Smoke Alarm with SmokeThe Ontario Fire Code says that all homes must have working smoke alarms. Smoke alarms sound an early warning in a fire. This will help you and your family to escape safely. This early warning is critical because most fatal home fires occur at night while people are sleeping.

What Must I Have in my Home?

Smoke Alarm Requirements Based on Year of Home Construction
Year Home BuiltSmoke Alarm Requirement

Before 1976

One battery operated smoke alarm outside sleeping areas and on every storey including basements

1976 to 1990

One electrically wired smoke alarm outside sleeping areas and one battery operated smoke alarm on all other storeys

1990 to 2014

One electrically wired, interconnected* smoke alarm outside sleeping areas and on every storey

After 2014 01 01

One electrically wired, interconnected* smoke alarm with battery back-up outside sleeping areas, in each sleeping room and on every storey

After 2015 01 01

One electrically operated, interconnected* smoke alarm with battery back-up and a strobe light outside sleeping areas, in each sleeping room and on every storey

 

*Means if one alarm is set off, all alarms will sound

 

Where to Install

If your home was built before smoke alarms were required in bedrooms, it is recommended that you put a smoke alarm in all bedrooms.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for where to mount smoke alarms and places to avoid.

Testing your Smoke Alarm

Test smoke alarms monthly by pressing the test button and listening for the alarm.

If you have interconnected alarms, make sure all alarms sound when the test button is pushed.

Replacing your Smoke Alarm

Most smoke alarms need to be replaced after 10 years.

Replace with the same type of alarm (i.e. if you have a wired smoke alarm it must be replaced with a wired alarm).  Refer to What Must I Have in my Home for additional information.

Maintenance

Follow these simple maintenance steps to keep your alarm up-to-date:

  • If the smoke alarm has a battery, replace the battery at least once a year. Port Hope Fire and Emergency Services recommends replacing the battery when you change your clock in the spring and fall.
  • Some smoke alarms have a 10-year sealed battery that does not need changing. 
  • Vacuum the outside of your smoke alarms with a soft brush once a year to remove dust.
  • Check the manufacturer's instructions for more information.

Types of Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms can be electrically wired, battery-operated or both. There are also wireless interconnected smoke alarms.

There are two types of smoke alarm technology:

Ionization Smoke Alarms:

This type of smoke alarm uses a small amount of radioactive material that ionizes the air between two electrically charged plates, causing a measurable current to flow between the plates. When smoke enters the chamber, it changes the flow of current, which is detected and activates the alarm. Ionization alarms may be more prone to nuisance alarms caused by cooking activities.

Photoelectric Smoke Alarms:

This type of alarm uses a light source that is aimed away from a sensor in a sensing chamber. When smoke enters the chamber, it reflects the light onto the sensor, which is detected and activates the alarm. Photoelectric alarms may be less prone to nuisance alarms caused by cooking activities.

Nuisance Alarms

Smoke alarms are available with a pause or hush button that can be used to temporarily silence the alarm. This is a good way to deal with alarms, such as those caused by burning toast or opening smoky ovens.

The hush button will silence the alarm for several minutes and then automatically reset itself. Smoke alarms with this feature discourage the dangerous practice of removing the battery or disconnecting the power source as a method of dealing with frequent nuisance alarms.

When purchasing smoke alarms, look for alarms with a hush feature, especially if the alarm will be installed near a kitchen or bathroom.

Many alarms with a hush feature will chirp intermittently while in hush mode. The chirping will stop once the alarm resets itself.

If smoke continues to build from a real fire while the alarm is in hush mode, the smoke will override the silence feature and the smoke alarm will resound.

If you experience frequent nuisance alarms from an ionization type smoke alarm located near the kitchen, try replacing it with a photoelectric type smoke alarm.

Landlord and Commercial Safety

Visit the landlord and commercial safety page for information about landlord and tenant responsibilities and non-compliance penalties for individuals and corporations.