Are Smoke Detectors Required By Law- 5 Easy Steps to Install Smoke Detector

Installing smoke detectors is the surest way to detect and extinguish a fire before it destroys your property or takes a life. In addition, stopping a fire while it’s still manageable will keep it from spreading to other buildings, thus saving your neighbors.

There are many U.S. fire-safety guidelines that every landlord must follow for their building to be considered safe. But what does the government say about smoke alarms? Are Smoke Detectors Required By Law?

All the major states in the U.S. require that property owners install at least one smoke detector in every sleeping room and outside each sleeping area. In addition, all buildings must have a smoke alarm on every level, including the basement and finished attics.

This basic guideline is the same across the nation; however, some details and aspects vary from state to state. There are some differences regarding who is liable in case of failure to heed the guidelines.

There are also variations on the exact positioning of the devices and whether or not it is necessary to pair them up with Carbon Monoxide detectors.

In this article, I’ll list the U.S. smoke detector laws by state to help you better understand what’s required in your area. I’ll also discuss how to install a smoke detector and the best places to position them according to the layout of your home.

But first, let me tell you a little more about smoke detectors.

What Is a Smoke Detector?

A smoke detector is a device used to warn the occupants of a building of the presence of fire before it spreads and inhibits escape. When the device senses smoke, it emits a loud, high-pitched alarm tone, usually accompanied by a flashing light. The intermittent chirping sound will continue until the situation gets solved.

Types of Smoke Detectors

The three types of smoke detectors are photoelectric, ionization, and dual-sensor.

  • Photoelectric Smoke Detectors.

Photoelectric detectors use a light-sensitive cell to detect smoke. A small light source in the device’s detection chamber causes the cell to generate a current that keeps the alarm’s circuit open. So, when smoke particles enter the chamber, they interrupt the light ray and break the circuit, setting off the alarm.

Photoelectric smoke alarms respond rapidly to smoldering fires, the slow-burning fires that produce large amounts of thick smoke. A smoldering fire rarely bursts into flames and, therefore, can remain undetected for hours without the help of an alarm.

On the downside, these smoke detectors don’t respond well to flaming fires. It might take up to 15 minutes before the device’s alarm goes off.

  • Ionization smoke detectors.

Ionization detectors depend on a radioactive material (Americium-241) instead of light to detect smoke. However, you shouldn’t worry because the manufacturers use very little of the Americium-241; hence, it won’t harm you. 

The radioactive material ionizes air molecules between electrodes in the smoke alarm’s detection chamber. As a result, a small constant current starts to flow between the electrodes. When smoke particles enter the chamber, they attach to the ionized air, tampering with the current’s flow. Consequently, the smoke alarm goes off.

Ionization smoke detectors respond faster to flaming fires, which ignite quickly and produce less smoke. Such fires are also very hard to contain once the flames spread; therefore, quick detection is necessary.

Unfortunately, these smoke detectors require the presence of very few smoke particles to trigger the alarm. For this reason, they are prone to false alarms and can be set off by something as little as burnt toast.

  • Dual-sensor Smoke Detectors

It is hard to tell which fire will break out on your property; therefore, choosing between a photoelectric and an ionization smoke detector is equally challenging. For this reason, fire-safety companies made dual-sensor smoke detectors to help kill two birds with one stone.

Dual-sensor detectors use both photoelectric and ionization technologies in one device. They sense smoldering and flaming fires in as little as 15 seconds and are almost impervious to false alarms. A dual-sensor smoke alarm is the best choice for anyone installing a fire alarm system in their home for the first time.

Hard-wired Vs Battery Powered Smoke Detectors.

Are Smoke Detectors Required By Law
A Smoke Detector

A hard-wired smoke detector is an alarm connected directly to your home’s electrical system. This means the detector depends on your home’s main power and will switch off when it goes out.

Luckily, all hard-wired smoke detectors have a backup battery that will power the device in case of an interruption in the main electrical circuit. As a result, it is less prone to failure unless the circuit power and backup battery fail at the same time.

On the other hand, battery-powered smoke detectors rely solely on battery power – if the battery dies, your property is vulnerable. For this reason, battery- detectors need more vigilant maintenance to prevent the battery from running out without your knowledge.

What Are the Smoke Detectors Laws By States

Here are the basic legislations on smoke detectors by the major U.S. States.

