Smoke Alarm 101

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Everything you need to know about the new smoke alarm legislation

QLD Home sunset outside

Smoke Alarms certainly aren’t the most interesting topics; however, they are one of the most important.  Having sufficiently working smoke alarms must be a priority in your home.  When we sleep or are away from our home, smoke alarms allow our home a fighting chance not to be burnt to smithereens.

A house fire can be absolutely devastating, we want to help ensure your home is as safe as possible to avoid any avoidable accidents.  The Queensland Government changed smoke alarm legislations in 2017, specifying all dwellings must have interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms.

These smoke alarms must be located in all bedrooms, hallways that connect bedrooms and with the rest of the dwelling on every level. This phase will roll-out for 3 years commencing January 2017, by 2020 all homes must reflect the new QLD smoke alarm legislation.

As advised by the QLD Government, this means that:

  • From 1 January 2017: in all new dwellings and substantially renovated dwellings (this applies to building applications submitted from 1 January 2017).
  • From 1 January 2022: in all domestic dwellings leased and sold.
  • From 1 January 2027: in all other domestic dwellings.
What’s required by law?

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 wireless.

For the best protection smoke alarms should be installed:
  • On each storey
  • In every bedroom
  • In hallways which connect bedrooms and the rest of the dwelling
  • If there is no hallway, between the bedrooms and other parts of the storey; and
  • If there are no bedrooms on a storey, at least one smoke alarm should be installed in the most likely path of travel to exit the dwelling.
  • All smoke alarms should be interconnected.

To get everyone out safely during a house fire, it is essential to also have a well-practised fire escape plan.

From 1 January 2022
  • All homes or units being sold or leased, or existing leases renewed, will require the installation of hardwired photoelectric, interconnected smoke alarms. If a hardwired smoke alarm cannot be installed, non-removable 10-year battery smoke alarms can be installed in place.Smoke alarms in the dwelling must:
    • Be photoelectric (AS3786-2014); and
    • Not also contain an ionisation sensor; and
    • Be hardwired to the mains power supply with a backup power source (i.e. battery), although dwellings which were existing prior to 1 Jan 2017 can be hardwired or powered by a non-removable 10-year battery, or a combination of both.
    • Be interconnected with every other smoke alarm in the dwelling so all activate together.

    The legislation requires smoke alarms must be installed in the following locations:

    • On each storey
    • In each bedroom
    • In hallways that connect bedrooms and the rest of the dwelling
    • If there is no hallway, between the bedroom and other parts of the storey; and
    • If there are no bedrooms on a storey, at least one smoke alarm must be installed in the most likely path of travel to exit the dwelling.
    • If a smoke alarm which is hardwired to the domestic power supply needs replacement, it must be replaced with a hardwired photoelectric smoke alarm.
From 1 January 2027

All existing private homes, townhouses and units will require photoelectric interconnected smoke alarms. These must be either a hardwired (eg. 240v) or non-removeable 10-year battery powered type alarm.The legislation requires smoke alarms must be installed in the following locations:

Smoke alarm locations New Queensland Government 2017 Legislation
  • On each storey
  • In each bedroom
  • In hallways that connect bedrooms and the rest of the dwelling
  • If there is no hallway, between the bedroom and other parts of the storey; and
  • If there are no bedrooms on a storey, at least one smoke alarm must be installed in the most likely path of travel to exit the dwelling.
Where should you place smoke alarms?

Where practicable smoke alarms must be placed on the ceiling and placed within:

  • 300mm of a corner of a ceiling and a wall
  • 300mm of a light fitting
  • 400mm of an air-conditioning vent
  • 400mm of the blades of a ceiling fan.

If you have stairways, sloping ceilings, and ceilings with exposed beams, there are additional requirements to be adhered to.  Every residence will differ, so it’s important to assess yours.

Avoid installation in the following positions:
  • In dead air space, this is where hot air can be trapped and prevent smoke alarm detection. Examples would be cathedral ceiling apex’s, junction wall corners/ceilings and exposed floor joists.
  • Near windows, doors, fans or air-conditioners. Excessive air movement may prevent smoke and gases from reaching the smoke alarm or cause nuisance alarms.
What to avoid

These smoke alarm symbols are not photoelectric.

Smoke alarm symbols to avoid
Buying Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms must comply with the Standard AS 3786-2014 and should have the following labels.

Smoke Alarm symbols to have
If you’re a Homeowner
  • Invalid smoke alarms shown during a test must be replaced immediately.
  • Existing hardwired smoke alarms that need replacement, must be replaced with a hardwired photoelectric smoke alarm.
  • Smoke alarms be either hardwired or
  • Powered by a non-removable 10-year battery; and
  • Ionisation smoke alarms be replaced with a photoelectric type as soon as possible.
If you’re a Landlord

Landlords are responsible for the installation of smoke alarms that comply with new Smoke Alarm legislation, introduced on 1 January, 2017.

New tenancies

  • Within 30 days prior to a new tenancy in a domestic dwelling, you are required to clean all smoke alarms within the premises.
  • All smoke alarms in the dwelling must be cleaned and tested by the landlord every 12 months.
  • Testing can be completed via pressing the ‘test’ button on the smoke alarm. Follow manufacturers instructions for cleaning (this is often vacuuming the smoke alarm).
  • You do not need to be qualified or licenced to clean or test a domestic smoke alarm.

You can outsource smoke alarm maintenance for additional fees and request a “certificate of compliance” for servicing proof.  This is not a legal requirement, however, might be of the best interest to you or part of the real estate agent’s processes in tenancy management.

Learn more about Lighting and Powerpoint installations and maintenance here.

If you’re a Renter

Landlords/real estate agents are responsible for complying with the new legislation requirements.

Existing smoke alarms manufactured more than 10 years ago, as well as any smoke alarms that do not operate when tested, must be replaced with photoelectric smoke alarms that comply with Australian Standard 3786–2014. All smoke alarms should be interconnected within the dwelling.

Any person can legally install a battery powered smoke alarm. However, 240-volt smoke alarms connect to the electricity supply and must be connected by a licenced electrician. For more information read the Smoke Alarm Installation Information Sheet.

If you are concerned about your smoke alarms and the safety of your home, contact your real estate or landlord as soon as possible.

Testing and cleaning smoke alarms

Within 30 days before the start of a tenancy in a domestic dwelling, the lessor/landlord must test and clean each smoke alarm in the dwelling.

During a tenancy in a domestic dwelling, the tenant must test and clean each smoke alarm in the dwelling, annually.

To test a smoke alarm, press the ‘test’ button. Cleaning should be done according to the manufacturer’s instructions, which is usually vacuuming.

You do not need to be qualified or licenced to clean or test a domestic smoke alarm.

Some real estate agents may outsource smoke alarm maintenance to another company with associated fees paid by the landlord.  The real estate may request a “certificate of compliance” from these companies as proof of service. This is not a legal requirement but may be part of the real estate agent’s internal process.

If you’re Renovating or Building

All new homes being built in Queensland from 2017 require the installation of hardwired, photoelectric interconnected smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms in the dwelling must comply with the 2017 legislation described above.

The legislation requires smoke alarms must be installed in the following locations:

Smoke alarm locations when renovating or building
If you’re selling your home
  • You must be in compliance with the 2017 Queensland Smoke Alarm Legislation described above.
  • It is essential to also have a well-practised fire escape plan.

Existing landlord’s and tenant’s obligations continue. Property sellers must continue to lodge a Form 24 stating the requirements of the legislation have been met.

So there you have it folks, the 101 on smoke alarms.

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