Tag: wireless interconnected photoelectric smoke alarm

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

There are three important differences between our wireless interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms and conventional smoke alarms.

1) Our smoke alarms are photoelectric (not ionisation). Older conventional smoke alarms use radioactive ionisation as the process by which they detect smoke particles in the air. Ionisation smoke alarms are good at detecting smoke from flaming fires, but are less adept at detecting smoke from smouldering flames which is common of most house fires. Ionisation alarms have also been known to cause frustrating nuisance alarms, which might condition people to switch them off, putting themselves at risk. For these reasons the older style ionisation smoke alarms are being phased out both in Australia and internationally.

2) Older smoke alarms typically operated as stand-alone units. If a smoke alarm sensed smoke on the ground floor of a building – yes it may activate, but any other smoke alarms on the upper floors would not activate until smoke had entered the same air space – by this time it could be too late to initiate an effective response (or escape).
Our smoke alarms are wirelessly ‘interconnected’ together – so if one alarm detects smoke anywhere within a building, then all smoke alarms paired within the same network will simultaneously initiate their alarm. This can provide increased early warning and response time for residents.

3) Our smoke alarms have a sealed 10 year life lithium battery. Conventional smoke alarms are usually powered by a 9v replaceable battery. When the battery life becomes drained over time the smoke alarm begins to emit a loud intermittent ‘chirp’ noise. The chirp serves as a noisy (and annoying) reminder to replace the battery, and continues until the battery is replaced. As seen in the past, residents can remove the battery, disabling the chirping noise and the alarm itself, often with tragic consequences.
Because our smoke alarms are powered by a long life 10-year lithium  battery which is sealed inside the unit, the battery cannot be deliberately removed. At the end of the 10-year battery life span, the entire smoke alarm unit is simply replaced with a new one!
Don’t risk your life or that of your loved ones – whatever smoke alarm you have in your home please check to ensure it is; interconnectable, photoelectric and contains a sealed 10 year long life battery (or hard wired).

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.

Nothing is more frustrating than a smoke alarm going off for no reason (especially at 2am in the morning!). But why is your smoke alarm beeping when there is no smoke? There can be several causes of nuisance alarms. The good news is that you don’t have to go on living this way – our wireless interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms provide reliable protection for you and your family!

The basic operating principal of an interconnected photoelectric smoke alarm is that it activates when the light beam inside the smoke alarm chamber is broken or disrupted – typically by tiny smoke particles. However these foreign particles can come from sources other than real smoke too – below are some of the most common examples and how to resolve them.

High humidity

High humidity may occur naturally as the air carries dense moisture particles that your smoke alarm confuses for smoke particles. Although brands can differ, smoke alarms should be designed to work up to 93% relative humidity – anything over this range and the air could become dense enough to scatter the light beam of a photelectric sensor. Extreme tropical weather conditions in far north Queensland and the Northern Territory can sometimes produce high humidity above 85% which may begin to affect an alarm.

High humidity may also be created artificially due to steam vapour from a bathroom shower, or a clothes dryer operating in a laundry room for example. If your smoke alarm is positioned outside a bathroom entrance or in a laundry consider moving it further away or relocating it completely so that escaping shower steam and dense air vapour doesn’t trigger nuisance alarms and start the smoke alarm beeping unnecessarily.


Section 4.17 of Australian Standard 3786:2014 requires all smoke alarms to have protection against foreign bodies, so that a sphere of diameter larger than 1.3mm cannot pass into the sensor chamber – this protection is provided by way of an internal mesh screen. Despite this requirement it is still possible that very tiny insects (smaller than 1.3mm) could enter the smoke alarm and by doing so interfere with the photoelectric sensor. One tip to reduce this likelihood is to wipe the ceiling perimeter around your smoke alarm with surface insect spray (being very careful not to allow the insect spray itself to touch the alarm as this may affect the internal sensors).


A build-up of dust in the air may also affect your smoke alarm. If dust particles enter the internal chamber they will interfere with the photoelectric light beam and trigger nuisance alarms. We recommend cleaning your smoke alarms regularly by gently vacuuming around them with a soft brush attachment from your vacuum cleaner. Cleaning your smoke alarms in this way may remove any cobwebs which could also prevent pests from entering the alarm. Be cognisant of any activities in the home which may create excess dust – for example renovations, or shaking out old dusty blankets or doonas in a room which has a smoke alarm installed.


It is true that whilst many house fires start in the kitchen, installing an alarm in the kitchen may also elicit many nuisance alarms and start the smoke alarm beeping unnecessarily. It doesn’t matter what brand of smoke detector you have, if you install it too close to the kitchen stovetop or oven it will activate when smoke particles are emitted from the cooking food (after all, the smoke alarm is just doing what it is designed to do). When cooking, be sure to use the oven exhaust fan or rangehood to draw smoky air particles away from the vicinity of your smoke alarm. If the problem persists, consider repositioning the alarm further away from the cooking appliance.


Beeping smoke alarms without an obvious apparent reason can be both frustrating and stressful. Worse, repeated false alarms may induce a ‘boy who cried wolf’ syndrome and reduce home occupants reaction to a real life fire event.

Fortunately, our wireless interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms undergo strict quality control measures and are manufactured in adherence to Australian Standard 3786:2014, independently tested and verified by the CSIRO which help reduce the likelihood of nuisance smoke alarms. Using the tips outlined above and below, your smoke alarms will provide many years of stress free and reliable fire protection.

For more information about why your smoke alarm is going off no reason, please refer to the handy Red smoke alarms diagnostic checklist below!

Why is my smoke alarm beeping for no reason? – refer to our Red smoke alarms diagnostic checklist!