Smoke detector installation for darwin home owners. Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

Smoke Detectors  

Smoke detectors are an integral part of your fire safety equipment as they are your early warning system that something is wrong. These little devices are a lifesaver but people often overlook their importance.  

Over the years a great deal of research has been done on the causes of fire and the most suitable way to reduce the danger from it. In all these researches, smoke detectors have been shown to play a vital role in reducing the occurrence of fatalities. 

According to one study, at least 900 Aussies have succumbed to preventable residential fires from July 2003 to June 2017. On average, this is approximately 64 deaths annually. During the mentioned period, there was no declining trend in fire deaths. 

The Importance of a Smoke Detector 

Having smoke detectors placed in various locations in your home allows for fast and effective detection. When placed in the right location, the alarm the smoke detector siren will warn you when there is a potential fire, allowing you to check the nature of the problem and prevent any loss of life or possible damage.  

How Smoke Detectors Work 

Smoke detectors are always placed on the roof for better detection as smoke rises. But don’t put them too close to corners or the very top of a raked ceiling. Smoke detectors are of two types: 

  • Photoelectric Sensors 
  • Ionization Detectors  

Photoelectric Sensors 

Photoelectric sensors work by going off when the smoke interferes with a steady beam of light triggering it to strike a sensor. The advantage of these smoke detectors is that they are more likely to sense smouldering fittings and do not go off every time you burn a toast. However, they are more expensive than ionisation. They are also the minimum requirement in homes in the Northern Territory. 

Ionisation Sensors 

Traditionally these are the most commonly used detectors in the domestic and small area use. The detectors have an ionisation chamber inside them that detects the changes in its ionisation processes if there is smoke. This sets off the alarm. The advantage of these detectors is that they are very cheap. The downside is that they can be oversensitive and simple kitchen mishaps or even dust can set them off. This type of detector is no longer recommended in homes in the Northern Territory. 


Smoke Detectors Maintenance Tips 

To ensure that your smoke detectors are working properly, it is important to perform regular maintenance practices. Some of the maintenance done on smoke alarms include: 

  1. Testing the Smoke Alarm 

Ensure that you test your smoke alarm monthly to make sure that the battery is not dead and that the detector is functioning well.  

  1. Vacuuming  

Ensure that you vacuum the smoke detector at least once every six months to remove any dust build-up. Use a soft brush attachment around and along each of the vents while vacuuming.   

  1. Battery Replacement 

The battery may require replacement once a year. Usually, most models will emit a short beeping sound every few minutes when the batteries are low. It is important to note that not all models have disposable batteries, so you need to check the manufacturer’s instructions. Dunwrights Air & Electrical as a rule generally install detectors with 10 year Lithium back-up batteries. 

  1. Protection against Infestations 

Using a surface insect spray on each smoke detector in your home is a good way of preventing insects from nesting inside. It is, however, important to cover the detector when spraying to prevent spraying inside of it as this may damage the detector. 

When to Replace a Smoke Detector 

Exposure to contaminants, insects, ducts, and corrosion may cause smoke detectors to malfunction. The majority of smoke alarms have a replacement date or expiration date stamped on them. However, if your detector does not have a date on it, you should replace it once every 10 years.  If unsure call an electrician. 

Northern Territory Fire Detector Regulations  

The Northern Territory (NT) law requires that all residential premises install approved smoke detectors. This law applies to even movable dwellings such as caravans and demountables 

In the NT, photoelectric smoke detectors are a legislative requirement. Since 1 May 2014, the National Construction Code requires that all new or renovated homes with more than one alarm have them interconnected.  

There are several rules that every homeowner should follow as per the NT law. These are as follows: 

  • Both homeowners and tenants are required to check each smoke alarm at least once every year to ensure that they are functioning. Property managers can act on behalf of the homeowner to test, maintain, or replace detectors.  
  • The law approves the use of photoelectric smoke detectors. These detectors can either be hardwired to the home’s main power supply or contain a lithium battery with a lifespan of 10 years.  
  • A licensed electrician must install all hardwired photoelectric smoke detectors. As for the battery-powered units, one can manually install them following the manufacturer’s instructions.  
  • For NTG public premises, the approved smoke detector is one with 10-year battery life. When the battery expires, it is the work of the Department of Housing will replace it. 
  • If a property is on sale or lease, the property owner must install an approved photoelectric smoke detector.  
  • Homeowners with non-approved detectors do not have to replace these units until they malfunction.  
  • All homes built before 7 January 1998 and do not have smoke detectors installed, need to install an approved photoelectric smoke detector as soon as possible. 

These are some of the regulations on smoke alarms in the Northern Territory. You can read more rules on NT Fire and Rescue Service website.   

Each year, many people die needlessly in fires because of malfunctioning smoke alarms that could have prevented the fatality. It is, therefore, crucial that you follow the maintenance tips mentioned above. Also, follow the government’s regulations to ensure a functioning smoke detector.  

Smoke detectors are vital equipment to keeping your family and home safe. We can help you install approved smoke detectors in your home. If you need smoke detector installation and replacement services, do not hesitate to contact Dunwrights Air & Electrical. 

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