – replace the battery with a new one as soon as you hear that repeating sound.
– Smoke detectors are required in each sleeping area and adjoining bedroom. Like I’ve mentioned before, some jurisdictions require less – Chicago is without doubt one of the examples where smoke detectors are not required inside the bedroom / sleeping area. Instead, you’ve gotten to install a smoke alarm within 15′ from the bedroom entrance. In larger homes / apartments, where bedrooms are located greater than 30′ apart, two or more smoke detectors might should be installed.
– At least one is required on each story of the house and in the basement. Crawlspaces and uninhabitable attics don’t require a smoke detector installation. However, in case your attic or crawlspace contains a furnace, water heater, or any appliance that could become a source of fire (gas, oil, electric), have a smoke alarm installed as well (required by some jurisdictions and highly recommended if not required).
– Smoke detectors have to be interconnected – one triggered smoke detector activates all of them. Not all varieties of smoke alarms have the “interconnection” feature, which is extremely important – smoke developing in one section of the house would activate the closest device and automatically all of them at the identical time.
While remodeling, updating of electrical wiring to interconnect existing smoke alarms is just not required unless the wall finishes are being removed exposing wall framing. However, even with none rewiring you can still achieve maximum protection by utilizing an interconnected wireless smoke alarm detector system.
– The smoke alarm shall be clearly audible in all bedrooms over the background noise levels with all intervening doors closed. That’s why regular testing of the smoke detector siren is so important – just like all mechanical / electronic device – sometimes they fail.
– Enclosed interior staircases also require a smoke detector, and one shall be installed on the ceiling of the top floor. Staircases act like chimneys and smoke rising from the lower floor would activate the device supplying you with an early warning.
Smoke detector placement – rules apply to all the locations described above.
This is extremely important and at the same time quite simple, unfortunately very often done completely wrong. It’s probably because we don’t like to read the manuals and sometimes assume that we know what we’re doing.
– When installing a smoke alarm on the ceiling (preferable location / could be required in some jurisdictions), place it as near the middle as possible, never closer than 4″ (10cm) to the sidewall or corner.
– If for any reason, ceiling installation isn’t practical and wall installations are permitted, you’ll be able to install smoke alarms on the wall with its top edge at a minimum of 4″ (10cm) and a maximum of 12″ (30.5cm) below the ceiling.
Before placing a smoke detector on the ceiling or wall, consider checking the house insulation. Older homes could be missing a ceiling (if open to the attic) or exterior wall insulation. This could allow extreme heat or cold transfer from exterior into the house, creating a thermal barrier, and prevent smoke from reaching / activating the alarm. If this is the case (you may simply touch the wall or ceiling during very popular or cold days), mount a smoke detector on an interior wall of the house.
– Install smoke detectors in rooms with cathedral, sloped, peaked, gable ceilings at or within 3′ from the best point (measured horizontally).
– Install smoke detectors in each section of the room / area that has been divided by a partial wall. The wall is likely to be coming down from the ceiling (not less than 24″) or up from the floor.
– Install smoke alarms on a tray-shaped ceiling (also called coffered ceiling) on the highest portion of the ceiling or on the sloped portion of the ceiling within 12″ (30.5cm) vertically down from the highest point.
Do not install smoke detectors in following areas to minimize possibility of false alarms:
1. Areas where combustion particles are present (Combustion Particles – the by-products of burning process) – garages
– poorly ventilated kitchens
– close to furnaces and water heaters – I wouldn’t agree with this one, because presence of those particles can be a sign of combustion process problems
2. Damp or very humid areas akin to bathrooms. The humidity levels after taking a hot shower could result in a false alarm.
3. Within 3′ from the forced air heating and / or cooling system air supply vents, in a direct airflow area, close to the whole house fan locations. High air flow could blow smoke or shift it away from the detector preventing it from responding properly or at all.
4. Near fluorescent lights, where electronic “noise” may cause nuisance alarms.
5. Dusty areas, where particles of dust could cause smoke alarm failure or false alarm
6. In areas where air temperature may fall below 40°F (4°C) or rise above 100°F (38°C)
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