Smoke Alarms

The easiest way to protect your home and family from fire is with a working smoke alarm. 

  • Fit at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home, they are available from DIY stores, electrical shops and most high street supermarkets.
  • The ideal position for a smoke alarm is on the ceiling, in the middle of a room, and on the hallway and landing, so you can hear an alarm throughout your home.
  • Only take the battery out when you need to replace it
  • You can even have linked alarms installed, so that when one alarm detects a fire they all go off together.
  • If you have a ten year alarm, or a mains connected alarm, they will need to be replaced every ten years. This date can usually be found on the alarm.
  • Avoid putting alarms in or near kitchens or bathrooms where smoke or steam can set them off by accident.
  • Never disconnect or take the batteries out of your alarm if it goes off by mistake.
  • Strobe lighting and vibrating pad smoke alarms are available for the deaf or hard of hearing

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See if you can get a free smoke alarm and fire safety check by registering for a Free Home Fire Safety Check.

However, if you want to choose your own, then our advice and information should help and point you in the right direction.

The general rule is quite easy:

  • Kitchen and Garage: Heat Alarms
  • Landings: Ionisation smoke alarms or combined optical smoke and heat alarms
  • Bedrooms, living rooms and hallway: Optical smoke alarms or combined optical smoke and heat alarms.

There are mainly four types of smoke alarm currently on the market – ionisation, optical (also described as photo electronic), heat and combined.

Ionisation alarms

These alarms are the cheapest and the most widely available from most supermarkets, DIY stores and other high street retailers. They are sensitive to free burning fires e.g. chip pan fires.

Optical alarms

These are more expensive because they are more effective at detecting slow burning fires such as overheated electrical wiring. They are less likely to go off accidentally or when you're cooking, and are best for ground floor hallways or for homes on one level.

Heat Alarms

These alarms detect the increase in temperature from a fire and are insensitive to smoke. They can therefore be installed in kitchens. They only cover a relatively small area of a room, so potentially several heat alarms need to be installed in a large kitchen.

Combined Optical Smoke and Heat Alarms: Combinations of optical and heat alarms in one unit to reduce false alarms while increasing the speed of detection.

If you are installing more than one smoke alarm, you may want to consider having one ionisation and one optical alarm for the best protection.

However, whichever model you choose, look out for one which has a British Standard Kitemark symbol which indicates that the detector is an approved model. 

Standard battery alarms
An ionisation battery alarm is the cheapest and most basic smoke alarm available. An optical battery alarm is a little more expensive. You need to replace the battery once a year or when it beeps regularly, whichever is sooner.

Alarms with 10-year batteries
These are slightly more expensive, but you save on the cost of replacing batteries. They are available as ionisation or optical alarms and are fitted with a long-life lithium battery or a sealed power pack that lasts for 10 years.

Hush or silence button
These models are available with a 'hush' button which, when pressed, silences the alarm for a short time (for example, when cooking). If there is a real fire, giving off lots of smoke, the hush system is overridden and the warning alarm sounds. The alarm reminds you that it's been silenced by 'chirping' or by displaying a red light.

Mains-powered alarm
These alarms are powered by the home's electricity supply and need to be installed by qualified electricians. There's no battery to check, although the model is available with or without battery back-up in case of a power cut.

Battery alarm with emergency light
If the alarm goes off the emergency light alerts people with hearing difficulties.

Interconnecting or linked alarms
Some alarms connect to each other so that, when one senses smoke, all the alarms sound. This makes sure everyone hears the alarm. These alarms are useful for people with hearing difficulties, and also in larger homes.

Mains-powered alarm with strobe light and vibrating pad
These alarms are designed for people who are deaf or have hearing difficulties. If there's a fire, you'll be alerted instantly by the smoke alarm's flashing light or vibrating pad.

Mains-powered alarm which plugs into a light socket
This alarm uses a rechargeable battery which charges up when the light is switched on. It lasts for 10 years and can be silenced or tested by using the light switch.

Landlords are legally obliged to fit smoke alarms. 

New smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 came into force on the 1 October 2015 that will require landlords to install and check smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms.

  • Landlords will require a smoke alarm on each floor of the premises and
  • A carbon monoxide alarm in any room of the premises which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance

The regulations specifically exclude Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) as these properties are already covered by other legislation and specific guidance already exists to assist landlords determine the appropriate standard of fire detection and alarm.

View our fire safety page on rented accommodation for more safety information.

For full details of the new smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations legislation go to www.legislation.gov.uk.

If you are a landlord, visit our business fire safety page on Private Landlords where you can request free smoke alarms.