July 15, 2021

Queensland smoke alarm installation guide

If you live in Queensland, Australia, you should already be aware of the changes to QLD smoke alarm legislation. The new Queensland smoke alarm rules were introduced back in 2017, with staged deadlines for updating and replacing non-compliant smoke alarms.

Now it’s 2021, it’s time to make sure your smoke alarms match up to the legal requirements if you haven’t already. From January 2022, any property sales, leases, or renewals can only go ahead if the building has all the appropriate smoke alarms installed.

If you’re still not sure what to do about the updated smoke detector laws, QLD residents can read this handy guide to understand how Queensland smoke alarm legislation works. Act now to get your new smoke detectors installed ahead of the government’s deadlines and stay safe in your home. 

Smoke alarm installation QLD laws

Under the new smoke detector laws in Queensland, from January 2017 onwards all new smoke alarms in residential buildings must:

  • Be photoelectric (Australian Standard 3786-2014)
  • Not contain an ionisation sensor
  • Be under 10 years old
  • Operate correctly when tested
  • Be interconnected and activate along with all other smoke alarms in the home
  • Be hardwired to a 240V domestic supply or powered by a 10-year tamper-proof battery

Smoke alarms must be installed on every storey, in each bedroom, and in hallways connecting bedrooms to the rest of the home. Even if there are no bedrooms on a storey, there must be a smoke alarm installed along the path of travel to the most likely exit.

Photoelectric alarms will ‘see’ smoke faster and, being interconnected, trigger every alarm in the home rather than just the alarm nearest to the fire. Giving everyone in the property an early warning allows more time to evacuate, saving lives.

The QLD smoke alarm legislation also covers the appropriate placement of photoelectric smoke alarms. For example, smoke alarms must not be located:

  • Within 300mm of a light fitting or the corner of a ceiling and wall
  • Within 400mm of a ceiling fan or air-conditioning vent

You can consult the Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008 for more information on installing smoke alarms in more difficult places such as sloped ceilings, exposed beams, and stairwells.

Here’s a simple breakdown of how these changes will affect you and what you’ll need to do if you’re a landlord, tenant, home owner, or estate agent to comply with the law. 

• Landlords and tenants

Property owners who rent to tenants are responsible for the complete installation of interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms to the standards above by 1st January 2022. If you miss this deadline, you’ll no longer be able to rent the property and will lose out on rental income until you upgrade the smoke alarms.

These smoke alarm standards apply for all new leases and renewals of existing leases from the start of 2022. If you’ve already had to replace a smoke alarm in a rental property since 2017, you should have been installing photoelectric alarms and maintaining them carefully.

According to the legislation, landlords are required to test and clean smoke alarms within 30 days of a tenancy, and replace any flat or almost flat batteries in battery-powered alarms during this time-frame. When a smoke alarm reaches 10 years of age, or if it stops working during these 10 years, the landlord must replace the alarm promptly in line with the regulations above. An agent acting on behalf of the owner can do this, if not the landlord themselves.

While living in the property, renters are required to test and clean smoke alarms themselves at least once every 12 months. Landlords should provide the manufacturer’s instructions on testing and cleaning the alarms to renters when their tenancy commences.

For extra safety, it’s recommended to test your alarms as frequently as once a month. Should you find that a smoke alarm is faulty or a battery is flat, notify your landlord as soon as possible. 

• Existing homes

Current homeowners should also have been installing interconnected photoelectric alarms if replacing an old alarm since the legislation first came into effect in 2017.

When buying a replacement smoke alarm, look for ‘AS3786-2014’ marked on the body. Avoid alarms with the ‘ionising radiation’ symbol on them as these won’t be photoelectric.

Like renters, it’s advisable for homeowners to test your smoke alarms once a year at the minimum, though you’ll be responsible for replacing any batteries or broken alarms in your own home.

Unless you plan to rent out your home, the January 2022 deadline won’t affect you. Private homes have until 1st January 2027 to have completely interconnected and hardwired photoelectric alarms installed throughout the property, so you can continue replacing old alarms as they expire until then.

• New homes and renovations

In order to comply with the updates to the National Construction Code (NCC) and Building Regulation 2006, all new-build homes and renovations of existing homes must fully meet the smoke alarm requirements. This means that from 2017 onwards, you won’t get Building Certifier approval to go ahead with the work unless you complete the upgraded smoke alarm installation.

Smoke alarm systems must be hardwired for all new builds, but 10-year 9-volt batteries are allowed for smoke alarms in existing dwellings. It’s possible to have a mix of wired and battery-powered alarms in existing homes with wired or wireless interconnectivity.

If you plan to sell or lease an existing home from January 2022 onwards, you must ensure that the smoke alarms are all replaced and/or installed to the new standards, and file Form 24 with the Queensland Land Registry Office to confirm this has been done. 

Maintenance for smoke alarms QLD

It’s important to keep your smoke alarms working at satisfactory performance levels for as much of their 10-year lifespan as possible. To do this, we recommend testing smoke alarms and checking batteries once a month. If battery-powered alarms make a chirping sound, they may need their batteries replacing.

You should also keep the grille of your smoke alarms clear of dust or any other build-up that could prevent them from activating by cleaning them once a month, and never painting them. If you find that an alarm is frequently triggered by smoke from cooking or steam from hot water, it may be best to relocate the alarm away from these areas.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to have a fire escape plan in place and rehearse it when you test the alarms. It’s essential to know the best escape route in the event of a real fire alarm. Draw a plan of your home on a sheet of paper with escape routes clearly marked – try to find 2 routes out of every room if possible.

Remember to factor security such as window and door locks into your escape plan, and make sure everyone knows where to meet up outside. Don’t just practice the escape drill in the day, either, as you should know how to get out in the dark and/or on your hands and knees if there’s smoke.

