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About photoelectric alarms

Glossary of Terms

Dwellings
- ​houses, townhouses (Class 1A) and units (Class 2).

Photoelectric
- the method the device uses to detect smoke.

Hardwired
​ - connected to the domestic dwelling’s electricity supply.

Interconnected
- if one smoke alarm sounds all the other smoke alarms will also sound. Interconnection can be wired or wireless. This will alert the occupants within a house to a fire no matter where the fire starts.

Substantial
- work carried out under a building development approval or the total building works equals 50 per cent of the dwelling over three years.

Storey
- a space within a building which is situated between one floor level and the floor level or roof above.

Floorplan  

About photoelectric alarms

Photoelectric smoke alarms, also known as optical or photo-optical, detect visible particles of combustion.

They respond to a wide range of fires, but are particularly responsive to smouldering fires and the dense smoke given off by foam-filled furnishings or overheated PVC wiring.

Advantages

  • Good for smouldering fire and dense smoke
  • Not as prone to cooking nuisance alarms
  • Contain no radioactive material
  • Suitable for general use.

Your protection against fire increases with the quality and type of smoke alarm that is installed. Research indicates that photoelectric smoke alarms are generally more effective across a wider range of fires experienced in homes.

Download the Photoelectric Smoke​ Alarms Information Sheet (pdf) for more information.

What to buy?

Smoke alarms must comply with the Standard AS 3786-2014 and should have the following labels.

Recommended labels

What to avoid?

Smoke alarms with this symbol are not photoelectric.

Avoid labels

Power Supply

Hardwired 240v

A hardwired smoke alarm is connected to a home’s 240v mains power supply and has a battery back-up.

This means the battery back-up works if the power fails and is considered more reliable in the long term.

The back-up battery must work under normal operating conditions as follows:

  • non-rechargeable batteries = 1 year
  • rechargeable batteries = 72 hours (charged by the 240v while in the alarm)
  • additionally, 240v hardwired smoke alarms must only be installed by a licenced electrical contractor in accordance with the Queensland Electricity Safety Act.

Battery Powered

The battery must be non-removable and manufactured to power the smoke alarm for at least 10 years without being recharged.

To comply with the staged approach of the new legislation, this applies:

  • from 1 January 2022 (dwellings for sale or lease)
  • from 1 January 2027 (existing dwellings).

How do I keep my smoke alarms working?

A hardwired smoke alarm is connected to a home’s 240v mains power supply and has a battery back-up.

If cooking smoke sets off the alarm, do not disable it. Turn on the range fan, open a window or wave a towel near the alarm until the alarm stops beeping; or use the hush button (if fitted). Consider relocating the smoke alarm.

Once a month check by pressing the test button. If you cannot reach the button easily, use a broom handle.

Dust and debris can interfere with alarm functioning, so vacuum over and around your smoke alarm regularly.

Replace the backup battery on 240v alarms:

  • rechargeable batteries - refer to manufacturer instructions
  • non-rechargeable - replace annually.

Most alarms emit a short ‘BEEP’ sound when the batteries are low. This is your reminder to replace the battery.

Smoke alarms must never be painted.

Read the manufacturer instructions.

When do I need to replace my alarm?

All types of smoke alarms have a limited life-span (10 years under normal conditions of use). They should be replaced prior to the expiry date on the manufacturer’s warranty.

For smoke alarms with 10-year batteries that are non-removable, the entire smoke alarm must be replaced after 10 years.

Contact the smoke alarm supplier or distributor for more detailed advice.

Small numbers of smoke alarms can be safely disposed of in household rubbish. Contact your local council for more information.

Specialty alarms are also available, including:

  • alarms for deaf and hearing-impaired people; or
  • alarms with emergency lights, heat sensors.
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