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Interconnected Smoke Alarms – Are They Really Worth It?

domestic smoke detector or sensor on white ceiling

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An interconnected smoke alarm network means when one alarm detects smoke in a property, then all the other smoke alarms will also activate at the same time. The theory is that having all alarms go off simultaneously when one detects smoke is that it provides a greater response time for occupants to escape the dwelling – particularly in larger and or/multi-story residences.

The importance that fire authorities place on this technology is evidenced within Australia, where all Australian states have now made it compulsory to have interconnected smoke alarms installed. Within the state of Queensland this became mandatory in 2022 for all people selling their home, or landlords renting out their properties. By 2027 interconnected smoke alarms will become mandatory for all homeowners in Queensland, irrespective of the situation.

How are smoke alarms interconnected?

Smoke alarms are interconnected by using a small inbuilt radio transmitter that emits a radio frequency to communicate or ‘talk’ with one another. They do not use infra-red technology or other means. After purchasing the alarms there is a short pairing process the owner will perform to interconnect the alarms together onto the same network group. Alarms are usually paired to a master alarm on the same network group. 

Do interconnected smoke alarms need to be hardwired?

No, not all interconnected smoke alarms need to be hardwired. Within Queensland hardwired smoke alarms must be utilized for new builds, substantial renovations or if an existing hardwired smoke alarm is to be replaced, then it must be replaced with a hardwired smoke alarm. In all other situations in Queensland, interconnected smoke alarms may be powered by a 10-year lithium battery sealed inside the unit. In fact, within some properties a combination of 240v hardwired and lithium battery powered smoke alarms can be interlinked together onto the same network group.

Are all interconnected smoke alarms compatible?

Short answer, no, not all interconnected smoke alarms are compatible. The set-up and pairing process is brand specific and varies between manufacturers. Also the type of software used inside each smoke alarm’s processor is different – it is for this reason that different brands of smoke alarms cannot be interconnected with each other. You should always follow the manufacturers recommendations as stipulated within the user manual.

What is the range of interconnected smoke alarms?

The physical range or distance that interconnected smoke alarms can operate in varies from brand to brand, however most work up to 30m maximum distance between each alarm, and within 100m free field of all alarms in the network. This distance is more than enough for typical homes. The radio frequency is such that it can penetrate through walls and floors without compromising the ability of the alarms to communicate. If in doubt, press the test button on the alarm to check!

 Handyman installing smoke detector

What about Australian Standard 3786:2014 and smoke alarm interconnectivity?

Australian Standard 3786:2014 places onus on smoke alarm manufacturers regarding the interconnectivity performance of the alarm, and also what information must be included on the smoke alarm packaging and user manual. Manufacturers are required to state the maximum number of smoke alarms which can be interconnected together, and also the frequency at which they operate. Unsure? Have a look at your smoke alarm packaging or user manual. Example below.

Disadvantages of interconnected smoke alarms

The most common misconception about interlinked smoke alarms is that they may set off alarms in adjoining or neighboring properties. This is not possible. Smoke alarms on one network group are paired to a ‘master’ alarm, which is distinct from the master alarm on any other adjoining group. Therefore, this cannot be considered a disadvantage.

Use the smoke alarm remote control!

As you could appreciate, if several smoke alarms are activating at once it is very loud. This is where the beauty of a remote controller comes into play. Press the ‘hush’ button on the remote control once to silence all alarms except for the one which is detecting the real smoke – this is a quick and easy way to identify which room is presenting the fire hazard. Press the ‘hush’ button a second time and all interconnected smoke alarms on the same network will be silenced. Remote controls are a great option to have when using interconnected smoke alarms.

Conclusion

The potential lifesaving benefits of installing interconnected smoke alarms cannot be underestimated, particularly as reliability improves and the cost associated with this technology reduces exponentially. Protect the life of your oved ones and install interconnected smoke alarms today – yes they are really worth it!