  • California

The California state government follows the general guidelines imposed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The guidelines state that hard-wired smoke detectors be installed in each bedroom, the hallways connecting the bedrooms, and on every level of the house. Basements and attics count as different levels if they are inhabited spaces.

In addition to the NFPA guidelines, California requires the Fire Marshal’s Department to approve all smoke detectors before installation. The department checks the device’s manufacture date and the “hush” feature, which helps prevent false fire alarms.

This state allows older buildings with battery-powered devices to keep using them as long as the landlord replaces the power source accordingly every 10 years. However, landlords must install hard-wired detectors with backup batteries for all new buildings.

Finally, the tenant is responsible for carrying out the device’s daily maintenance and reporting any defects they find. However, the defect reports should be made on time, or the landlord won’t be held accountable if the worst happens.

  • Arizona

Like most states, the basic Arizona state law is to have a smoke detector in every sleeping room, hallways longer than 30 feet, and on every building level, including its basement. The attic also counts as a different level if you use it as a sleeping room.

Arizona state laws require all new buildings to be fitted with hard-wired smoke detectors with battery backup. For older buildings with battery-powered devices, the law states that the landlord must replace the battery detectors with hard-wired units after 10 years. 

Regarding installation, the Arizona state requires that ceiling-mounted alarms be installed at least four inches from the nearest wall. On the other hand, wall-mounted alarms should be placed 4-12 inches from the ceiling.

Like the other states, the landlords in Arizona are required to provide and install all necessary smoke detectors. They are also liable for all replacements needed after installation. 

On the other hand, the tenant must maintain the smoke detector’s batteries and conduct periodic tests to see if the device still works properly. In case of a malfunction, the tenant must report immediately to the landlord, who must replace the device within 48 hours.

  • Alaska

Since 2006, the state government of Alaska has made it necessary for all residential building owners to install hard-wired smoke detectors. 

According to the guidelines issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there should be at least one smoke alarm in every bedroom and on every floor of the house, even if it doesn’t have sleeping space. The basement of the house and finished attics also count as separate floors.

Any household with a fuel-burning appliance such as a gas stove or oil furnace must install a Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm in addition to the regular smoke alarms. Also, houses with an attached garage must have CO detectors in case someone leaves the car running.

The landlord of the residential building must provide and install all the smoke and carbon monoxide detection devices. They must ensure all devices work before renting out the space and after a tenant leaves.

The tenant in the space must maintain the devices by changing batteries and testing the system periodically to ensure it’s working. The tenant must also report any malfunction or damage to the landlord within 24 hours. The landlord won’t be liable for any injuries or property losses incurred due to unreported malfunctions of the smoke detector.

  • Colorado

The state of Colorado also follows the general NFPA guidelines concerning fire alarms. Every building must have a smoke detector in every sleeping area or within 15 feet of each room. Carbon Monoxide detectors must also be mounted in areas with a fuel-burning appliance or a garage attached to the house.

Like most states, Colorado recommends hard-wired smoke detectors for all buildings but also accepts using battery-powered units. However, the state only approves the usage of battery-powered smoke detectors that use lithium-ion batteries with a life span of 10 years. 

Regarding maintenance, Colorado requires a monthly test for all smoke detectors. In addition, every homeowner must file and submit a fire safety equipment report annually.

  • New York

New York is one of the most populated states in the U.S.; hence fires are more likely to spread quickly and hurt more people. For this reason, they constantly upgrade their fire safety legislation to keep the citizens safe.

The regulations introduced in 2015 require that smoke detectors be installed in all bedrooms, adjacent hallways, and every building floor. Smoke detectors should also be in the basement and attic of the house, especially if they are inhabited.

In 2019, the state governments tightened their laws and now require that the sale and purchase of smoke detectors be approved first. Hard-wired smoke detectors are considered more efficient and therefore approved more easily. On the other hand, only the battery-powered devices that use long-life lithium-ion batteries get approved.

Like most states, the landlords of new york are expected to install the smoke detectors and cater for repair and replacement coats. The tenant’s job is to keep the smoke detector pristine and report any malfunctions to the landlord.

  • Illinois

Many fire-related accidents have plagued the state of Illinois in the last few years. For this reason, the state government updated its fire-safety legislation and implemented them beginning 1st January 2023.

