Tag: interconnected smoke alarm

Before buying a smoke alarm you should do your due diligence to ensure it is compliant to Australian Standard 3786:2014. The first of this two part series will review Australian Standard 3786:2014 to help your purchasing decision.

The full name of the standard which encompasses smoke alarms in Australia is ‘Australian Standard 3786:2014 Smoke alarms using scattered light, transmitted light or ionization’. Standards are documents that set out specifications, procedures and guidelines that aim to ensure products are safe, consistent, and reliable. When a standard is referenced by state or national legislation, then it becomes compulsory in the eyes of the law.

Australian Standard 3786:2014 is divided into several key components – the two of interest that will be reviewed in this article are ‘tests’ and ‘general requirements’.

Section 4.17 of the Australian Standard states that; ‘The smoke alarm shall be so designed that a sphere of diameter larger than 1.3 ±0.05 mm cannot pass into the sensor chamber(s)’. This requirement is intended to restrict the access of foreign bodies such as insects into the sensitive parts of the smoke alarm (to prevent nuisance alarms). It is known that this requirement is not sufficient to prevent the access of all insects; however, it is considered that extreme restrictions on the size of the access holes may introduce the danger of clogging by dust, etc.

How does this requirement translate into the design and manufacture of your smoke alarm? The image below shows the compliant internal component from our Premier Range wireless interconnected photoelectric smoke alarm. The stainless-steel mesh surrounds the sensitive photoelectric chamber within the alarm and contains thousands of tiny holes, each perfectly engineered, no larger than 1.3mm in diameter. The tiny holes prevent most insects from accessing the internal chamber whilst still allowing air (and smoke) to pass through.

Mesh screen surrounding the photoelectric smoke alarm internal sensor chamber
As per Australian Standard 3786:2014 – holes must be no larger than 1.3mm diameter

In addition to this internal mesh screen around the perimeter of the photoelectric chamber, the Premier Range wireless interconnected photoelectric smoke alarm also has an outer grill which forms part of the external housing of the smoke alarm. As you can see in the images below, the external grill also prevents larger foreign bodies from entering the alarm itself. Foreign bodies (i.e., insects) are a common cause of false / nuisance alarms because they can enter the sensitive internal components and disrupt the photoelectric light beam.

Design feature of this smoke alarm incorporates a grill into the external housing
This exterior grill prevents larger foreign bodies from entering the smoke alarm

We hope you have enjoyed this review of Australian Standard 3786:2014 and how it translates to the design of your smoke alarm. Whilst many smoke alarm retailers might profess to be aware of the standard, very few can claim to have read it from cover to cover or have a genuine understanding of what it means.

There are three important differences between our wireless interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms and conventional smoke alarms.

1) Our smoke alarms are photoelectric (not ionisation). Older conventional smoke alarms use radioactive ionisation as the process by which they detect smoke particles in the air. Ionisation smoke alarms are good at detecting smoke from flaming fires, but are less adept at detecting smoke from smouldering flames which is common of most house fires. Ionisation alarms have also been known to cause frustrating nuisance alarms, which might condition people to switch them off, putting themselves at risk. For these reasons the older style ionisation smoke alarms are being phased out both in Australia and internationally.

2) Older smoke alarms typically operated as stand-alone units. If a smoke alarm sensed smoke on the ground floor of a building – yes it may activate, but any other smoke alarms on the upper floors would not activate until smoke had entered the same air space – by this time it could be too late to initiate an effective response (or escape).
Our smoke alarms are wirelessly ‘interconnected’ together – so if one alarm detects smoke anywhere within a building, then all smoke alarms paired within the same network will simultaneously initiate their alarm. This can provide increased early warning and response time for residents.

3) Our smoke alarms have a sealed 10 year life lithium battery. Conventional smoke alarms are usually powered by a 9v replaceable battery. When the battery life becomes drained over time the smoke alarm begins to emit a loud intermittent ‘chirp’ noise. The chirp serves as a noisy (and annoying) reminder to replace the battery, and continues until the battery is replaced. As seen in the past, residents can remove the battery, disabling the chirping noise and the alarm itself, often with tragic consequences.
Because our smoke alarms are powered by a long life 10-year lithium  battery which is sealed inside the unit, the battery cannot be deliberately removed. At the end of the 10-year battery life span, the entire smoke alarm unit is simply replaced with a new one!
Don’t risk your life or that of your loved ones – whatever smoke alarm you have in your home please check to ensure it is; interconnectable, photoelectric and contains a sealed 10 year long life battery (or hard wired).


Nothing is more annoying than when a smoke alarm activates without smoke being present (especially at 3am in the morning!). Why does this happen? There could be several reasons for false alarms. The good news is that you don’t have to go on living this way – our wireless interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms provide reliable protection for you and your family.

The basic operating principal of a photoelectric smoke alarm is that it activates when the light beam inside the smoke alarm chamber is broken or disrupted – typically by tiny smoke particles. However these foreign particles can also come from sources other than real smoke – below are some of the most common examples and how to rectify them.

High humidity

High humidity can occur naturally as the air carries dense moisture particles that your smoke alarm confuses for smoke particles. Although brands can differ, smoke alarms should be designed to work up to 95% relative humidity – anything over this range and air becomes dense enough to scatter the light beam of a photelectric sensor. Extreme tropical weather conditions in the Northern Territory and far north Queensland can sometimes produce high humidity. Fortunately our smoke alarms have been designed and tested by the CSIRO to function in extreme conditions up to 95% RH, as per Australian Standard criteria.

