Smoke Detector Installation Tips

There are two main types of smoke detectors available on the market. 

You have photoelectric detectors, which work by using a light sensing chamber. In this instance, smoke enters the chamber and disrupts the path of a laser inside the chamber. This triggers the alarm. These detectors are outstanding for sensing slow-burning or smoldering fires in your home.

Then you have ionization detectors, which use two electrically charged plates to ionize the air in the sensor. When smoke enters the chamber, it disrupts the flow of the ions and triggers the smoke alarm. These work best in fast and flaming fires. The one flaw of this design is that they can also be triggered by dust or even steam.

Then you have a dual sensor smoke detector, which works off both photoelectric and ionization systems. When shopping on the market, this will likely be the best option for you. Whichever option you end up going with, installation usually follows the same set of basic principles, which will be outlined in this article.

Can I Install A New Smoke Detector Myself?

Yes, you can install a new smoke detector yourself, regardless of whether you are installing hardwired smoke detectors or battery-operated smoke detectors. In many parts of the world building code will now require that you use a combination of both.

How Do I Install A New Smoke Detector Step-By-Step?

Pick Your Spot

While it is important to have a smoke detector installed on every floor of your home, you also need to be strategic about where you have that smoke detector installed on the given floor of your home, whether that be in the bedrooms, the hallway, or the garage. This will also depend on the type of detector you purchase.

Once you have picked the spot where you want to install your smoke detector, you will then need to mark that spot out before any form of installation can take place. So, grab a pen or pencil, and using the base of the smoke detector mark the two holes where you will screw the base of the smoke detector to the ceiling or the wall, depending on where you need the devices.

Drill Holes For Screws

A smoke alarm package will usually include a pair of plugs needed to help hold the device in the wall or ceiling. When you drill your holes make sure that they are just big enough for the plugs to go through, but also tight enough to ensure that the smoke detector stays in once you have attached it. Getting this part just right is important for the safety of the device, and general safety in your household.

Install Plugs For Your Unit

Once you have drilled both of your holes, you will just need to grab the plugs and push them in gently. Be careful not to force the plugs in because that will just make the whole setup a little too loose, which ultimately compromises everybody’s safety.

If you do have a problem getting your plugs in, you may need to give them a gentle tap, either with your clenched fist or with a small hammer, while still being cautious enough to make sure that you do not stretch the holes too wide.

Screw The Base In

Depending on what types of smoke alarms we are dealing with here, you might need to attach either a Slotted bit, a Phillips bit, A Robinson bit, or a Star bit to your drill. Once you have sufficient clarity on that, you can then proceed with drilling in your screws, which is so much simpler, more efficient, and quicker than using a screwdriver. Once you are done with this, just double-check and make sure that the mounting base for your smoke detector is firmly attached and in position.

Click Smoke Detector In Place

Once the mounting base is secure, you can then move on to clicking the smoke detector in place. How you click this on will vary depending on the types of smoke alarms you are dealing with. The most common types used are battery-operated smoke detectors, which are very easy to click into place. If yours needs a battery for power, you will also need to install the battery first, before clicking it into place.

Test Your Smoke Detector

While the insertion of batteries into your smoke detector is usually a pretty straightforward business, you should just test your smoke detector once clipped into place on your ceiling, just to make sure that it works.

Most smoke detectors will have two buttons on the display. One of those buttons will usually say Test, and the other will usually say Silent. The Silent button is usually when you have cooking or a barbeque going on in your home, and helps prevent any mildly annoying false alarms.

You should actually regularly and frequently use the Test button, at least once a month to make sure that the smoke detector is working, because you just never know when you might need it. Always make sure that you have some battery backups available too, in case the alarm is not fully operational.

You should replace your batteries every six months, but just make sure your battery-operated smoke detectors (or battery-powered smoke detectors) are working anyway, and don’t wait for the battery to actually die out.

How To Install Hardwired Smoke Detectors

Depending on where you live, building code could require that you install smoke detectors with two sources of power. The primary source of that power will come from wiring, while the second source of power will come from batteries, which serve as backup in case the power in your home trips or something. In this instance, you will still be able to complete a DIY job at home, without necessarily having to rope in the services of a professional.

To install hardwired smoke detectors, you will need to complete the following steps. You will need to take a little more time with this though.

Identify Your Wires

As a point of departure, you need to note that there are three wires on hardwired smoke detectors. The first two are designed to transport 120 volts of house power. The final wire, which is usually red, has been designed to send a communicating signal to all of the other smoke detectors in your home. 

It is an interconnecting wire, which is a standout feature of hardwired smoke detectors. This means that if you have a fire down in your basement, and that device goes off, you will also have all the other devices in your home give off a signal. This way you will have sufficient time to combat the fire, because it won’t catch you off guard.

Drill A Big Hole 

Once you have clearly established where you want to install your smoke detectors, and have marked those places out with a pencil, you will need to drill a hole big enough to handle the box for all the wiring that comes with this type of smoke detector.

Before you drill your hole, you want to go into the ceiling and make sure there is no structure that will obstruct the drilling of the hole, or get damaged by you drilling the hole. In some instances, you will even need to remove any floorboards, to make doubly sure there are no obstructions to your drilling.

To cut the holes, you can use a holesaw, and a plastic shroud fitted onto it to catch everything that drops off the ceiling once you have drilled the hole. 

Get Power To Your Smoke Detectors

When drawing power, you want the wires to draw it from a power source that is on an existing circuit, usually the same circuit that powers the other rooms in your house. This is to make sure that if you have some kind of power failure or power outage, it will be noticeable.

You will run your wires from the power source, through the ceiling joist, and into the bedroom that is having a smoke detector installed. You will then use a wire connector, to connect the smoke detectors in the other rooms on your floor.

Screw Your Wire Box Into The Ceiling

A standard electrical box should come with clamps on the sides that will tighten and latch onto the ceiling from above, once you have tightened the screws. When you are done with that you can then attach the base of your smoke detector, and screw that in tight too.

The wire connections are pretty straightforward, in that black usually meets black, and white usually connects to white. The red wire wire will usually attach to an orange wire, which connects the smoke detectors.

Attach The Smoke Detector

When you are satisfied that all the connections are correct, you can then push all the relevant wiring up into the electrical box, and then proceed to attach the smoke alarm to the smoke detector base. You will normally just have to click it, or twist and place.

Hire a Professional to Install Your Smoke Alarm

If you need assistance installing some alarms, contact a local electrician or handyman near you.

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