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Are you up to speed with smoke alarms?

Do you know when you sleep, your sense of smell also sleeps? If a fire starts when you are sleeping, toxic fumes can overcome you.

This is why Photoelectric smoke alarms are more helpful. Photoelectric smoke alarms see smoke and will alert you early, so you can escape.

With interconnected alarms, you will be alerted no matter where you are, or where the fire starts.

New legislation specifies the type, positioning, and interconnectedness of alarms, which are critical factors for an early warning and quick escape.

It is recommended that updating your smoke alarms to match the new legislation as soon as you can, give your family the best chance of surviving a house fire. Also, make sure all your alarms are working and properly maintained.

A well-practised fire escape plan will also ensure a quick escape.

What are Photoelectric alarms?

Photoelectric smoke alarms are also known as optical or photo-optical alarms. These fire alarms detect visible particles of fire. They respond to a wide range of fires, but are effectively responsive to smouldering fires (low temperature flameless fires) and the dense smoke given off by foam-filled furnishings or overheated PVC wiring.


  • Good for identifying smouldering fire and dense smoke
  • Not as prone to cooking nuisance alarms
  • No radioactive material contains in the alarm
  • Suitable for general use

Your protection against fire depends on the quality and type of smoke alarm that is installed. According to research, photoelectric smoke alarms are generally more effective across a wider range of fires experienced in homes.

When selecting smoke alarms for your dwelling…

What to buy?

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

What to avoid?

Photoelectric alarms do not have this symbol

Power supply

Hardwired 240v

This type of smoke alarm is connected to a home’s 240v mains power supply and has a battery back-up. This means if there is a power failure the battery back-up starts working and is considered more reliable in the long term.

The normal operating conditions that back-up battery must work are as follows:

  • non-rechargeable batteries = 1 year
  • rechargeable batteries = 72 hours (charged by the 240v while in the alarm)
  • Apart from above,  these 240v hardwired smoke alarms must only be installed by a licenced electrical contractor in accordance with the Queensland Electricity Safety Act.

Battery Powered

If your smoke alarm is battery powered, then the battery must be non-removable and manufactured to power the smoke alarm for at least 10 years without being recharged.

To comply with the staged approach of the new legislation, this applies:

  1. from 1 January 2022 (dwellings for sale or lease)
  2. from 1 January 2027 (existing dwellings)

How to keep your fire alarm working properly

  1. 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). Consider relocating the smoke alarm.
  2. Check your fire alarm once a month by pressing the test button. If it is hard to reach the button, use a broom handle.
  3. Fire alarm functioning can be interfered by dust and debris. So regularly vacuum over and around your smoke alarm.
  4. Replace the backup battery on 240v alarms. Rechargeable batteries refers to manufacturers instructions and non-rechargeable batteries replace annually. Most alarms gives a short ‘Beep’ sound when the batteries are low.
  5. Smoke alarms must not be painted.

When do you need to replace your fire alarm?

  • All types of smoke alarms comes with a limited life-span (10 years under normal conditions of use). They should be replaced prior to the expiry date on the manufacturer’s warranty.

  • If you have a smoke alarm with a 10-year batteries that are non-removable, the entire smoke alarm must be replaced after 10 years.

  • If you need more detailed advice contact the smoke alarm supplier or distributor.

  • Small numbers of smoke alarms can be safely disposed of in household rubbish. Contact your local council for more information.