People who are sleeping do not smell smoke and are unlikely to wake up during a fire. The most effective way to ensure house occupants wake up and get to safety is to install smoke alarms.
· legal requirements
· how many alarms?
· where to locate alarms
Smoke alarms are a requirement under New Zealand Building Code clause F7 Warning systems. This applies to new homes and all existing homes undergoing building work.
Acceptable Solution F7/AS1 requires Type 1 smoke alarms, which must have:
· a hush button to silence the alarm for at least 60 seconds
· a test button
· a sound level that complies with NZS 4514:2009 Interconnected smoke alarms for houses – not less than 75 dBA at the sleeping position and not more than 100 dBA at 1.8 m height. (The standard can be downloaded for free.)
On floors with bedrooms the smoke alarms must be located either in every sleeping space or within 3.0 m of every sleeping space door. In this case, the smoke alarms must be audible to sleeping occupants on the other side of the closed doors.
In multi-storey homes there must be at least one smoke alarm on each level, however having an alarm in each sleeping space is considered preferable.
Although there are several types of alarms that can be used to comply with Building Code requirements, Fire and Emergency New Zealand recommends hard-wired alarms or photoelectric alarms with batteries that last up to 10 years.
F7/AS1 does not require smoke alarms in houses to be interconnected, but this is a good idea (and it is a requirement in a part of NZS 4514 that is not referenced). With interconnected alarms, when one smoke alarm detects fire smoke, all alarms will sound. Some models connect wirelessly.
Under the Residential Tenancies (Smoke Alarms and Insulation) Regulations 2016
all rental homes must have smoke alarms:
· The alarms must be either hard wired or photoelectric battery alarms with a battery life of at least 8 years.
· If alarms have a battery, it is the tenant’s responsibility to replace the battery when it is worn out.
· There must be at least one smoke alarm installed in the sleeping space or within 3 metres of the entrance to the sleeping space.
· There must be an alarm on each floor where there is a habitable space however having an alarm within each sleeping space is preferable.
How many alarms?
Fire and Emergency New Zealand recommends installing an alarm in each sleeping and living space and interconnecting them – a sensible approach to ensure full compliance with F7/AS1. New alarms are available that are smaller and more discreet with longer battery life than the older models.
Where to locate alarms?
Alarms should ideally be installed on the ceiling, at least 200 mm from a wall or a ceiling beam to avoid dead air space. With sloping ceilings the alarm should be 200–500 mm from the apex.
An alternative (but not preferred) position is high on a wall, at least 100 mm from the ceiling and 600 mm from corners to avoid dead air pockets.
To reduce the risk of false alarms or faults, do not install:
· in a kitchen, garage or bathroom
· near a heat source such as a heat pump or solid fuel burner
· in damp or draughty areas.
Installing Smoke alarms is recommended in all sleep-outs.
At least two smoke alarms are needed in extended plan houses.
Separated sleeping areas
At least two smoke alarms are needed where there are two sleeping areas separated by the living area.
Placement of smoke alarms
At the very least, a smoke alarm should be placed between the sleeping area and living areas.
More than one storey
Where a house has more than one storey there should be at least one smoke alarm on each level.
Vacuum over smoke alarms to avoid dust build-up, and test with the test button monthly. The smoke detection element can be tested annually with an incense stick. Battery alarms should be replaced every 10 years.
Updated: 30 August 2018
Dean Norrie, Director/Building Inspector - LBP Qualified Builder, with 20+ years residential building experience, three generations of builder in the family.