A Guide to Smoke Detectors: Installation and Upkeep
ring smoke detector
Home Security

A Guide to Smoke Detectors: Installation and Upkeep

By Ring on June 21, 2024

Properly placed, functioning detectors can make a huge impact in an emergency. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the risk of fatality in a home fire is reduced by half in homes with working smoke alarms.1

Whether you’re about to install new detectors or replace a few batteries, these tips can help ensure your smoke detector setup is safe.

Tips for Smoke Detector Installation

Whether you’re choosing detectors for a newly built home, adding a few more after a renovation, or replacing ones at the end of their lifespan, do some research to ensure you make the best choice for your home. Here are some tips from the NFPA to guide your search:

  • Look for detectors from a reputable brand that were tested by an independent lab, like Underwriters’ Lab or Intertek.
  • Decide between wireless and hardwired detectors. If you already have wiring, it usually makes the most sense to stick with hardwired, but you may need to hire an electrician for installation. Wireless detectors provide an easy and DIY-friendly way to make your home fire-safe.
  • Whether you choose wired or wireless, consider detectors that can interconnect. If one detector gets triggered, all of them will make a sound. You can also opt for Z-Wave detectors that integrate with Ring Alarm. Along with your detector, the Base Station will sound a siren if smoke or carbon monoxide (CO) are detected, and with a Ring Protect subscription (sold separately)you’ll get alerts to your phone.2
  • Choose between smoke and combination smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. CO detectors are recommended for every home, and they’re especially important if you use oil- or gas-burning appliances. Combination alarms can eliminate the need for extra devices, but their lifespan is shorter than traditional smoke detectors.
  • Research ionization and photoelectric sensors to learn which type you should buy for different areas. Photoelectric alarms are typically best outside the kitchen because they’re less likely to produce false alarms from cooking. You can also buy alarms with dual sensors to detect both smoldering and flaming fires.
  • Know Where to Install Smoke Detectors

    Having an adequate number of smoke detectors helps ensure fires and smoke are detected quickly. According to the NFPA, smoke detectors should be installed:

  • On every level of the house, including the basement
  • Inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas
  • In living areas, near the stairway, or in both places for levels without bedrooms
  • Follow Installation Instructions

    To help ensure your smoke detectors work properly during an emergency, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. Here are some general guidelines from the NFPA that apply to any smoke alarm:

  • Install wall alarms within 12 inches of the ceiling to detect smoke as it rises.
  • Place smoke detectors at least 10 feet away from cooking appliances.
  • To avoid false alarms from steam, place smoke detectors at least 36 inches away from a bathroom door.
  • Keep alarms away from windows, ducts, and doors.
  • On pitched ceilings, install smoke detectors within three feet of the peak but not within the four inches closest to the peak.
  • Tips for Smoke Detector Maintenance

    Test Smoke Detectors Once a Month

    Keeping your home safe from fires is an ongoing effort. To ensure your smoke detectors continue to function, you should push the test button on your devices every month. Change the batteries if you don’t hear a sound or if the beeping is faint. If your device is old, it may be time to consider a replacement.

    Replace Smoke Detectors After 10 Years

    No matter what type of smoke detectors you use, you’ll need to replace each device after 10 years. Combination alarms need to be replaced even earlier, after seven years. If you’re unsure how old your devices are, check the manufacturer date printed on the back. Your detectors should also sound an end-of-life alarm when it’s time for a replacement. Refer to your user manual or the instructions on the back of your device for a description of the sound.

    According to the NFPA, you should also replace your detectors immediately if you experience a fire at home.

    Change Batteries at Least Once a Year

    You don't have to worry about changing batteries if you use hardwired detectors or wireless models with a 10-year battery. But for detectors with replaceable batteries, the NFPA recommends switching them out at least once a year. Many people choose to do so during Daylight Savings Time, so they form a habit of changing clocks and batteries.

    Clean Your Detectors Regularly

    Smoke detectors gather dust just like the other surfaces in your home. Those dirt particles can block sensors and even cause false alarms. To keep your detectors in working order, follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.

    If you experience issues with your devices that aren’t fixed with new batteries or regular cleaning, try these troubleshooting tips from the NFPA or consider smoke detector repairs.

    Add Even More Protection to Your Home With Ring

    Whether you’re in the market for new smoke detectors or want the added comfort of knowing your home is safe from anywhere, Ring is here to help.

    With a Ring Alarm and a Ring Protect subscription, sold separately, you can connect First Alert Smoke/CO Alarms to get real-time notifications if one of your devices gets triggered.2 You can also enroll in 24/7 Alarm Professional Monitoring, and trained agents will follow the appropriate smoke or CO response plan to help keep your home and family safe. Already have detectors that aren’t due for a replacement? Add Smoke and CO Listeners to connect non-compatible detectors with Ring Alarm.

    Explore Smoke and CO Listeners and First Alert alarms today, or read our home fire safety guide for more helpful tips.

    1 https://www.nfpa.org/education-and-research/home-fire-safety/smoke-alarms#

    2 Ring Alarm and all Ring Alarm accessories require a subscription for in-app features and digital notifications, including digital arming / disarming and integration with other Ring, Echo, Alexa, and third party products. Subscription sold separately. View ring.com/protect-plans for pricing and details.

    3 A compatible Ring Protect subscription is required to enroll in the Ring Alarm professional monitoring service. Professional monitoring service is available only within the U.S. (all 50 states, but not U.S. territories) and in Canada (excluding Quebec). Ring does not own its own professional monitoring center. Smoke and carbon monoxide monitoring is not available for a business or commercially zoned address. See Ring alarm licenses at: ring.com/licenses. Additional permit or false alarm fees may apply depending on your local jurisdiction. Additional charges may apply in areas that require permits or guard response service for alarm verification.

    Ring icon
    Contact Info
    Have a Story?

    If you have stories or videos you’d like to share with us, please send them to stories@ring.com.