Installation of Smoke Detectors

Installation Information

Most battery-powered smoke detectors and detectors that plug into wall outlets can be installed using only a drill and a screwdriver and by following the manufacturer's instructions. Plug-in detectors must have restraining devices so they cannot be unplugged by accident Detectors can also be hardwired into a building's electrical system. A qualified electrician should install hardwired detectors. Never connect a smoke detector to a circuit that can be turned off by a wall switch.

Smoke detector placement

Where to Install

  • Because smoke rises, mount detectors high on a wall or on the ceiling. Wall-mounted units should be mounted so that the top of the detector is 4 to 12 inches (10 to 30 centimeters) from the ceiling. A ceiling-mounted detector should be attached at least four inches (10 centimeters) from the nearest wall. In a room with a pitched ceiling, mount the detector at or near the ceiling's highest point.
  • Don't install a smoke detector too near a window, door, or forced-air register where drafts could interfere with the detector's operation.
  • In stairways with no doors at the top or bottom, position smoke detectors anywhere in the path of smoke moving up the stairs. But always position smoke detectors at the bottom of closed stairways, such as those leading to the basement, because dead air trapped near the door at the top of a stairway could prevent smoke from reaching a detector located at the top.

False Alarms

Cooking vapors and steam sometimes set off a smoke detector. To correct this, try moving the detector away from the kitchen or bathroom, or install an exhaust fan. Cleaning your detector regularly, according to the manufacturer's instructions, may also help. If nuisance alarms persist, do not disable the detector. Replace the detector.


  • Clean your smoke detectors using a vacuum cleaner without removing the detector's cover.
  • Following the manufacturer's instructions, test all your smoke alarms monthly and install new batteries at least once a year. A good reminder is when you change your clocks in the spring or fall: change your clock, change your battery.
  • Never disable a detector by borrowing its battery for another use.
  • Never paint a smoke detector.
  • Only a functioning smoke detector can protect you.
  • Smoke detectors don't last forever. Replace any smoke detector that is more than 10 years old.

Plan and Practice

  • Make sure everyone in the household can unlock doors and windows quickly, even in the dark. Windows or doors with security bars should be equipped with quick-release devices and everyone in the household should know how to use them.
  • Make sure everyone is familiar with the sound of the detectors alarm.
  • Once you're out, stay out. Never return to a burning building.
  • Plan escape routes. Know at least two ways out of each room. Agree on a meeting place outside your home where all residents will gather after they escape. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year.
  • Remove obstructions from doors and windows needed for escape.
  • When an alarm sounds, leave immediately. Go directly to your outside meeting place and call the fire department.

Note: Some of this information is courtesy of the National Fire Protection Association.

escape plan