Where to Place Smoke Detectors in Your Home

February 21, 2022 4:30 pm

You’ve likely had to wave a towel at your smoke detector while trying to cook when the room got a bit smoky. And while it may have been tempting to take the detector down, these are incredible, life-saving devices. We want you to be prepared and have all the time you need to escape a fire if such a situation occurs.

Knowing where to place smoke detectors in your home could help you avoid those false alarms next time you’re cooking dinner and be quickly notified if there is an emergency.

How Do Home Smoke Detectors Work?

It is important to understand how smoke detectors work to help distinguish when they’re detecting a threat versus something overcooking in the oven. Knowing how different smoke detectors work can also help you understand where to put them.

Smoke detectors use two types of detection technology — ionization and photoelectric. Ionization detection electrically charges air molecules between two metal plates and measures the current to determine if the particles are smoke. Photoelectric uses light to reflect off of particles and determine if there is enough to be smoke.

Ionization alarms are quicker to detect flaming fires, while photoelectric alarms respond better to smoldering fires. Your home should have both types of units.

Why is Smoke Detector Placement Important in the Home?

In 2019, there were 354,400 residential fires in America, in which about 1,900 people lost their lives. Around 7,000 individuals were injured.

Those fires caused $14.8 worth of damage. Following the loss of a home, there is a lot to grapple with financially, logistically and emotionally.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released a report with research from 2014-2018 that found smoke detectors were present in 74% of residential fires. However, 41% of fatalities occurred in home fires where they had no smoke alarm, and 16% occurred in homes where the smoke alarms failed to operate.

The NFPA found that the risk of dying in a residential fire is 55% lower when the house has working smoke detectors. Twenty-four percent of smoke detector failures resulted from dead batteries. It is good practice to check your smoke detector batteries every time you change your clocks for daylight saving time.

With these statistics in mind, you can take steps to help make you and your family as safe as possible should a fire occur in your home. The time a smoke alarm going off gives you is precious, especially if the fire is happening while you are sleeping. However, there are certain places your smoke detector should be placed and should not be placed to be most effective.

Where Should I Place Smoke Detectors in the Home?

places to put smoke detectors

How big is your house? How many levels is it? How many rooms does it have? These factors will dictate how many smoke detectors you need and where you should place them. You should have smoke detectors in these areas:

1. Bedrooms

Each level of your house should have a smoke alarm both inside each bedroom and outside the rooms. Smoke is slowed by closed doors, and therefore it is important to have one in each separate area that could temporarily contain a fire.

2. Living spaces 

Make sure there is a smoke detector in the living room or family room and any other living spaces, like offices or playrooms.

3. Stairways

Install a smoke detector near the stairway to the upper level of your house if applicable.

4. Kitchen 

In the kitchen, there should be a smoke detector at least 10 feet from appliances to avoid false alarms from everyday cooking.

5. Basement

If your house has a basement, you should place a smoke detector at the bottom of the stairs on the ceiling.

All the smoke detectors in your home should be mounted on the ceilings or high on the walls, with no more than 12 inches separating the top of the alarm and the ceiling.

If you live in a house with a pitched ceiling, place the smoke detector within three feet of the peak but not within four inches from the top.

Where Should I Not Place Smoke Detectors in the Home?

Be aware that you should not place your smoke detectors near windows, doors or ducts. Drafts in the house could interfere with their technology.

Additionally, some of the other areas that you should avoid placing a smoke detector in the home include:

1. Bathrooms

A bathroom is not an ideal spot for a smoke detector for several reasons. In particular, the steam that comes from a hot shower can lead to the detector going off which would trigger a false alarm. What’s more, the moisture that is often found in bathrooms can get into the smoke detector causing the potential for it to damage and fail over time.

2. Fans or Vents

Placing a smoke detector near a fan or vent makes it hard for the system to pick up smoke that is present within the room or area. Therefore, it is recommended to install detectors three feet from the blades of the fan or the vent to avoid the smoke from getting blown away.

3. Windows

You should also avoid placing smoke detectors near or around any windows in your home. It becomes hard for detectors to pick up smoke accurately when open windows cause drafts throughout the home.

4. Cooking Appliances

While it is important to have smoke detectors in your kitchen, avoid placing them by any type of cooking appliance. Placing a smoke detector near the stove, microwave, oven or other kitchen appliance could cause it to go off by accident. To avoid these types of false alarms, make sure to always install smoke detectors at least 10 feet from any cooking appliance.

5. Garages

Installing a smoke detector in your garage could cause a false alarm due to the exhaust fumes that come from your car. What’s more, these fumes can also damage your smoke detector’s functionality and cause it to fail.

Smoke detectors are most effective when you take a lot of factors into consideration when choosing where to place them. Once installed appropriately, it is also important to maintain them.

How Do You Maintaining Your Smoke Detectors?

Smoke detector placement is only as helpful as to how well you maintain the devices themselves. There are several things you can do to help prevent smoke detector failure:

  1. When purchasing your smoke detectors, make sure they have a label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  2. Test all your smoke detectors at least once a month.
  3. Teach your children and everyone else in your home about what the sound means and what to do in the event they hear it.
  4. Follow the instructions on your smoke detector to clean it well.
  5. Smoke alarms need a new battery at least once a year. You will know when the battery is low because of a chirping sound.
  6. If you’re painting your walls or ceilings, take special care to not paint over detectors or decorate them in any other way.

It is also important to interconnect your smoke alarms if possible. A Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) survey found that interconnected alarms sounded in half of the fires they studied compared to the general number (alarms interconnected or not) of 37%.

How Many Smoke Detectors Do I Need in My Home?

In the state of Massachusetts, every homeowner must have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, as well as a certificate of compliance that shows they meet certain standards when selling your home. Other requirements say homeowners must have:

  • At least one smoke detector on every level of the house that is habitable.
  • One smoke detector at the base of each stairway.
  • One smoke detector inside and outside of each bedroom.
  • At least one smoke detector in the basement.
  • One smoke alarm for every 1,200 square feet of living space on each level.
  • Photoelectric smoke detectors can use in combination with ionization devices.
  • Smoke detectors that aren’t more than 10 years old or past the manufacturer’s recommendations

Get Your Smoke Detectors From Lexington Alarm Systems

get your smoke detector from lexington alarm systems

Now that you know how to protect yourself and your family by following smoke detector best practices, let Lexington Alarm Systems advanced monitored fire alarm system give you the peace of mind you deserve.

Our alarms will alert authorities for you within eight seconds of detecting an emergency. This allows for more time for you to get to safety and less time before the fire department arrives. We will also complete the installation, testing and UL monitoring for you. Request a quote today or contact us at (781)-275-4200.

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