Tag: QLD smoke alarm legidslation

Whilst battery powered smoke alarms* are easy for homeowners to DIY install, there are certain situations where they are not permitted by law and a hard wired smoke alarm must be used. Prior to installing any type of smoke alarm, it is important to understand their differences and when each can be used.

What is a hard wired smoke alarm?

A hard wired smoke alarm is an alarm which is hard wired to a domestic dwelling’s 240 volt electricity supply. As electrical wiring is necessary, hard wired smoke alarms cannot be DIY installed and should always be installed by a trade qualified Electrician. Hard wired smoke alarms have an internal battery back-up which allows for continuous power supply should the household mains electricity be temporarily disrupted (i.e. power black-out during a thunder storm). When there is more than one, hard wired smoke alarms must be interconnected to each other – this can be achieved in two ways – either by running physical cabling in the ceiling space in-between each alarm, or wirelessly using a radio frequency (RF) transmitter.

When must I install a hard wired smoke alarm?

There are 3 situations in Queensland when it is a statutory requirement for 240 volt hard wired smoke alarms to be installed.

1) If you are constructing a new home

If you are constructing a new home then hard wired smoke alarms are required as part of the building approval process – Queensland’s Building Regulations 2021 (part 4) and the National Construction Code (NCC 2019 volume 2 part 3.7.5) detail minimum necessary building standards, including those for fire safety and smoke alarms.

Queensland’s Building Regulations 2021 state that when constructing a new home, the smoke alarms must be hardwired to the domestic dwelling’s electricity supply; and must be interconnected to every other smoke alarm installed in the dwelling.

2) If you are performing a substantial renovation

Division 5A (section 104RBA) of the QLD Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 states that hard wired smoke alarms must be installed when a substantial renovation is being performed to an existing dwelling.

A ‘substantial renovation’ is defined as building work carried out under a building development approval, or the total building works equaling 50 per cent of the dwelling over three years.

3) If you are replacing an existing hard wired smoke alarm

Division 5A (section 104RC) of the QLD Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 states that if the smoke alarm being replaced was hardwired to the domestic dwelling’s electricity supply, the replacement smoke alarm must also be hardwired to the dwelling’s electricity supply. A smoke alarm must be replaced if it fails to operate or is older than 10 years from manufacture date (manufacture date is printed on the rear of the alarm).

What if I don’t need to replace my existing hard wired smoke alarms? Can I leave them in place and install additional battery powered alarms in all the required locations and be compliant?

This is a common question. Provided the existing hard wired smoke alarms work and their manufacture date is less than 10 years they do not need to be replaced.

Battery powered interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms can then be installed in all prescribed locations as required by QLD law. The position of the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) is that the existing hard wired smoke alarms are then considered to be extra additional alarms, and do not need to be interconnected to the newly installed battery powered smoke alarms. Compliance is achieved.

Replacing and installing new hard wired smoke alarms

Red smoke alarms are a 100% Australian owned company that manufacture quality 240 volt hard wired smoke alarms for those people that do need to replace or install hard wired smoke alarms. Aside from the 10 year product warranty, what makes the Red hard wired smoke alarm so good is that it comes in two versions depending on the preferred type of battery back-up. The Red hard wired smoke alarm (model R240RC) comes with an in-built rechargeable 10 year lithium battery (never needs replacing) whereas the Red hard wired smoke alarm (model R240) has a user replaceable 9 volt back-up battery. The choice is yours.

Another great feature of Red hard wired smoke detectors is how they can be interconnected with one another. There are two options. First, each Red hard wired smoke detector can be physically interconnected by having an electrician run cabling from alarm to alarm in your ceiling space. If this is too cost prohibitive and/or difficult to do, the second option is to interconnect the hard wired smoke alarms using wireless radio frequency (RF) technology. This is achieved by installing a small Red hard wired base beneath each hard wired smoke alarm. The base acts as an RF transmitter and allows the hard wired smoke alarms to become interconnected and ‘talk’ to one another without the need to run physical cabling from alarm to alarm. An added benefit of the Red hard wired base is that it also allows the Red hard wired smoke alarm to talk to not only other Red hard wired smoke alarms, but also to the Red remote control and other Red battery powered smoke alarms and Red heat alarms – extremely versatile.


