Smoke Detectors, Alarm Systems and Upgrades

by Michael Chotiner of The Home Depot


The National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (NFPA 2013 72) has set standards to transition away from smoke alarms powered by removable 9-volt batteries and encourage the adoption of new technologies.  The most recent version of the code requires smoke alarms to be hard-wired, interconnected, and backed up with a 10-year sealed battery.

 


 

It also reinforces requirements for the placement around the home of smoke alarms, namely:

  • in all bedrooms and sleeping quarters or on walls or ceilings just outside of bedrooms and sleeping quarters;
  • at least one device on each floor of a home, including the basement; and
  • wherever flammable substances are stored, such as the garage.

While there’s general recognition at state and local levels that mandating smoke alarm upgrades to the current standard—which requires installation by a licensed electrician—would be onerous for owners of older homes and, therefore, unenforceable, many states throughout the U.S. are now trying to drive upgrades through the permitting process for major interior renovations and additions. In many jurisdictions, if plans involve opening up walls or building new ones, the remodeler/owner must also plan to install hard-wired, interconnected smoke alarms to get a permit (see state-by-state table below).

Some jurisdictions require dual-sensor smoke alarms with both ionization and photo-electric detectors. And some require carbon monoxide detectors to be installed with compliant smoke alarms in an upgrade.

The permitting process is not the only official lever being used to nudge owners and builders into compliance with the latest smoke alarm standards.

Some jurisdictions also mandate replacements and upgrades when:

  • ownership of the property changes;
  • there is a change of tenant;
  • the existing smoke alarm is more than 10 years old; and
  • the existing smoke alarm fails to respond or otherwise malfunctions.

Combination Fire- and Burglar-Alarm Systems

Where smoke alarms are integrated with home security systems that also include intrusion alarms, programming keypads, transformers, automatic telephone dialers, and annunciators to sound the alarm, there are additional considerations. While the code allows combination alarm systems, when a fire detection device is present, it becomes a “household fire alarm system” that is subject to NFPA standards.

That means that:

  • the equipment used must be listed for use in a fire alarm system [NFPA 72(07)-11.3.1];
  • the system must ensure that fire warnings are audibly distinct from other alarm sounds and take precedence, even if a non-fire warning sounds first [NFPA 72(.07)-11.7.6.2];
  • the system must have two independent power sources—AC current and a rechargeable battery [NFPA 72(07)-11.6.2 (1)];
  • the battery must have the capacity to power the system for at least 24 hours in the event of a power failure, with the capability to recharge within 48 hours [NFPA 72(07)-11.6.2 (2)];
  • where common wiring exists in a combination system, components that don’t have a fire detection/warning function must be connected so that any fault in the equipment or interconnection between this equipment and the fire alarm system wiring does not interfere with the supervision of the fire alarm system, or prevent alarm or trouble signal operation [NFPA 72(07)-11.7.6.5];
  • when a home fire alarm system is monitored from a remote station, the station may verify the alarm signal as long as it doesn’t delay notification of the fire department by more than 90 seconds [NFPA 72(07)11-7.8]; and
  • monitored fire alarm systems are required to send a test once a month [NFPA 72(07)11-7.8].

State-by-State Guide to Smoke Alarm Requirements

State

Upgrade on Permit

Hardwiring

Interconnection

10-Year Battery Backup

AL

Requirements are based on 2003 NFPA codes.  The primary power for all smoke alarms in newly built homes shall be from the building’s electrical system. Battery-powered smoke alarms are recognized in existing dwellings.

AK

X

X

X

AZ

X

X

X

AR

X

X

CA

X

X

CO

There are no statewide regulations; check with the local jurisdiction.

CT

An affidavit of smoke alarms present is required on a property transfer;
new rules are pending.

DE

X

X

DC

X

X

X

FL

X

GA

NFPA 72 codes apply; contact county fire office for connection requirements.

HI

X

X

ID

X

X

X

IL

X

X

IN

State law requires all newly installed smoke detectors to be dual-sensor type, with photoelectric and ionization technologies.

