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What are the Requirements for Installing Smoke Alarms, Heat Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors in Your Area?

May 22, 2010

Smoke alarm I usually get up way before everyone else in my home on the weekends. I really enjoy the quiet time in the mornings and I like to read lots of other home improvement type of blogs during this time. One site which I found a month or so ago is A Concord Carpenter Comments. Today, Robert wrote a great article entitled Where To Place A Smoke Alarm. I started to write a comment on his post and it turned out so long that I decided to write an article on my site which will hopefully compliment Robert’s. Go read Robert’s article first, then come back to read mine.

Robert had a lot of good information in his article. But after reading his article, I realized that the requirements here in Montana are a little different than the requirements in Massachusetts. Here, we are required to install a smoke alarm in every bedroom, one in the hallway of every bedroom and one on every level in the home. In Montana, we are also required to install a smoke alarm in the crawl space if there is equipment (furnace, water heater, etc.) down there.

Where can I find the fire alarm codes?

You will not find any of the above information in the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70). It is in NFPA 72 which is the National Fire Alarm Code. However, I’ve never purchased this book. I’ve always either asked the electrical inspector or the fire marshal. The fire marshal is a great resource for all fire alarm codes and they will usually answer a question over the phone for you.

In Montana, the smoke alarms are required to be wired so that they are interconnected for new construction projects. This would make all of the smoke alarms work when smoke is detected anywhere within the house. Within certain city limits, you are required to install hard wired smoke alarms everywhere in your home before the completion of any remodel or addition; if your house doesn’t already have smoke alarms. They don’t have to be interconnected, but I highly recommend doing so always. The smoke alarms are required to have a battery backup as well.

My recommendations

A few things that are not required here yet are heat detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. A smoke alarm would not work very well in the kitchen. Every time you open the oven door or burn toast, it will go off. A heat detector works best in the kitchen and I highly recommend placing a heat detector in your kitchen. I also believe that carbon monoxide detectors should be placed by all gas appliances and in attached garages. I recommend placing a combination smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector in your attached garage.

There is some confusion out there about carbon monoxide detectors. Some say that the detectors should be placed on the ceiling and others say down by the floor. From the little research that I’ve done on these, I think that they should be placed nearer to the floor because carbon monoxide is lighter than air. However, when you purchase a combination smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector, the manufacturer recommends the placement be on the ceiling or up high on the wall. I’m sure that is is because of the smoke alarm. My recommendation here is to definitely follow the manufacturers directions.

Here are a few tips for maintaining your smoke alarm.

  • Test your smoke alarm monthly, Don’t just use the test button, you can get smoke in a can (canned smoke for smoke detector testing). The smoke in a can provide a more accurate test and one I highly recommend over the test button. I’ve pushed the test button on other smoke alarms and the alarm sounded. However, when I sprayed the smoke in a can, the alarm DID NOT sound.
  • Change the battery every time you change your clocks.
  • DO NOT paint your smoke alarm!
  • The average smoke alarm will last for approximately 10 years. If your smoke alarm is ten years or older, then replace it.
  • In new construction, keep the included dust bags on the smoke alarms until the project is complete and cleaned.

What are the requirements for smoke alarms, heat detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your area?


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One Response to “What are the Requirements for Installing Smoke Alarms, Heat Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors in Your Area?”

  1. concord carpenter on May 22nd, 2010 2:30 pm


    Excellent article.