This article has demonstrated the 3 criteria where hard wired smoke alarms must be installed as per QLD legislation. In all other scenarios it is acceptable to use battery powered smoke alarms to achieve compliance.

Before purchasing new replacement smoke alarms for your home be sure to check if your existing smoke alarms are hard wired, or not. Doing this may save complications later, if for example you purchased battery powered smoke alarms, only to discover that what you really needed are hard wired smoke alarms.

* A ‘battery powered’ smoke alarm is a smoke alarm powered by a non-removable 10-year battery compliant with Australian Standard 3786:2014.

Referenced legislation:

QLD Building Regulations 2021 (part 4)

National Construction Code (NCC) 2019 volume 2 part 3.7.5

QLD Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 (Division 5A)

QFES Smoke Alarms for New Dwellings and Renovations

These new laws have been implemented in Queensland due to several fires which have tragically resulted in multiple fatalities in each instance.

Coronial inquest findings noted that had each property been fitted with functioning smoke alarms the occupants may have stood a better chance of survival.

Early smoke / fire detection improves escape time from a burning building. During a fire emergency, it was not only the heat and flames themselves which presented a life-threatening hazard, many victims were first overcome by an accumulation of smoke and toxic fumes.

Slacks Creek House Fire – Brisbane

Just before midnight on 23rd August 2011, an accidental fire ripped through a house in Slacks Creek, South Brisbane.

The fire was to cause the greatest loss of life in a domestic house fire in Australian history, with a total of 11 people (including many children) perishing due to smoke inhalation.

A finding from the 2014 Coronial Inquest stated that;
‘Once this particular fire started, it is likely that some or all of the deaths would have been prevented if the sleeping occupants had been quickly awoken and had realised that they needed to leave the house as quickly as possible … smoke alarms were either not present in the dwelling or were not maintained’.

Many recommendations from the Coronial Inquest were incorporated into the QLD Building Fire Safety (Domestic Smoke Alarms) Legislation Amendment Regulation 2016.

The legislation itself may be viewed at the Queensland Government website below;

Palace Backpackers Fire – Childers

On 23rd June 2000 at 1am a disgruntled resident deliberately lit a fire inside the Palace Backpackers Hostel in Childers, southeast Queensland.

The fire spread rapidly throughout the old timber building and the hostel did not have working smoke detectors or alarms. The result? 15 young people sadly lost their lives. The devastating effect of this event is still evident on the local township to this day.

The arsonist was captured by police and sentenced to life in prison.

Queensland has the most stringent smoke alarm laws in the nation. These laws have been amended and updated over time due to several tragic fires which have resulted in significant loss of life.

The two main pieces of legislation in Queensland are named the ‘Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990’ and the ‘Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008’.

The objectives of the legislation are to ensure that all fire safety installations (including smoke alarms) within a building are maintained and to ensure that people can safely evacuate from a building in the event of a fire.

Part 5A of the Building Fire Safety Regulation deals specifically with smoke alarm requirements for domestic dwellings. Prescribed locations for the installation of smoke alarms are also detailed.

Part 5A of this legislation states that smoke alarms must;

  • Comply with Australian Standard AS 3786:2014.
  • Contain a photoelectric sensor, and not also contain an ionization sensor.
  • Be either hardwired into the building’s main power supply or powered by a non-removable minimum 10-year lifespan battery.

In addition to the above, the QLD Fire and Emergency Services Act stipulates that from 1st January 2022 all rental properties in QLD must have smoke alarms which;

  • Are less than 10 years old.
  • Operate when tested.
  • Be interconnected with every other smoke alarm in the building so that all activate together.

If the smoke alarm being replaced was hardwired to the domestic dwelling’s electricity supply, the replacement smoke alarm must be hardwired to the dwelling’s electricity supply. Any newly constructed homes or substantial renovations must have smoke alarms which are hard wired to the mains power supply

Furthermore, these requirements will become mandatory for ALL dwellings in Queensland by 1st January 2027.

Direct links to the QLD Government website are posted below if you would like to read the legislative documents for yourself.