SMOKE ALARMS – Upgrade your smoke alarms today!

By Daley Raffin

Old ionisation smoke alarms can be slow to react, and may not give you or your loved ones enough time to escape.

That’s why there’s new legislation to install photoelectric smoke alarms, which have been proven to be more effective in the domestic home.

Upgrading your smoke alarms today could save a life.

Other Smoke Alarm Options These include:

  • alarms for deaf and hearing-impaired people; or
  • alarms with emergency lights or heat sensors.

Common features in smoke alarms

  • Test button – to ensure correct operation.
  • Tested by Scientific Services Laboratories to comply with AS 3786-2014.
  • Some models have ‘hush’ buttons to stop nuisance alarms.
  • Interconnection allows all smoke alarms to sound simultaneously should any
    one alarm activate. All occupants are alerted, maximising the opportunity for


When it is time for your property’s alarms to be upgraded, those alarms must:

  • be photoelectric and comply with Australian Standard 3786-2014
  • not also contain an ionisation sensor; and
  • be less than 10 years old; and
  • operate when tested; and
  • be interconnected with every other ‘required’ smoke alarm in the dwelling so all activate together.

Any existing smoke alarm being replaced from 1 January 2017 must be a photoelectric-type alarm which complies with Australian Standard 3786-2014.
If a smoke alarm which is hardwired to the domestic power supply needs replacement, it must be replaced with a hardwired photoelectric smoke alarm.
In existing domestic dwellings, it is possible to have a combination of smoke alarms (240v and battery operated) and interconnectivity can be both wired and/or wireless.



Photoelectric Smoke Alarms Photoelectric smoke alarms, also known as optical or photo-optical, detect visible particles of combustion. Research indicates that these types of smoke alarms are generally more effective across a wider range of fires experienced in homes. They respond quicker to smouldering fires and the dense smoke given off by foam filled furnishings or overheated PVC wiring.


  • Good for smouldering fire and dense smoke
  • Not as prone to cooking nuisance alarms
  • Contain no radioactive material
  • Suitable for general use Your protection against fire increases with the quality
    and type of smoke alarm that is installed.

Unwanted activations

Photoelectric smoke alarms are less likely to false alarm. There are five main reasons that smoke alarms would activate for no apparent reason.

  1. They are near or past their ten year life.
  2. The backup battery requires replacement.
  3. The wrong type of smoke alarm has been selected for the location.
  4. hey have a build-up of dust, insects or other particulates.
  5. They are in the wrong location (e.g. too close to cooking fumes from the
    kitchen or steam from the shower).


How do I keep my smoke alarms working?

Smoke alarms can only save lives if they are well maintained and work properly. Steps to remember:

  • Read the manufacturer instructions.
  • Once a month check the operation of the smoke alarm by pressing the test
    button. If you cannot reach the button easily, use a broom handle.
  • Keep them clean. Dust and debris can interfere with their operation, so
    vacuum over and around your smoke alarm regularly.
  • Replace removable batteries, if applicable, annually.
  • In most models when batteries are low the detector will sound a short ‘BEEP’
    every minute or so. This is your reminder to replace the battery.
  • Smoke alarms must never be painted.
  • Failure to maintain your smoke alarm may lead to continued unwanted
  • If cooking smoke sets off the alarm, do not disable it. Turn on the range fan,
    open a window or wave a towel near the alarm until the alarm stops beeping.
    Or use the hush button (if fitted).
  • If unwanted alarm activations persist when cooking, consider relocating the
    smoke alarm or change the range fan to exhaust externally.


Why do I need to replace my smoke alarm?

  • After 10 years smoke alarms may malfunction and their efficiency compromised with accumulated dust, insects, airborne contaminants and corrosion of the electrical circuitry.
  • They must be replaced if they are more than 10 years old or if they fail to operate when tested.
  • A smoke alarm constantly monitors the air 24 hours a day. At the end of 10 years, it has gone through millions of monitoring cycles. After so much use, components may become less reliable. This means that as the smoke alarm gets older, the potential of failure increases.
  • Most smoke alarms have an expiry or replace by date stamped/printed on them.
  • Contact the smoke alarm supplier or manufacturer for more detailed advice.

How do I dispose of a smoke alarm I’ve replaced?

  • If the smoke alarms are the photoelectric type, individual or small numbers can be disposed of with the household waste.
  • If the smoke alarms are the ionisation type, indicated by the radiation warning symbol on the body of the alarm, individual or small numbers can be disposed of with the household waste.
  • If disposing of a large number of smoke alarms QFES recommends consulting with the relevant authority or your local council for more information.


You can buy smoke alarms from hardware stores, electrical retailers, or through your qualified electrician. There are two power supply options for existing dwellings (approved prior to 1 January 2017) – battery or hardwired.

Note: Existing hardwired smoke alarms must remain hardwired if replaced. Hardwired A hardwired smoke alarm is connected to a home’s mains power supply with a battery back-up.

  • Considered more reliable in the longer term.
  • Uses a battery to provide back-up power if the AC power fails. Battery 9-volt
    removable batteries are legal until 01/01/2022 for rentals/sales and
    01/01/2027 for owner occupied residences (unless the initial building
    approval required otherwise). Replacement smoke alarms must comply with
    AS 3786 -2014.

Where practicable smoke alarms must be placed on the ceiling. Smoke alarms must not be placed:

  1. within 300mm of a corner of a ceiling and a wall;
  2. within 300mm of a light fitting;
  3. within 400mm of an air-conditioning vent;
  4. within 400mm of the blades of a ceiling fan. There are special requirements
    for stairways, sloping ceilings, and ceilings with exposed beams. Specific
    requirements are explained in the Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008.

If you have a specific question or require further clarification please feel free to call us at Raffin Electrical on 4168 5518.