Where should I install smoke detectors?

When a small fire can overtake a home within a matter of minutes, it’s important to have multiple smoke alarms placed throughout your home. Having enough smoke alarms in your home can help you detect a fire as soon as possible.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an organization focused on fire safety and awareness, smoke alarms should be installed in several areas throughout the home. To ensure you have enough smoke alarms, follow this helpful checklist and install alarms in these locations.

  • On every level of your home. This includes attics and basements. Depending on how large your attic or basement is, you may want to install an alarm in each corner.
  • In every bedroom. Alarms should be installed in every sleep room, as well as outside of the rooms in hallways.
  • At stairways. This includes at the bottom of staircases leading from your basement, and at the top of stairs leading from the first to the second floor.
  • Main areas and large rooms. While you’ll want a smoke alarm in your living room or den, keep them at least ten feet away from the kitchen and cooking appliances, as this can trigger false alarms.

A basic rule of thumb is to make sure a person anywhere within the house can hear a smoke alarm when the detection system is triggered. If your home has large rooms and long hallways, you’ll want to install more alarms than you would if you lived in a small apartment.

Smoke Alarm Placement

Beyond determining which rooms and hallways need smoke alarms, it’s important to know the best wall placements for optimal performance. Smoke rises, so you should install your smoke alarms on or within one foot from the ceiling. And just as you should keep your alarms away from cooking appliances, you should also avoid installing them near windows, doors, air conditioning vents, or ducts, as a draft could interfere with the alarms’ operation.

Smoke Alarm Types, Installation, and Maintenance

There are two main types of smoke alarms—ionization and photoelectric. Photoelectric alarms are better at detecting bigger fire particles, such as those from a slow, smoldering fire, whereas ionization alarms can better detect invisible particles from flaming fires. Many experts recommend either having both types of smoke alarms installed for maximum detection or choosing dual sensor smoke alarms, which are a combination of ionization and photoelectric.

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.

Once your smoke alarms are installed, make sure you test them once a month. When the battery runs low, replace it immediately. There are also several smart smoke alarms on the market, like the Nest Protect, which automatically run tests on a regular basis and can last up to ten years. Peruse our buyers guide to learn about our top picks for smoke alarms.