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Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Smoke alarms

Most fatal fires occur at night when people are asleep. Often, victims never wake up. Working smoke alarms give you the precious time you need to escape a fire. By law, every home in Ontario must have a working smoke alarm on every storey and outside all sleeping areas.

Responsibility for installation


It is the homeowner’s responsibility to install and maintain smoke alarms on every storey of their home and outside sleeping areas.


It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure their rental properties comply with the law.


If you are a tenant of a rental property and do not have the required number of smoke alarms, contact your landlord immediately. It is against the law for tenants to remove the batteries or tamper with the alarm in any way.

Failure to comply with the Fire Code smoke alarm requirements can result in a $360 ticket or fine of up to $50,000 for individuals or $100,000 for corporations.

Choose the right alarms

Smoke alarms are available with different features and applications, so choosing the right alarm can be confusing. Some of the features to consider include:

Power source

Smoke alarms can be powered electrically, by batteries or both. If you are installing an electrically powered alarm, we recommend that it have a battery backup in case of power failures.


Most smoke alarms employ either ionization or photo-electric technology. Ionization alarms may respond slightly faster to flaming-type fires. Photo-electric alarms may be quicker at detecting slow, smouldering fires. Consider having both types of alarms in your home. When purchasing smoke alarms, make sure they have the logo of a recognized standards testing agency, such as CSA or ULC, to ensure they meet Canadian performance standards.

Pause feature

Smoke alarms with a pause button are highly recommended. The pause feature permits the alarm to be temporarily silenced without disconnecting the power source.

Install in the proper locations

Smoke alarms must be installed on each storey of the home and outside sleeping areas. Because smoke rises, smoke alarms should be installed on the ceiling. If this is not possible, install the alarm high up on a wall. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing smoke alarms.

Avoid putting smoke alarms too close to:

  • bathrooms
  • windows
  • ceiling fans
  • heating and cooking appliances

Maintain your smoke alarms

Test smoke alarms monthly

Test your smoke alarms every month by using the test button on the alarm. When the test button is pressed, the alarm should sound. If it fails to sound, make sure that the battery is installed correctly or install a new battery. If the alarm still fails to sound, replace the smoke alarm with a new one.

Change the batteries at least once a year

Install a new battery at least once a year, or as recommended by the manufacturer. Install a new battery if the low-battery warning sounds or if the alarm fails to sound when tested.

Vacuum alarms annually

Dust can clog your smoke alarms. Battery-powered smoke alarms should be cleaned by opening the cover of the alarm and gently vacuuming the inside with a soft bristle brush.

For electrically connected smoke alarms, first shut off the power to the unit, and then gently vacuum the outside vents of the alarm only. Turn the power back on and test the alarm.

Replace older smoke alarms

All smoke alarms wear out. Replace them every 10 years according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Handle nuisance alarms

Steam from the shower, oven, stove or toaster can cause smoke alarms to activate. If these types of nuisance alarms occur, do not remove the battery. To reduce nuisance alarms:

  • relocate the alarm, moving the alarm a short distance can make the difference
  • install a smoke alarm with a pause button that will allow you to temporarily silence the alarm
  • replace alarms located near kitchens with photo-electric types

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