When Do You Need to Replace Your Smoke Alarm?

Doing Maintenance on Home Smoke Dectector

Smoke alarms have been required in residences for a very long time. The problem is that even though they have been required for a long time, a large number of homes in the U.S. still do not have a smoke alarm. This blog will look at a number of different factors that contribute to this large gap in compliance.


A brief history of smoke alarms

Handyman installing smoke detector

Smoke alarms are designed to detect smoke by sensing the thermal energy created by a fire. When smoke enters the alarm, it interrupts the flow of current. The alarm has a circuit board to compare the current flow to the natural rate of flow. When the circuit detects a change in current it sounds an alarm. The first smoke alarms were wired directly to the power source for the entire house. The disadvantage of this was that even if the alarm sounded, it could not be silenced by the user. The first battery-powered smoke alarms were introduced in the 1960s. The first was sold by General Electric.


  • Why alarms should be replaced

Smoke alarms save lives. They are essential for protecting your family and home, and they are required by law in most states. However, the biggest downside to smoke alarms is that they require regular battery changes and can go off at unexpected times, such as at 3:00 a.m. and on weekends and holidays. With 10-year sealed battery smoke alarms, those annoying battery changes and false alarms are eliminated for a decade.


  • What are the regulations for smoke alarms?

If you were to go to any home in the United States, you will find one or more smoke alarms. Smoke alarms are now a requirement in almost every state and it’s for good reason. Just the other day, the fire department and I were called to a house for a smoke alarm going off. When we arrived, the homeowner said, “thank goodness you came because we didn’t hear it and we were sleeping.” You see, it’s not just the alarm that wakes you — it’s the smoke. It’s the smoke that makes you want to get up and leave your home. NFPA has a longstanding history of creating fire safety codes and standards for the protection of life and property. NFPA 72 is the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. This code was developed by NFPA members and the International Code Council and has been adopted by over 1,800 jurisdictions throughout the United States and Canada. The code sets forth minimum requirements for the installation and maintenance of smoke alarms and notification appliances.


  • How often should alarms be replaced?

Modern smoke alarms have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. If you’re replacing your smoke alarms, you should change all of them at the same time. If you’re installing new smoke alarms, replace all of them at the same time. With time, the sensitivity of smoke alarms will slowly fade. If you have a very old smoke alarm, it may not have enough sensitivity to detect a fire.



By complying with the current legislation, you will be keeping your family and your home safe. In recent years, NFPA 72 has been revised to add a requirement for interconnected systems. This is a huge positive change in the safety of our homes. Interconnected systems allow smoke alarms to communicate with each other and to have a backup in case one alarm goes off accidentally. We have a blog that is dedicated to this topic that you can find here.


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