Nothing has ever been clearer than the following four words: smoke alarms save lives. And don’t take our word for it – just take a look at the stats. For every five home fire deaths, at least three occurred in houses with faulty or no working smoke alarms, with over 40% of all home fires occurring in properties with most smoke alarms whose batteries were missing. They’re pretty alarming statistics, and yet it remains quite a difficult topic to get your head around – especially as there are various different types of smoke alarms in the first place.

Let’s explore those smoke alarm types

Sure, the photoelectric alarms and ionisation smoke alarm types are the most common in Australia, but there are a few other types of smoke alarm technologies you also might like to know about:

  • Photoelectric: This one is the Gold Standard of today, which is especially the case in Queensland. This most sophisticated of the most common types of smoke detector is also known as the ‘optical’ smoke alarm – because it ‘sees’ even the tiniest specks of combustible particulate, otherwise known as smoke. It means that an early, smoky or smouldering fires is picked up as early as possible and is much less prone to false alarms. And unlike the next smoke alarm types, photoelectric smoke alarms are not radioactive in any way.
  • Ionisation: While the manufacturers insist it’s not harmful at all, ionisation smoke alarms are the ones with the radioactive logo on the base. Think of them as the cheaper, older and less effective of the main two smoke detector types, mainly because it misses those single smoke particles and instead really need a denser flow of smoke or an actual flaming fire to set them off – even though they seem to be triggering all the time when you cook toast, dinner or even have a misty shower.
  • Multi-Criteria: You’re much less likely to find these types of smoke alarms Australia-wide – and not just because they’ll cost you hundreds of dollars. They’re much more suitable for an area that needs to deal with a certain amount of smoke or similar airborne particulate – and even fire – without the tendency of a home smoke alarm to be constantly alerting your attention. It’s called ‘multi-criteria’ because it bundles a photoelectric sensor with a temperature-monitoring thermal sensor as well as an infrared sensor, whose job is to ‘look’ for flame signatures.
  • Dual-Sensor: While the multi-criteria alarm has three sensors, the dual-sensor version – predictably – has just two. They are the sophisticated photoelectric sensor technology and the radioactive ionisation type, as outlined above. In other words, you’re getting the benefits of photoelectric with the downsides of ionisation.
  • Carbon Monoxide: Well, it’s actually not a smoke alarm at all – it’s a carbon monoxide alarm! The electrochemical sensor triggers the alarm when carbon monoxide levels rise to alarming rates, so it should be considered a potential addition to your smoke alarms rather than an alternative.
  • Hearing-Impaired: Did you know 1 in 6 Australians have hearing problems? For these people, a normal smoke alarm might not wake them up in the dead of night, so some products trigger a high-intensity strobe light or even a vibrating pad under the sleeper’s pillow to alert them to fire danger.
  • Wireless Interconnected:  As technology races ahead these days, the trend is definitely away from wired systems across the board – and finally, photoelectric wireless interconnected smoke alarms are a genuine rather than cheap second-rate alternative to wired when it comes to keeping your family & home safe from the threat of fire.

How to choose your smoke detector types

Luckily, in Queensland, your choice of smoke alarm has basically been made for you by the government! As of January 2022, strict new smoke alarm legislation came into full force across the state, with the aim of saving lives by making sure a single home fire is never missed by sleeping or otherwise-engaged residents. How the rules affect you depends on your status, so let’s run through them based on your particular situation:

Are you living in your own home?

For many Queenslanders, the ‘new’ legislation actually took effect in 2017. It required all existing dwellings to replace their more than 10-year-old smoke alarms with brand new photoelectric smoke alarms up to date with the latest Australian Standards – even if the old ones were working and hard-wired smoke alarms. Any faulty or ‘dead’ alarms also needed to be urgently replaced.

TIP: Look for Australian Standard 3786-2014 on the product.

The next part of the legislation for existing private homes will kick in by 2027, when your photoelectric smoke alarms will also need to be fully interconnected. Hard-wired is preferable, but 10-year batteries are also acceptable. These alarms then need to be fitted:

  • On each storey
  • In each bedroom
  • In connecting hallways.

Are you renting?

Since 2017, your landlord has been responsible for ensuring the property you’re renting is fully up-to-date with the requirements outlined above. Additionally, before each lease begins, landlords were required to test and clean each and every smoke alarm – and then repeat the process every 12 months.

TIP: A smoke alarm is tested by pressing the clearly marked ‘test’ button.

Are you a landlord?

If you’re a landlord, you should read the requirements in the ‘Are you renting’ section above to understand your responsibilities. We must add that testing or cleaning a smoke alarm doesn’t require any special training or qualifications, even though some landlords or rental management agents will outsource these responsibilities to certain professionals.

As of 2022, landlords cannot kick off a new rental agreement without installing a fully interconnected photoelectric smoke alarm network in the dwelling.

Are you building or doing major renovations?

If you’re building new, or your major renovations require a Building Certifier, you must install hard-wired interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms with a battery secondary power source in all the required places. Moreover, any ionisation sensors are prohibited – meaning the dual-sensor smoke alarm type we outlined earlier is not allowed.

Are you selling?

To sell a home in Queensland, it’s been compulsory since 2017 to fit photoelectric smoke alarms first. From 2022, the smoke alarms also have to be interconnected and either hard-wired or fitted with 10-year batteries.

We’ll take care of your smoke alarm needs

Are you ready to roll with your smoke alarms – or are you thoroughly confused? Don’t fret because Your Electrical Expert can help with fully-licensed, highly experienced and always friendly & affordable electrical services in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and beyond. Our happy electricians understand that the new Queensland legislation is there to save lives, so we’re more than happy to help with smoke alarm servicing and installation. Call Your Electrical Expert today!