Smoke alarms for the hard of hearing

Alarms with flashing lights and connected vibrating beepers are vital for deaf or hard of hearing people, who might not be alerted by a standard smoke alarm if there’s a fire. Though smoke alarms in hard of hearing homes still need to meet the legislation set out above, there are extended alarm systems available to make sure alarms will alert everyone.

You can connect this equipment wirelessly to a photoelectric smoke detector so that you definitely won’t miss it if the interconnected alarms are triggered. Options include flashing strobe lights and a vibration pad to put under a pillow, which can wake you up if the alarms go off while you’re asleep.

Summary of smoke alarms in Queensland homes

To sum things up, these are the deadlines for fully installing interconnected systems of photoelectric smoke alarms in Queensland:

1st January 2022 – applies to landlords and sellers for all domestic dwelling leases and sales

1st January 2027 – applies to ALL domestic dwellings, including all private homes

You should already have been complying with the new smoke alarm specifications for any replacements or new installations since 2017.

Make sure your property is up to standards by installing new alarms, testing them regularly, and creating a fire escape plan for everyone living there, so you can sleep safely knowing that you’ll all be ready if the alarms do start ringing.

 

Queensland Smoke Alarm FAQs

You’ll find most of the information you need to know about Queensland smoke alarm laws above. However, we’ve compiled these helpful FAQs to explain a few things in more detail.

What is a photoelectric smoke detector?

Many older smoke detectors tend to be ionisation smoke alarms. These contain a tiny amount of radioactive material between two electrodes, forming a circuit with the battery. When smoke gets into the detector, it disrupts the circuit between the electrodes, activating the alarm.

The new legislation requires smoke alarms to be photoelectric, also referred to as photo-optical or optical smoke alarms. This type of alarm detects visible combustion particles using an LED light and a sensor. When smoke enters the detector, it reflects the light onto the sensor, triggering the alarm.

Ionisation alarms are better at detecting fast-flaming fire, whilst photoelectric alarms respond to smouldering, smoky fires much faster. This type of fire is more common in homes, so photoelectric alarms can give people an advance warning before the flames can grow and spread too far.

When buying a new photoelectric smoke alarm, avoid anything with these symbols on it:

These are not present on photoelectric alarms. Instead, you should look for the following labels:

Queensland compliant smoke alarm symbols

These symbols show that the photoelectric smoke alarm complies with Australian Standard 3786–2014. The alarm should also have "AS3786–2014" written on it – if it doesn’t, then it won’t be compliant with the new smoke alarm legislation in Queensland.

Where do you install smoke alarms in Queensland homes?

There are specific rules for smoke alarm placement in homes to ensure that people will definitely hear the alarm from the places they’re most likely to be – especially if they’re asleep in bed. There must be a working smoke alarm in every bedroom, and in every hallway or area that connects the bedrooms to the rest of the property.

Even if there aren’t any bedrooms on a storey, there must be a smoke alarm on every level of the building. This means that you should install at least one smoke alarm along the path of the most likely exit route on that floor, such as the main hallway. All smoke alarms need to be interconnected, so that if one goes off, then the others will all activate, too.

Interconnected alarms can be hardwired or wireless, but hardwired systems must be installed by a qualified electrician to ensure that they comply with AS/NZ3000 wiring regulations. Depending on the model you choose, you can have up to 12 hardwired alarms in one interconnected system, or up to 40 in a wireless smoke alarm system.

The most preferable location for a smoke alarm is on the ceiling in the centre of the room, but it isn’t a legal requirement. You can place them anywhere on the ceiling, as long as they AREN’T within 300mm of light fittings or corners, or within 400mm of air conditioning vents or ceiling fan blades.

If you have sloping ceilings or exposed beams, or need to place a smoke alarm in a stairway, you should consult the Building Fire Safety Regulations 2008. Smoke and hot air can become trapped in these areas and either prevent alarm activation or cause nuisance false alarms.

Where can I get smoke alarms from in Queensland?

You should be able to find and purchase photoelectric smoke alarms from any reputable seller of such products throughout Australia. Landlords and sellers must ensure that properties are compliant by 1st January 2022, so they should buy and install new smoke alarms before this date. Leaseholders and new buyers should make sure that these legal duties have been fulfilled before moving in.

For other residential properties, you may not need to replace your existing smoke alarms just yet. Unless you intend to sell your home, you won’t legally have to install new photoelectric alarms until 1st January 2027. However, the closer we get to this date, the more likely it is that prices will go up along with demand – so it’s best to get ahead and buy affordable smoke alarms as soon as you can.

Unfortunately, the confusion around changing laws can draw dodgy traders with unscrupulous business practices. Such scammers aim to take advantage of vulnerable people via misinformation to make more money from them. When choosing a smoke alarm, watch out for traders who say that:

  • Tenants are responsible for buying smoke alarms for their rentals – this is false, landlords are.
  • You need to pay for a technician to test your alarms – not at all, you can test them yourself for free.
  • An electrician must install the alarms – only if electrical wiring work is needed; you can install wireless alarms yourself.
  • You must immediately pay for alarm upgrades – unless you’re a landlord or a seller, you have until 1st January 2027 to upgrade your system.

It’s illegal for anyone to lie to you about the law or an alarm’s compliancy. For example, trying to sell you a non-compliant alarm, a more expensive alarm, or more alarms than you actually need. This applies to all advertising, including in-person conversations, texts or emails, online information, in-store signage, or on product packaging.

If you do identify a dodgy trader, including telephone sales and door-to-door sales, don’t engage with them and their products or services. You should report them to the Office of Fair Trading by submitting an online complaint through their consumer rights website.