Smoke alarms

Working smoke alarms are your only voice.

Make your voice heard, get your smoke alarms sorted in 4 simple steps:

  1. Choose
  2. Install
  3. Check
  4. Dispose

1. Choosing a smoke alarm

Ionisation or photoelectric?

There are two main types of smoke alarm available - ionisation and photoelectric.

We recommend you install long-life photoelectric type smoke alarms in your home. They may cost a little more but the benefits are huge.

  • They provide up to 10 years smoke detection.
  • They remove the frustration of fixing the 'flat battery beep'.
  • Because you're not paying for replacement batteries, long-life alarms effectively pay for themselves over their lifetime.
  • You don't have to climb ladders every year to replace batteries.

Smoke alarms cannot detect smoke through a shut door so we recommend you install smoke alarms in every bedroom.

At a minimum, you should install one standard long-life photoelectric type alarm in the hallway closest to bedrooms and on each level.

Battery-operated or hard-wired?

Smoke alarms can be battery operated or can be hard-wired into a building's mains power.

We recommend hard-wired smoke alarms as they are more reliable.

We also recommend that smoke alarms be interconnected. This means that when one smoke alarm detects a fire, all alarms throughout the house will sound to alert all the occupants of your home.

2. Installing smoke alarms

There are different types of alarms for different locations within the home. Incorrectly located smoke alarms can cause nuisance alarms.

For optimum smoke detection, long life photoelectric smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom, living area and hallway in the house.

We suggest, at an absolute minimum, that a long-life photoelectric smoke alarm should be installed in the hallway closest to the bedrooms. This should be supplemented with other alarms as soon as possible.

Don't install a smoke alarm in your kitchen, bathroom or laundry, as these rooms will be prone to false alarms. Use a heat alarm instead.


Contact your local Fire Station if want help finding the best locations for smoke alarms. They'll be happy to assist, free of charge.

3. Checking your smoke alarms

It’s pointless having smoke alarms if they’re not working correctly. It’s important to maintain your smoke alarms regularly to keep your family safe.
Your alarms will start to beep regularly if the battery is low.

Long-life photoelectric smoke alarms will give you up to 10 years of smoke detection without needing to replace the batteries. If your smoke alarm has a replaceable battery, change it at least once-a-year using a 9-volt battery.

The alarms themselves will also need to be replaced after 10 years of service. The expiry date of your smoke alarm can be found on the underside or on the side of the alarm.

If your smoke alarm does not have an expiry date on it, or you are unable to find it, please contact the manufacturer.

Test the batteries regularly

• Lots of homes fitted with smoke alarms remain unprotected due to flat or missing batteries.

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

• Consider purchasing long-life photoelectric smoke alarms. These will give up to 10 years of smoke detection without battery replacements. However, you should still test them regularly to make sure they’re working correctly.

• All smoke alarms have a “silence’ feature that can be used to silence the sounder in the event of a false alarm. Press the silence button before you start cooking to silence the alarm for a pre-set period of time, between 8 and 15 minutes depending on the brand.

Keep smoke alarms clean

Dust and debris can stop alarms from working properly, so vacuum over and around your smoke alarms regularly.

4. Safe disposal of smoke alarms

When your smoke alarms fail, you can put them out in your normal rubbish disposal.

On average, a cubic metre of New Zealand soil is about as radioactive as 13 smoke alarms. Disposing of smoke alarms in a landfill doesn’t really change the landfill’s overall radioactivity.

In fact, the natural radioactivity of domestic rubbish is less than that of soil. Even if every household threw out several smoke alarms a year, the average radioactivity in landfills would still be lower than in most New Zealand soils.

Further public advice is available at