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Where Should I Install Smoke Detectors and Fire Alarms?

Written by | Updated September 1, 2020
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Last Updated: 1 month ago
While you're in the emergency prep spirit, take a look at our piece on creating an emergency plan for your family. It's National Preparedness month, so it's time to brush up on all things emergency prep.

Fires can strike whether you’re awake, asleep, at home, or away. It’s important to place smoke detectors throughout your house or apartment to catch danger wherever it may strike. 

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Standard smoke alarms (you know the ones) emit a loud beeping when they sense danger. Smart smoke alarms like Nest Protect can alert you of danger even when you aren’t home. 

We’ve outlined the best places throughout your home to place a smoke detector or fire alarm to catch a fire before it spreads.

Each floor of your home 

Every level of your home should have at least one smoke detector ready to go. Attics and basements should have a smoke alarm with fresh batteries as well. 

For bedrooms on the top floor, keep a fire escape ladder handy so everyone upstairs can get out safely should a fire strike. 

In every bedroom 

If a fire starts in a bedroom while your family is sleeping, you’ll want the alarm to wake you up. We recommend installing a smoke detector in or outside of every bedroom, including the hallways connecting your rooms.

On stairways

Your stairs may be the fastest way out of your home during a fire. Placing a smoke alarm on the staircase can also alert other family members upstairs or downstairs if danger strikes. Each staircase, including those leading to the attic or basement, should have a smoke detector nearby.

Living areas and large rooms 

From the kitchen to the living room (especially if you have a fireplace), anywhere where your family gathers should have some level of protection. Because of leftover cooking grease, heat, and flammable materials like curtains and towels, your kitchen is the room most vulnerable to fire.

Learn what you should do if a fire starts in your home, and sit down with your family to create a fire emergency plan. Make it memorable for your little ones by physically practicing your fire drill.

Fire alarms and smoke detectors go a long way in preventing would-be fires. What about when a fire does creep in? Make sure to keep safety equipment like fire extinguishers on hand to stop a fire from spreading in your house.

Smoke Alarm Placement

Along with bedrooms and hallways, choose spots along your walls for the best protection. Smoke rises, so install alarms within a foot of the ceiling.

Keep smoke detectors away from cooking appliances, windows, doors, air conditioning vents, and ducts. Drafts can interfere with the alarm’s operation and leave you vulnerable to danger.

Smoke Alarm Types, Installation, and Maintenance

There are two main types of smoke alarms: ionization and photoelectric.

Ionization alarms can better detect invisible particles from flaming fires. Photoelectric alarms are better at detecting bigger fire particles, such as those from a slow, smoldering fire. 

We recommend adding both types of smoke alarms to your home for maximum detection. Dual sensor smoke alarms combine ionization and photoelectric sensors into one powerful device. 

Regardless of the type or brand of smoke alarm you pick, you’ll want to interconnect all your alarms so when one smoke alarm sounds, the other alarms will sound too. Many manufacturers offer interconnected smoke alarms which are easy to set up.

Be sure to test all the smoke alarms in your home once a month. When the battery runs low, replace it immediately. The best smoke detectors have a lifespan of around ten years, so be sure to replace the actual device once every decade.