Where Should I Install Smoke Detectors and Fire Alarms?

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 loud beeping when they sense danger. Smart smoke alarms like Nest Protect can alert you of danger even when you aren’t home.

Where should smoke detectors be placed throughout your home? Good question. We've researched the best places to place a smoke detector or fire alarm to catch a fire before it spreads.

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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.

Checklist
Smoke detector placement tips

Along with bedrooms and hallways, choose spots along your walls for the best protection. Smoke rises, so install smoke detectors 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.

Checklist
Need help installing carbon monoxide detectors?

Check out our resource for properly installing carbon monoxide alarms throughout your home. Or find a CO detector with our guide.

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*Amazon.com price as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Read full disclaimer.

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Katie McEntire
Written by
Katie McEntire
As a renter, pet-owner, and woman living alone, Katie McEntire takes safety seriously. She’s tested devices like pet cameras, home security systems, and GPS trackers in her own home and devices in the name of safety. In addition to testing, writing, and reviewing for SafeWise, she also makes videos for the site’s YouTube channel. She’s been featured on publications like TechGuySmartBuy, Forbes, Healthy Moms, and Digital Care. Katie has a Bachelor’s degree in Technical Writing from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. She’s held previous writing positions at Overstock.com and Top Ten Reviews.

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