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Smoke Alarm

Smoke Alarm
Photoelectric Smoke Alarm

A smoke alarm is a type of self contained electronic alarm initiating device, designed for dwellings that includes an integrated alarm sounder and a test facility designed to detect an elevated and sustained presence of smoke, indicating the existence of a fire.

A smoke alarm may be powered by an external main power source, other power source or battery and contains all of the components necessary including the enclosure, monitoring electronics, sensor for detecting smoke and an integrated device for broadcasting an audible alarm signal.

Some types of smoke alarm may also include a facility to be interconnected with two or more smoke alarms within the same dwelling.

A smoke alarm is not designed to be serviceable or contain user-replaceable components.

There are two types of smoke alarm including;

  • Type A - a smoke alarm that does not contain radioactive materials; or
  • Type B - a smoke alarm that contains radioactive materials.

Australian Standard AS 3786

In Australia all smoke alarms sold must conform with the relevant Australian Standard AS 3786 - Smoke alarms using scattered light, transmitted light or ionization.

The objective of this Standard is to prescribe requirements for smoke alarms intended for use, wholly or partially, as part of an automatic smoke detection system in domestic dwellings or residential accommodation buildings as required by the National Construction Code or State and Territory regulations.

All smoke alarms that conform to Australian Standard AS 3786 must be legibly and indelibly marked to indicate (but limited to) the following;

  • The number and date of the Standard to which it was designed to conform;
  • The name or trademark and address of the manufacturer or supplier;
  • A model designation;
  • The type of smoke alarm (photoelectric or ionisation);
  • The date of manufacture (this may be encoded within the serial number or batch number);
  • A recommended date for replacement;
  • For ionisation smoke alarms, a symbol showing the device contains radioactive components;
  • A notice on the external face and surface marked "DO NOT PAINT";
  • For interconnected smoke alarms installation information shall state the maximum number that may be interconnected.

Smoke Alarm Maintenance

Australian Standard AS 3786 does not provide specific maintenance requirements for smoke alarms.  The Standard does require that conforming smoke alarms shall include instructions on siting (mounting location), installation and maintenance requirements.

According to Fire + Rescue New South Wales, the recommended requirements for a smoke alarm is as follows;

  • Once a month
    Test your smoke alarm batteries every month by pressing and holding the test button for at least five seconds until you hear the beeps.

  • Every 6 months
    Vacuum dust off your smoke alarms every six months.

    Keeping your smoke alarm free of particles to help reduce false alarms and ensure smoke can easily reach the internal sensor.

  • Every year
    Replace lead or alkaline batteries every 12 months.

  • Every 10 years
    Replace all smoke alarms with new 10-year lithium powered smoke alarms every 10 years, or earlier if specified by the manufacturer.

Australian Standard AS 1851:2012 provides guidance for the routine servicing of smoke alarms typically found within dwellings in Class 3 and Class 4 buildings.

Smoke Alarm Batteries

Some smoke alarms may include user-replaceable batteries and others with non-replaceable batteries.

  • user-replaceable batteries
    A smoke alarm incorporating user-replaceable batteries shall be legibly and indelibly marked the type and number of batteries recommended by the manufacturer. The information provided with smoke alarms incorporating user-replaceable batteries shall include specific guidance on changing the batteries. This guidance shall include any advice that is necessary to ensure that the battery is properly connected. It shall also include a statement that the operation of the smoke alarm be tested with the test facility whenever the batteries are replaced.

    Features of a smoke alarm incorporating user-replaceable batteries

    • Smoke alarms having an internal power source that is not intended to be user-replaceable or serviceable shall have a disconnect facility.
    • Removal and replacement of user-replaceable batteries shall not require the use of tools or disassembly.
    • The disconnect facility shall not require the disassembly of the smoke alarm. Removal of the smoke alarm from its mounting base is not disassembly.
    • The removal of any user-replaceable battery shall result in a visible, mechanical or audible warning that the battery has been removed.
  • non-replaceable power source or battery
    Where a smoke alarm incorporates a non-replaceable battery, the smoke alarm shall incorporate a warning stating "WARNING: BATTERY NOT REPLACEABLE—SEE INSTRUCTION MANUAL." and the manufacturer or distributor shall provide information shall be given on the action to be taken if a battery-low condition is indicated. Generally this type of smoke alarm should be replaced where a low-battery condition is indicated.


In preparing this definition, we have drawn from various sources including Legislation, Codes, Standards and industry information, research and knowledge.  Like the english language, these definitions may subtly change from time to time. As such these definitions are provided solely on the basis that users will be responsible for making their own assessment of the definition and and are advised to verify all relevant representations, statements and information.