Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

Act 180 of the 2008 Legislative Session established requirements for photoelectric smoke alarms for single- family dwellings. The law specifies that beginning Jan 1, 2009 new owner occupied single-family dwellings, and dwellings that are sold or transferred, must have a photoelectric style alarm installed in the immediate vicinity of any bedrooms and on each level of the dwelling. New construction must have alarms that are electrically wired in with battery back up.

Why should my home have smoke alarms?

A smoke alarm are the single most important means of preventing house and apartment fire fatalities by providing an early warning signal — so you and your family can escape.

Where do I put them?

Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. Many fatal fires begin late at night or in the early morning. In new buildings install smoke alarms both inside and outside of the sleeping rooms. This is because most fire fatalities occur between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. when most people are sleeping. Contrary to popular belief, the smell of smoke may not wake a sleeping person. Instead, the poisonous gases and smoke produced by a fire can dull the senses and put one into a deeper sleep. The only thing standing between the deadly fumes of a fire and a safe escape is the piercing sound of a smoke alarm.

How do I take care of my smoke alarms?

Smoke alarms are pretty easy to maintain. Unfortunately, improper maintenance is a big reason smoke alarms fail. According to a study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 90 percent of U.S. households have smoke alarms. However, the smoke alarms in 20 percent of these households – about 16 million – weren’t working. Vacuuming the outer surface of the alarm occasionally will help prevent false alarms.

Can I install a combination smoke alarm?

The law and the code allow the use of photoelectric and carbon monoxide combination alarms but it does not allow ionization / photoelectric combination alarms to be used.

How long will my smoke alarm last?

About eight-to-ten years, after which it should be replaced. Like most electrical devices, smoke alarms wear out. You may want to write the purchase date with a marker on the inside of your unit. That way, you’ll know when to replace it. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for replacement.

Updating Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms don’t last forever. Smoke alarms need to be Replaced every 10 years.

If your smoke alarms are 10 years old or more it’s time to replace them with new photoelectric ones.

There’s a label on the alarm with the date of manufacture. If it doesn’t have a label, it’s already more than ten years old. Smoke alarms need to be properly installed, maintained and replaced when needed.

Many hardware, home supply or general merchandise stores carry smoke alarms. Make sure the alarm you buy is a photoelectric style and is UL-listed. If you are unsure where to buy one in your community, call your local fire department (on a non-emergency telephone number) and they will provide you with some suggestions.

No home should be without smoke alarms, and ionization alarms should continue to be used until a home can be equipped with new photoelectric alarms. And remember installation of an early warning single station smoke alarm system combined with a well- rehearsed plan for escape may save the lives of you and your family.

The information above is sourced from materials written by the Vermont Department of Public Safety Division of Fire Safety. For more detailed information please read, download or print the documents below.

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Smoke Alarms

An information sheet written by the Vermont Department of Public Safety Division of Fire Safety.
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Smoke Alarms Code Matrix

A building code matrix for smoke alarms requirements in new and existing structures. Written by the Vermont Department of Public Safety Division of Fire Safety.
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