What do I need to consider when installing smoke alarms in my home?
There’s probably three areas, really. There’s two types of smoke alarm, is probably the first thing. So you’ve got the photo-electric smoke alarm and the ionization.
A photo-electric smoke alarm actually uses a sensor to take a picture of the area, if you like, and they’re very, very good at sensing slow, smoldering fires with a lot of smoke – so like a knocked-over candle, an electric blanket malfunctioning in a bed, or a curtain that’s gone over a heater. That sort of slow, smoldering fire. We use photo-electric for that reason, in that that’s the common type of household fire. So that’s the first thing.
The other option is an ionization alarm, where it takes a sample of the air – so not so good at detecting really smoky fires, but very good at detecting rapid fires with not much smoke. Unusual in a home situation until the home is sort of fully alight. So that’s probably the first thing. We’d certainly recommend the photo-electric.
Then you’ve got a nine volt battery generally in New South Wales, just running of little square nine volt batteries, or a hard-wired smoke alarm. So a hard wired is preferable, if you can have it it’s wired into the home’s electricity, it’s working all the time, you don’t necessarily have to change the battery every year. Then they have one of two things, either a nine volt back up battery, which obviously needs to be changed regularly, or they may have a lithium battery like you have in your mobile phone. They will last for 10 years, the life of the alarm. Ideally a hard-wired smoke alarm with a lithium battery is the ultimate way to go. We’re talking about people’s lives, so for me if I was doing a major installation in my house, I would have a hard-wired smoke alarm that’s going to last the life of the alarm, with a lithium battery so you really don’t need to touch it.