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How Many Smoke Detectors Do I Need?

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cove system on the table around smoke detector

Smoke detectors save lives. Then why were smoke detectors only present in 74% of reported home fires between 2014 and 2018, according to a report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)?

Perhaps it’s because people don’t think a house fire will happen to them. Or they think the smoke detectors in their home or apartment work properly, or that there are enough detectors present in the home to alert residents in time.

In this article, we’ll cover how many smoke alarms you need in your home, as well as where to place them and how often to test their functionality so that they are there when you need them.

Smoke detector in kitchen

Why You Need Multiple Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors are an inexpensive way to keep your home and family safe from potential fires. According to the NFPA, every year an average of 358,500 homes experience a structural fire. More than 3,000 people die in fires each year in the U.S., according to FEMA.

What is causing these fires? Multiple things, though the top culprit by a long shot is cooking fires. After that, heating fires, careless/unintentional, and electrical malfunction fires were leading causes of house fires.

Out of all the causes of house fires, which is the leading cause of death due to fire? Smoking. If a person falls asleep while smoking and the cigarette starts a fire around the person who is sleeping, the fire happens too quickly for that person to wake up and escape in time.

A smoke detector can alert residents quickly and allow people more time. But they can only give you enough time to exit the house if they have detected the fire early. Placing multiple smoke detectors in your home is the best way to ensure that they will detect smoke when a fire is small, allowing everyone time to learn in time.

Two Types of Smoke Detectors

There are two kinds of smoke detectors that each use a different type of technology.

Some use ionization technology and others use photoelectric technology. They work differently and can catch different things. It’s important to know which you have in place, because they have different strengths and weaknesses. Experts recommend having one that utilizes both of these technologies.

phone with smoke co detector

Where Should I Put Smoke Detectors?

Before we can determine how many smoke alarms should be installed to protect a home, it’s helpful to understand fires and smoke. If a fire starts in the living room while everyone is asleep, for example, the smoke will go up to the ceiling of the living room first. If bedroom doors are closed, the fire and smoke would need to get bigger in order to spread.

According to the NFPA, a smoke detector should be placed:

  • Every level of the house, including the basement
  • Every bedroom
  • Outside the sleeping area (like in a hallway)
  • Near the kitchen
  • Near the bathroom
  • Every 1,200 square feet
  • Far enough away from vents and fans that the heat from these appliances won’t cause a false alarm
  • Far enough away from kitchens and bathrooms to reduce the potential for cooking smoke or batch steam to cause a false alarm
  • Away from where the sensor could be affected by drafts, such as next to windows
  • Where it is easy to clean (don’t allow the sensor to collect dust)

As far as where on the wall to put them, here are some instructions in another article.

If you have any questions about where to place smoke detectors inside your home, contact your local fire prevention officers. They are trained to assist you with all things related to fire safety and prevention.

The final smoke detector count will depend on your home. For example, a three-bedroom house with a main level and a second floor will need: at least three detectors (one for inside each bedroom), plus one out in the hallway near the bedrooms, plus another one on the first floor. If the living room and kitchen are far apart, it would be best to have one in each.

NFPA also recommends using an interconnected smoke alarm system. That way, when one smoke alarm sounds, they all sound.

Smoke detector

How Long Do Smoke Detectors Last?

According to NFPA, you should replace all smoke detectors every 10 years. The inside of smoke detectors gather dust over time, which desensitizes the sensors. So within 10 years, it will be less effective and could compromise your family’s safety.

Each smoke detector in your home comes with an expiration date—something all homeowners should take note of. If you’re not sure where to find it, check the inside of the detector for the manufacture date and add 10 years to it to get the expiration date.

RELATED: Maintaining and/or Replacing Your Smoke Detector

Furthermore, if you have smoke detectors that are connected to each other, you should plan on replacing all of them at the same time, even if some are still in working condition. Read our article for more about the lifespan of a smoke detector.

Where to put smoke detectors

Consider a Home Security System with a Smoke Detector

Did you know that you can include a smoke detector with your home security system? At Cove, you can customize your system to include cameras, sensors, and smoke detectors, which then connect to your alarm panel.

That panel communicates with our professional monitoring services, so that anytime your smoke detector goes off, we will contact you to see if it's a false alarm. If you don't respond, or if you confirm it's an emergency, we'll contact the fire department for you.

Interested in learning more? Take our quiz below and see how affordable a Cove system can be.

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