Smoke detectors may sometimes be a noisy nuisance, but they’re one of the most important devices in your home. They’re the sort of device that you hope to never use, but you don’t know for sure if they’re working properly until you really need them.
Once upon a time, battery-powered smoke detectors were the norm, but it’s becoming more popular to hardwire smoke detectors directly into a home’s electrical system. If that sounds more difficult than installing a battery-powered smoke detector, that’s because it is. Smoke detectors are important enough that you shouldn’t try to save a few dollars by DIYing a hardwired system.
If you’re thinking of making the switch from battery-powered to hardwired, it’s probably a good idea. But unless you have electrician experience, you shouldn’t install hardwired smoke detectors yourself.
Like the name sounds, battery-powered smoke detectors have batteries and are individually functioning units. Hardwired smoke detectors, on the other hand, are installed directly into the existing electrical system in the home and function as a network. They still have batteries, but only as a backup power source in the event you lose power in the home.
These days, hardwired smoke detectors are largely preferred over battery-powered ones for their reliability and ease of use.
While they’re certainly a safer option than battery-powered smoke detectors, there are still a few drawbacks to hardwired smoke detectors.
You can install a hardwired smoke detector yourself, but you really shouldn’t unless you have at least an apprentice level of electrical experience.
You can install a hardwired smoke detector yourself, but only if you have a good familiarity with home electrical work and an understanding of electrical circuits before attempting this project. If you don't have this experience and understanding, it's best left to a professional electrician to install and replace hardwired smoke detectors.
Testing a hardwired smoke detector is fine for you to do, but you should hire a professional for installation.
Beyond the simple dangers of messing around with electricity, there are a number of very good reasons why you should hire an electrician to install a hardwired smoke detector.
Electricians have a lot of experience with smoke detectors and know which brands are superior in quality and effectiveness. (Just as importantly, they’ll know which brands are buggy and prone to false alarms.) They’ll ensure you get the best smoke detector for your money so you feel safe.
You may be able to use common sense to deduce where smoke detectors probably should go, but electricians will have that experience, plus expertise and knowledge of where they should go. You can research basic guidelines for where smoke detectors should go, but an electrician will be able to look at your house and identify the right spots.
One of the primary benefits of hardwired smoke detectors is that they can work in unison to protect your home. But that will only happen if they’re installed correctly. A qualified electrician will help ensure that happens. It’s not easy to get this right, and an inexperienced person could create faulty wiring that isn’t just dangerous but could cause a major electrical problem that costs you a lot of money to fix.
The National Electrical Code changes rules and regulations every few years, so even if you felt pretty good about the code in 2017, you might do something in violation by mistake in 2023. A licensed electrician will ensure that all of the smoke detector work is up to code and won’t be an issue should you want to sell your home later.
Provided it is working properly when you test it, a hardwired smoke detector should have a ten-year life expectancy.
You should test your smoke detectors monthly to ensure that they’re working properly. All smoke detectors have a test function, but you may need to read the manual to check the exact testing process. Each smoke detector has a series of codes, one of which will tell you if the detector is faulty.
As we touched on earlier, hardwired smoke alarms may be more prone to false alarms than battery-powered ones. Generally, this has to do with faulty wiring or the way test cycles are set up. If you can’t figure out why your alarms are going off, call in an electrician. If they were recently installed, the electrician who did the work should fix it for free.
Hardwired smoke detectors are safer and more efficient than battery-powered ones. That’s why they’re preferred by builders and homeowners alike today. While maintenance is easy, installation is not, so you should hire a professional to do it. It should only take a couple of hours, so the entire project is likely no more than a few hundred dollars.
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