The updated legislation approves the use of both hard-wired and battery-powered smoke detectors. Unlike most states, Illinois does not frown upon non-lithium batteries. Instead, they only require the landlords to seal the power source to prevent tampering with the device.

Illinois has no laws that tie citizens to using either dual-sensor or photoelectric smoke detectors. The local bodies approve all types of smoke detectors, provided they work properly and are of good quality.

The state’s fire-safety laws also require landlords to install CO detectors in all new residences. Unlike the smoke detectors, the CO sensors only have to be within 15 feet of the bedrooms. You only have to mount them inside the bedroom if there’s a fuel-burning appliance like a fireplace in the room.

Just like in every other state, the responsibility of installing and replacing smoke detectors lies on the landlord. The tenant only needs to maintain the device and report any malfunctions promptly.

  • Ohio

Ohio state government has given its local municipalities the mandate to set fire alarm laws that they see fit their zones better. 

Generally, the law demands that the circuit of every new building must be adjusted to accommodate hard-wired smoke detectors. However, older structures can continue using battery-powered detectors provided the landlords replace the older batteries with new 10-year lithium-ion batteries.

Like in California, Ohio requires the local municipality to approve every smoke detector before installation. Most local bodies only approve dual-sensor and photoelectric smoke detectors because they are more efficient at sensing flaming and smoldering fires. 

The landlord is responsible for installing the devices and catering to all repairs and replacements. However, the tenant must maintain the device daily and promptly report any malfunction to the landlord.

  • Florida

Florida’s latest fire safety regulations deemed the older 9-volt smoke detectors inadequate. Today, the law requires the state to approve all smoke detectors before you mount them.

The state-approved smoke detectors in Florida are usually hard-wired devices with a dual power source. Sch smoke detectors run on the building’s main current and rely on a backup lithium-ion battery in case of power interruptions. The legislation also requires that an independent lab test be conducted, and the product be approved before selling.

Like most states, smoke detectors in Florida should be mounted in all bedrooms, hallways, and on all home levels, even if there are no sleeping rooms. You can also install it in your den or dining room for extra protection.

  • Pennsylvania

The fire safety laws of Pennsylvania require at least one smoke detector on every house level. Unlike most states, there’s no obligation to mount detectors in every room, provided that sleeping areas are within 15 feet of where the device is installed.

State laws require buildings with more than three stories to have a smoke detector on each level, including the basement. In addition, the devices should be interlinked so that when one goes off, all of them go off.

Currently, battery-powered smoke detectors are allowed. However, most municipalities are compelling builders to account for dual-powered smoke detectors in new projects. The governing body also recommends one CO detector on each floor, especially if the building has fossil fuel appliances.

Does a Dining Room Need a Smoke Detector?

A dining room won’t need a smoke detector if it is within 15 feet of your kitchen. The kitchen smoke detector can sense smoke from the two house areas even if the ignition point is the dining room. 

However, you will need a smoke detector in the dining room if it is too far from the kitchen or where you mounted the main hallway detectors. In this case, it is best to have interconnected smoke detectors to get an alert if a fire starts on one side of the house while you’re in the dining room.

Who Is Responsible for Smoke Alarms In Rented Properties?

The landlord of a rental house is required by law to provide and install the necessary fire-safety alarms for the property. They are required to purchase smoke detectors and CO sensors that are enough to meet the state’s fire safety requirements.

Before leasing the property to a tenant, the landlord must ensure the smoke detectors are installed correctly. They must also ensure that the device’s batteries are replaced accordingly to keep them working.

That said, the tenant is responsible for maintaining the smoke detectors by cleaning and testing functionality regularly. The tenant must also report any malfunctions to the landlord so that he takes necessary action.

How to Install a Smoke Detector

You Will Need 

  • A smoke detector (battery-powered or wired)
  • A sharp pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Step ladder
  • Drill bit
  • Power drill
  • Wire stripper
  • Wire Cutter 
  • Wire nuts
  • Hammer
  • Batteries
  • Plastic wall anchors

How to Install a Battery-Powered Smoke Detector

Step 1: Install the device’s mounting base

Most smoke detectors come with a mounting base separate from the alarm itself. The base has key-shaped screw holes to allow you to fasten it to a wall or ceiling.

Place the mounting base against the wall or ceiling, then use a pencil to mark screw holes.