High humidity can also be artificially created by steam from a bathroom shower. If your smoke alarm is positioned outside a bathroom entrance, consider moving it further away so that escaping shower steam doesn’t trigger false alarms.

Dust

A build-up of dust in the air can also affect your smoke alarm. If dust particles enter the internal chamber they will interfere with the photoelectric light beam and trigger nuisance alarms. We recommend cleaning your smoke alarms regularly by gently vacuuming around them with a soft brush attachment from your vacuum cleaner. Cleaning smoke alarms in this way may remove any cobwebs which could also prevent pests from entering the alarm. Be aware of any activities in the home which may create excess dust – for example shaking out old dusty blankets or doonas in a room which has a smoke alarm installed.

Insects

Section 4.17 of Australian Standard 3786:2014 requires smoke alarms to have protection against foreign bodies, so that a sphere of diameter larger than 1.3mm cannot pass into the sensor chamber – this protection is provided by way of an internal mesh screen. Despite this requirement it is still possible that very tiny insects (smaller than 1.3mm) could enter the smoke alarm and by doing so interfere with the photoelectric sensor. One tip to reduce this likelihood is to spray the ceiling perimeter around your smoke alarm with surface insect spray (be sure not to allow the insect spray itself to enter the alarm).

Cooking!

It is true that whilst many house fires start in the kitchen, installing an alarm in the kitchen can induce frequent nuisance alarms. Irrespective of what smoke alarm brand you have, if it is installed too close to the kitchen stovetop or oven it will activate when smoke particles are emitted from the food cooking process (after all, the smoke alarm is doing what it is designed to do). When cooking, always be sure to switch on the rangehood or oven exhaust fan to draw smoky air particles away from your smoke alarm. If the problem continues, try repositioning the alarm further away from the cooking appliance.

Summary

Nuisance smoke alarms can be both frustrating and stressful. Worse, continuing false alarms may generate a ‘boy who cried wolf’ effect, reducing home occupants reaction to a real life fire event.

Fortunately, our wireless interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms undergo strict quality control measures and are manufactured in adherence to Australian Standard 3786:2014, independently tested and by the CSIRO. Using the tips outlined above, your smoke alarms will provide many years of stress-free and reliable fire protection for you and your loved ones.

Ever wondered how to physically attach a smoke a detector onto your ceiling? Click here to watch this short video – it demonstrates how simple it really is! A major advantage of wireless lithium battery powered smoke alarms is that there is no hardwiring involved – this means they can be legally installed by property owners without requiring an electrician.

Checklist of items needed to attach a smoke detector onto the ceiling

Checklist of what’s needed:

  • Pencil
  • Hammer
  • Drill with 5mm drill bit
  • Screws and anchor plugs x 2 (included with our smoke alarms)
  • Smoke alarm and its mounting bracket
Twist mounting bracket and remove from rear of the smoke alarm

STEP 1: Twist the mounting bracket to remove it from the back of the smoke detector.

use a pencil to mark out the smoke detector mounting bracket slots on the ceiling

STEP 2: Locate the mounting bracket in your chosen position on the ceiling. Use a pencil to mark the location of the two mounting bracket slots on the ceiling as per above.

Important – refer to general guidance at the end of this article about where best to locate your smoke detector so that it is compliant with legislation.

Use a 5mm drill bit to drill two pilot holes into the ceiling for the smoke detector mounting bracket

STEP 3: Use a 5mm drill bit to drill a pilot hole at each location marked on the ceiling. Now insert the anchor plugs and use the two screws to attach the mounting bracket to the chosen position.

Don’t over-tighten the screws as this may slightly distort the shape of the plastic mounting bracket (and prevent the smoke alarm from being able to ‘lock’ into it).

Firmly twist the smoke detector in a clockwise direction to lock it into place on the mounting bracket on the ceiling

STEP 4: Attach the smoke alarm to the mounting bracket and firmly turn clockwise to lock it into place. By attaching the smoke alarm to the mounting bracket, the on/off switch is engaged and the alarm will become powered on (if it has not been switched on manually already).

STEP 5: Press the test button to ensure you smoke alarm is working properly. If you have more than one interconnected smoke detector, then the others in the same group should also activate within approximately 10-15 seconds (this is normal). Allow all the smoke alarms to finish their full test cycle without pressing the hush button – they will all stop automatically after approximately 10-15 seconds.

Where should I install interconnected smoke detectors?

As general guidance, smoke detectors in Queensland should be placed inside every bedroom, interconnecting hallway outside the bedrooms, and on every level of a multi-story dwelling. Additionally, smoke detectors should not be installed within 30cm from the edge of a wall, within 30cm from a light fixture, 40cm from an air conditioner vent and also not within 40cm from a ceiling fan blade. It is preferable to install smoke detectors on the ceiling, as opposed to the wall (refer to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services for more information).

Safety note – Prior to undertaking any home maintenance, it is a good idea to have suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) available, for example safety glasses when operating a drill. If using a ladder to reach the ceiling it also helps to have someone hold the ladder steady whilst you are standing on it. 240v smoke detectors which are hardwired to mains power (i.e. not the lithium battery ones as described in this article) should always be installed by a qualified electrician. Don’t forget – if replacing a 240v hardwired smoke detector in Queensland it must be replaced with a 240v hardwired smoke detector.

Want to know more? Have a look at our shop page – we absolutely love smoke alarms!

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