IA

X

X

KS

X

X

X

KY

X

X

X

LA

X

ME

State law requires the purchaser of a property to install approved smoke alarms within 30 day of closing.

MD

X

X

X

X

MA

State law requires installation of approved smoke alarms by the seller on the transfer of a property.  Newer homes must have hardwired, interconnected alarms with sealed a 10-year battery backup.

MI

X

X

X

X

MN

X

X

X

X

MS

X

X

MO

There is no statewide fire code; jurisdictions are encouraged by the state to observe current NFPA 72 standards.

MT

Smoke detectors are required for the sale of a property.

NE

X

X

NV

Standards are set by local jurisdictions.

NH

Smoke alarms are required in every residence built after 1982.

NJ

X

X

X

X

NM

There are no state requirements.

NY

Interconnected smoke alarms are required.  They may be hardwired or wireless, and 10-year backup batteries encouraged. The state can levy fines of not more than $1,000 a day where violations are found through inspection, but enforcement of local requirements (which may be more or less stringent) is left to the local AHJ.

NC

X

ND

X

X

X

OH

For new construction, follow the 2006 Residential Code of Ohio.  There is no retroactive requirement for smoke alarms in older homes.

OK

There are no smoke alarm requirements for existing single-family residences unless they’re rented.  New construction and remodeling projects are subject to NFPA 72 standards and enforced by the permitting process of the local AHJ.

OR

Technical requirements for smoke alarms are governed by ORS 479.297. Installation requirements are governed by OAR 837-045-0050.  Dwellings may not be sold or transferred without  the required smoke alarms installed in accordance with the state building code in force at the time of

construction and the rules of the state fire marshal.

PA

New homes are subject to smoke alarm requirements found in IRC 2006, Section 313, requiring hardwiring, interconnection and battery backup.  The remodeling of existing homes requires at least non-interconnected smoke alarms at prescribed locations per the code.  The local AHJ may enforce standards other than those required by the state.

RI

X

X

X

X

SC

Smoke alarms are required for all homes.  Guidelines have been issued for the placement and installation of hardwired and battery-powered units.  No enforcement mechanism is articulated in the available information.

SD

No statewide legislation addresses smoke alarm requirements for
single-family homes.

TN

There are no state requirements for smoke detectors in single-family homes.  For new construction and remodeling, apply the local building code per the jurisdiction.

TX

X

The standards for the location, installation and power source for smoke alarms are set and enforced by local AHJ.

UT

State law requires smoke alarms to be installed outside sleeping areas
and on all levels of a home.

VT

Homes constructed after 1994 are required to have hardwired
smoke alarms with a battery backup.

VA

X

X

X

X

WA

Smoke detectors are required in all dwellings built after 1980 and in dwellings not occupied by the owner. Seattle requires hardwiring, interconnection and battery backup.  Other jurisdictions are encouraged to adopt the current version of NFPA 72.

WV

 Smoke detectors are required in all one- and two-family dwellings installed in accordance with the current NFPA 72 requirements. A fine of up to $250 can be levied if an inspection shows that compliant smoke alarms are not present, with a fine of up to $2,000 on the second offense.

WI

Dwellings permitted after April 1, 1992 are required to have hardwired, interconnected smoke detectors with a battery backup on each level and within 6 feet of all sleeping quarters.

WY

State regulations are not currently available. However, the state fire marshal refers residents to IBC 2006, which stipulates standards for hardwiring, interconnection and battery backup.

                                                        Source:  FEMA 

 

For a valuable guide to smoke alarm standards and related issues, read InterNACHI’s article on Smoke Alarm Inspection.

 

InspectorSeek.com

AuthorMichael Chotiner is a DIY home improvement expert who shares his knowledge about home security and building code requirements for The Home Depot.  Michael has owned and managed his own construction business. Visit The Home Depot online to see a selection of DIY home security systems like the ones described in this article.

 

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