  • Use a drill to make holes where you placed the pencil marks. Ensure that you select a drill bit slightly smaller than the supplied wall anchors to ensure a snug fit. 
  • Next, use a hammer to tap your plastic wall anchors into the drilled holes gently.
  • Drive two screws partially into the wall anchors and then line them up with the mounting base. Finally, twist the smoke detector’s base into place and then use a screwdriver to tauten the screws.

Step 2: Install The Batteries

Open your smoke detector’s battery door to reveal the battery bay, then put in the provided batteries. Ensure you follow the markings inside the bay and align the battery’s positive(+) and negative(-) terminals accordingly.

Take note of the type of battery that your device uses and then write it down. This way, you can purchase extra batteries and keep them in hand for emergency changes.

Step 3: Attach the Smkoe detector to the base

Finally, hold the smoke detector over the mounting base and then twist it clockwise until it snaps into place. Some Battery detectors may light up or beep at this point, so don’t let that startle you.

How to Install a Hard-wired Smoke Detector


Step 1: Turn off the main power

Hard-wired smoke detectors draw their power from your building’s main circuit. So, you must turn off the power at the main electrical panel to avoid electrocution.

The breaker that controls your smoke detector will be labeled “fire alarm” or something similar, so look out for that.

Step 2: Install the mounting base

You will mount your detector’s base on a previously-installed electrical box.

  • Loosen the two screws on the corners of the electrical box and then slide the new base into place. Ensure you pull the main system wires through the base before tightening the screws that hold the base in place.
  • Use a screwdriver instead of a drill to tighten the screws. This way, you will avoid overtightening and cracking the mounting base.

Step 3: Fix the necessary wires

The wire harness that came with your smoke detector must tie into the wires you pulled through the mounting base in the previous step.

  • Use a wire stripper to expose the harness wires and twist them with the system wires using wire nuts. Ensure you match the wire colors to avoid a short circuit when you turn on the main power.
  • Note: if your harness wires are black, white, and yellow but the main system wires are black white, and red, tie the yellow and red together.

Step 4: Install the backup battery

Open your smoke detector’s battery door to reveal the battery bay, then put in the provided batteries. Ensure you follow the markings inside the bay and align the battery’s positive(+) and negative(-) terminals accordingly.

Step 5: Attach the device to the mounting base

  • Hold the smoke detector over the mounting base and then twist it clockwise until it snaps into place. 
  • Repeat steps 1-5 for all the other smoke detectors in your hard-wired system.

Step 6: Turn on the main power

Head back to your main electrical panel and flip your breaker back into position. 

Press each detector’s “test” button to see if they function properly. If you installed the detectors correctly, all alarms should sound when you press the test button on one device.

Note: If you’re installing hard-wired smoke detectors from scratch, I recommend hiring a professional. An electrician will know how to install electrical boxes and running cables, especially when they need to be hooked to the main power source.

How to Install Hardwired Smoke Detector:

How Many Smoke Detectors Should Be In a House?

The number of smoke detectors you install in a building will depend on its layout and the number of floors. According to most state fire-safety laws, you need at least one smoke detector on every house level. If your home has four levels, you need at least four detectors.

The law also requires you to mount smoke detectors in every bedroom and hallway adjacent to the sleeping rooms. You also need smoke detectors in your basement and attic if you’ve converted them into sleeping or usable rooms.

So, counting the number of bedrooms and floors in your residence can tell you the number of smoke detectors that should be in your house.


The rising number of fire-related accidents has prompted people to take extra measures to protect themselves. The measure at the top of the list is installing smoke detectors to warn about the fire before it starts.

The use of smoke detectors started slowly, but today, it feels like a mandatory requirement in every home. So, I did some research to answer the question,

Are Smoke Detectors Required By Law?

Yes, they are! The general rule in all U.S. states is that all homes must have at least one smoke detector in each sleeping room and on every floor. A Carbon monoxide alarm is also necessary if the home uses fuel-burning appliances or has an attached garage.

Most state laws don’t restrict which type of smoke detector to use or where to mount them. However, some stricter states like Florida and Colorado have laws that require the local municipalities to approve all smoke detectors before use.

Thank you for reading this article, and I hope you now understand your state’s fire-safety laws. Don’t hesitate to contact me in the comments if you need me to clarify anything.

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