UFPD Be sure to only use smoke detectors that carry the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some models of smoke detectors are designed to run on batteries while other "hard-wired" smoke detectors use household current as their primary source of power.

UFPD If electrical wiring is not already provided in your home to accommodate hard-wired smoke detectors, battery-powered smoke detectors can be used. Battery-powered smoke detectors typically use 9-volt batteries as their source of power and can easily be installed by homeowners. Certain models of smoke detectors now also come with 10-year lithium batteries. These smoke detectors are highly reliable, tamper-resistant, and require little maintenance.

UFPD If the required electrical wiring is provided in your home, hard-wired smoke detectors can be used. Hard-wired smoke detectors run on household current and should be installed by a qualified electrician. Certain hard-wired smoke detectors may use batteries as a back-up source of electricity during power outages. If your hard-wired smoke detectors do not have a battery back up, you may wish to install at least one battery-powered smoke detector in the home for protection in the event that household current is interrupted.

UFPD If you select a smoke detector that plugs into a wall socket, be sure that the outlet is not connected to a light switch that could allow someone to accidentally turn off the power. Also, make sure that the plug has a restraining device to keep it from being accidentally disconnected.

UFPD Smoke detectors use two different types of sensor technologies:

UFPD Ionization - Smoke detectors that use ionization technology react most quickly to open flaming fires such as paper or kitchen fires.

UFPDPhotoelectric - Smoke detectors that use photoelectric technology react most quickly to smoldering, smoky fires (fires which smolder for hours before bursting into flame.) Sources of such fires might include cigarettes burning in couches or bedding.

UFPD Combination Ionization/Photoelectric Smoke Detectors - Certain models of smoke detectors incorporate both ionization and photoelectric technologies and provide early warning for both types of fires.

UFPDCombination Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detectors - Certain models of smoke detectors also function as carbon monoxide detectors. Remember that unless you purchase one of these special detectors, your regular smoke detector will not alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide in your home.

 Where to Install Smoke Detectors

UFPD At a minimum, one smoke detector should be installed on every level of your home including the basement and in or near every sleeping area. Follow all manufacturer's instructions and recommendations to ensure the proper installation and placement of your smoke detectors.
Smoke detectors should be mounted high on a wall or on the ceiling.

UFPD  A wall-mounted detector should be positioned with the top of the detector 6-12 inches below the ceiling. A ceiling mounted detector should be positioned at least four inches away from the nearest wall.

 UFPD For individuals who are difficult to awaken, it may be necessary to install a smoke detector inside the bedroom.

UFPD Don't install smoke detectors near windows, doors, or forced-air registers where drafts can interfere with their operation. Moving air can blow smoke away from the detector or result in false alarms.

UFPD To avoid false alarms, install smoke detectors at least ten feet away from stoves, fireplaces, and steamy showers. In particular, smoke detectors installed too close to the kitchen frequently result in false alarms. Rather than removing the batteries from the detector, try reinstalling it farther away from the kitchen but on the same level of your home.

Smoke Detector Maintenance

UFPD Test smoke detectors monthly by pushing the "test" button or using other procedures recommended by the manufacturer.

UFPD Install new batteries annually or whenever the smoke detector makes a "chirping" sound. The chirping sound indicates that the battery in the smoke detector is nearly dead and needs to be replaced immediately.

UFPD To help you remember to install new smoke detector batteries annually, try changing the batteries every fall when you change your clocks back from daylight savings time.

UFPD Never "borrow" a battery from a smoke detector. You might forget to replace it in a timely manner.

UFPD Gently vacuum the outside of smoke detectors monthly to remove dust and cobwebs and to allow for proper airflow through the vent holes.

UFPD Replace smoke detectors if they are more than ten years old.

Smoke Detectors for the Hearing Impaired

UFPD Certain models of smoke detectors come equipped with a built-in strobe light (as well as an audible alarm) that can alert the hearing impaired in the event of a fire.

UFPD  Because the strobes used in such detectors generally require 120 Volts, most smoke detectors for the hearing impaired must run on household current rather than on batteries.

 UFPD For a list of manufacturers that distribute smoke detectors for the hearing impaired, please call the National Fire Protection Association's Center for High-Risk Outreach at 617.984.7826.

For more information about smoke detectors, please call the City of Fairfax Fire Department, Office of Code Administration, at 703.385.7830 (TTY 703.293.7120).