What does the new Florida smoke alarm law require?
Saturday, August 11, 2018
Effective January 1st, 2015, when you replace a battery-powered smoke alarm in your home, or install a new one, it must be powered by a non-removable and non-replaceable battery with at least a 10-year rated life. This type of alarm has been on the market for several years and uses a lithium ion battery. The fact that the smoke detector sensor also has a lifespan rating of 10 years is another good reason to toss the alarm in a decade when the battery starts chirping.
Here’s the text of of the new Florida Statute, which is also in the Florida Building Code, Existing Buildings, at 603.2 :
553.883 Smoke alarms in one-family and two-family dwellings and townhomes.
—One-family and two-family dwellings and townhomes undergoing a repair, or a level 1 alteration as defined in the Florida Building Code, may use smoke alarms powered by 10-year nonremovable, nonreplaceable batteries in lieu of retrofitting such dwelling with smoke alarms powered by the dwelling’s electrical system. Effective January 1, 2015, a battery-powered smoke alarm that is newly installed or replaces an existing battery-powered smoke alarm must be powered by a nonremovable, nonreplaceable battery that powers the alarm for at least 10 years. The battery requirements of this section do not apply to a fire alarm, smoke detector, smoke alarm, or ancillary component that is electronically connected as a part of a centrally monitored or supervised alarm system.
There has been some confusion about the intent of the law. Here’s what it does not mandate regarding existing smoke alarms:
- It applies only to battery-powered smoke alarms. You do not have to—and should not—replace an existing hard-wired smoke alarm with a 10-year battery alarm. It is a good idea, however, to replace an older hard-wired smoke alarm (one that is connected to the home’s electrical system) with one that also has a battery backup.
- Although it allows homeowners that are doing minor “Level 1” alterations to an existing home to install 10-year battery alarms, instead of having to update to a hard-wired and interconnected system, you still may choose to upgrade to the hard-wired and interconnected system. It is significantly more expensive to retrofit in an existing home, but a superior fire alarm system. By the way, Level 1 alterations are defined by the code as alterations that "include the removal and replacement or the covering of existing materials, elements, equipment, or fixtures using new materials, elements, equipment, or fixtures that serve the same purpose."
- The law does not require everyone to install a new smoke alarm where there was not one installed already.
- Also, the law does not apply to the building code requirements for smoke alarms in new construction, which remain the same.
Although the 10-year battery alarms are available with either an ionization or photoelectric sensor system, most experts recommend the photoelectric sensor, which is faster and more consistent in responding to the first wisps of smoke from a fire in your home.
Also, see our blog posts Is it illegal to disconnect a smoke alarm? and Where should smoke alarms NOT be installed? and Does pushing the test button on a smoke alarm test the smoke sensor device inside? and Can the smoke sensors in a home security/fire alarm system replace the smoke alarms required by the building code?
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