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Improve Your Safety with Correct Smoke Detector Placement

Smoke detector

Why Accurate Smoke Alarm Placement is Crucial

Purchasing a smoke and fire alarm is a crucial first step in helping your family stay safe in an emergency—but it isn’t the only step. To maximize your detector’s ability to identify smoke, you need to install and place fire alarms correctly. You also need enough fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide detectors to catch the problem quickly: one or two per home just won’t cut it. In fact, smoke detector placement codes recommend you place fire alarms not just on every floor or outside every sleeping area, but also inside every bedroom, hallway, and kitchen, and near any potential fire hazard (like a fireplace).

Feeling overwhelmed? No need! On this page, you’ll find all the information you need to get help correctly placing your fire alarms.

Recommended Locations to Install Smoke Alarms

Make sure you’ve installed fire and smoke alarms in the safest spots—check out our smoke alarm placement diagram with recommended installation sites!

House fire illustration House fire illustration

Smoke Detector Placement in Bedrooms, Kitchens, and More

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in safety code NFPA 72, fire alarm placement is necessary not just in every bedroom but also directly outside every sleeping area. Homeowners should also install at least one smoke detector on every story, including attics and basements. The NFPA also directs homeowners to place smoke alarms near potential fire hazards, especially in the kitchen and near fireplaces (bear in mind that smoke alarms in kitchens should be 10 feet away from cooking appliances; otherwise, you risk false alarms).

The NFPA recommends mounting smoke alarms either on ceilings or high on walls. However, if you have arched or vaulted ceilings, don’t mount smoke alarms at the ceiling’s apex—instead, install them at least four inches lower than the apex but within three feet of the peak.

House fire statistic illustration


The number of deaths caused by residential fires in the U.S. doubles in homes that lack smoke alarms.

Source: National Fire Protection Association

Smoke Detector Installation

Smoke detector installation is simple: use a drill to fix your smoke detectors either to the ceiling or a spot on the wall within one foot of the ceiling. For more specific installation and mounting instructions, check your smoke alarm user manual or ask your professional installer.

Get Safety Help—Choose a Professional Installer

Installing smoke alarms correctly and connecting them to each other can be complicated. Failing to do so exposes your family to the dangers of non-functional detectors. If you’re worried about installing detectors on your own or simply don’t have the time to do so, the solution is simple: delegate the task to a trained professional. Ultimately, letting a professional install your alarms gives you the assurance of knowing you have enough fire alarms and that they’ll work correctly and alert you to an emergency.


How Smoke Detectors Operate

There are two types of smoke detectors: ionization alarms and photoelectric alarms. The more common type of alarm, ionization alarms alert you to dangerous fires that spread quickly, and they’re also the kind that integrate with ADT monitored home security systems. Ionization detectors sound the alarm as soon as smoke interferes with the device’s ionizing radiation (don’t worry; the radiation level is much too low to cause any health problems). Since the alarms detect smoke, they play a crucial role in helping protect you and your family from deadly fires that move too fast for you to evacuate the house in time.

Next Steps: Taking Care of Your Smoke Detectors

Once you’ve installed both ionization and photoelectric alarms in the correct places in your home—and had a professional connect the devices—all you have to do is follow the necessary steps to keep your smoke detector in good condition. Even if your smoke alarm is connected to your electrical grid, it should have a backup battery, which you should check every month. Replace all alarms at least every decade, and if you don’t know how old your home’s fire alarms are, don’t take the risk—go ahead and replace them!

You should also carefully remove dust from around the fire alarm using a duster or the gentle setting on your vacuum cleaner extension. Make sure not to jostle the smoke detector, though; after vacuuming is a good time to check your device’s batteries and replace as needed.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Where Should a Carbon Monoxide Detector Be Installed?

Smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector placement are fairly similar. You need a carbon monoxide detector in every sleeping area and on every story, including the attic and basement. Additionally, you should install carbon monoxide detectors near appliances like gas heaters and gas stoves. Unlike smoke detectors, however, carbon monoxide alarms work best five feet from the floor rather than near the ceiling.

Do Smoke Detectors Need to Be Hardwired?

The answer depends on fire codes where you live. For instance, in California, newer homes must have hardwired smoke detectors with backup batteries.

Is a Landlord Responsible for Smoke Detectors?

The answer may depend on fire and property codes in your state, city, and county. In many places, property owners are required to place fire alarms in specific areas of their property, such as near every sleeping area. Check local codes to find out what tenants are responsible for in regards to fire detector maintenance and installation versus what property managers are responsible for.