Correct smoke detector placement is an essential step in helping keep your home safe from fires. Fire alarms are even considered one of the cheapest ways to protect your property, reducing the risk of death by approximately 50%.

Home fires can come from many things, from a grease fire in the kitchen to faulty appliance wiring. But no matter how a fire starts, smoke alarms often detect fires first.

This guide takes you through the process of choosing a fire alarm and where to place it.


What are smoke detectors, and how do they work?                                         


Smoke detectors work by sensing smoke particles in the air and emitting a warning that alerts you that smoke is present in your home. There are two types of smoke detectors: ionization alarms and photoelectric alarms.

  • An ionization alarm ionizes air molecules, creating a small electric current. When smoke particles enter it, it disrupts the current’s flow. The sensor registers these particles as smoke and an alarm sounds. 

    • This is the most common alarm, and it is more responsive to flaming fires, such as a grease or pan fire.

  • A photoelectric smoke alarm has a light inside the sensing chamber. Once smoke enters and reflects off of that light, it triggers the alarm’s sensor and alarm.

    • These alarms are more responsive to smoldering fires, such as a fire that starts when someone drops a cigarette on a couch.

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends purchasing an alarm with a combination smoke detector for the best possible coverage.


Where should you place a fire alarm?


When you install smoke alarms in the correct place, you help keep your family safe from the threat of a potential blaze. Placing a smoke alarm in an area where it is most likely to identify a fire is just as important as installing a carbon monoxide detector in the right place.

So how many smoke alarms should you have in your home? It depends on the number of rooms and levels.

Currently, the NFPA requires that you:

  • Install a least one on every level of the home, including the basement.

  • Place a smoke detector in every sleeping area.

  • Ensure a smoke alarm is outside of every room, like in a hallway.

  • If you have a level without a bedroom, install a detector in the living room, or near the stairway leading upstairs or downstairs.

Now that you know the basic requirements for smoke detector placement, we’ll go over a few tips on where to install smoke alarms.

  • Basement: Install a smoke alarm on the ceiling, next to the steps leading to the upper level. 

    • This is especially important if you have doors leading to your basement and upstairs. In the event of a fire, dead air may get trapped behind the door, preventing smoke from reaching the next level. 

  • Kitchen: Place a smoke detector at least 10 feet from cooking appliances to reduce the number of false alarms.

  • Living areas, dens, bedrooms: Mount alarms on the walls or ceilings. 

    • If putting them on the walls, make sure to place the fire alarms 4-12 inches away from the ceiling, as measured by the top of the device. This placement avoids dead air space. Dead air spaces have reduced airflow, which may prevent smoke from reaching the alarm.

    • If putting an alarm on the ceiling, the fire detector placement should be approximately in the middle since smoke tends to rise and spread.

  • Pitched ceilings: Install a detector within three feet of the peak’s apex. The apex is usually about four inches from the peak.

  • Rooms with a ceiling fan: Install a smoke detector at least three feet away from the fan.


What should you consider when installing a smoke alarm?

There are other considerations to have when placing a detector, like where you should avoid placing them, so they don’t interfere with fumes or air.

Avoid installing alarms near windows, doors, or air ducts where drafts are present.

  • Don’t place a smoke detector directly over the stove or range or next to a fireplace or furnace.

  • Interconnected smoke alarms go off simultaneously when one is triggered. This can be done by hardwiring the systems together or more quickly if you’re using wireless alarms.

  • Ensure that you don’t accidentally paint over a detector or place any decorations or stickers on it.

  • Keep manufacturer’s instructions for reference.

  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month.


Fire Facts and Statistics:


Smoke alarms are essential in detecting fires in your home and may even save your life one day.

In 2020, property damages from fires were around $21.9 billion [1]. 

  • Firefighters respond to a fire every 23 seconds [1].

  • 1.4 million fires are reported every year [1].

  • Smoke detectors reduce the risk of dying from fire by as much as 55%.

  • Eight hundred ninety lives could be saved per year if every home had an operating smoke alarm in place.

  • The highest overall cause of death is from smoking materials, though this was only true for people in the 45-84 range [2].

  • Cooking fires amount to most fire-related injuries and most fires in general, while electrical and lighting equipment are responsible for the most property damage [3].

A home structure fire is reported every 89 seconds [1].

  • A home fire injury occurs every 46 minutes, and a death is reported every three hours and 24 minutes [1].

  • 26% of fires occurred in home properties, yet they still accounted for 75% of civilian fire deaths [1].

  • 2/3 of home fire deaths and injuries were caused by fires in the living room, bedroom, or kitchen [3].

  • Home structure fires caused $8.4 billion in direct property damage, while apartments caused $1.6 billion in damages.

  • In 2020, deaths from home fires were 50% lower than those reported in 1980 [1].

Reported home structure fires by incident 2020
Home Structure Fires 356,500 2,580 11,500 $8,400
One- and two-family homes, including manufactured homes 270,500 2,230 8,600 $6,771
Apartment or other multifamily housing 86,000 350 2,900 $1,629
Other residential structure fire 23,000 50 400 $303

Source: Fire Loss in the United States During 2020, National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®), September 2021.

Tips to protect your home from fire:


Fire prevention and safety measures are vital to protecting your home. Not only should you be aware of the most fire-prone equipment in your home for safety reasons, but you should also know how to contain a fire if one does happen.

Top five causes of home fires, as reported by the NFPA [3]:

  1. Cooking

  2. Heating equipment

  3. Electrical distribution and lighting equipment

  4. Intentional fires

  5. Smoking

You should always use caution when cooking, especially since cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and the number one cause of injuries [3]. Grease fires are especially hazardous and sometimes tricky to extinguish.

  • Cooking fires

    • Always keep an eye on what you’re cooking, especially when it involves oil.

    • Small grease fires can be contained by turning off the heat and placing a metal lid on top of the pan. Salt or baking soda will also extinguish a small grease fire.

    • If a more significant grease fire occurs and you can’t contain it, retreat to safety and immediately call the fire department.

    • Class-B or class-K fire extinguishers are recommended for cooking fires.

    • Oil and water do not mix, so never, under any circumstances, attempt to extinguish a grease fire with water.

Space heaters or other portable heaters may catch ablaze if they come in contact with fabric or drapes or if they have faulty wiring. This type of fire is the leading cause of death in one- or two-family homes [3].

  • Heating equipment

    • Make sure to follow the directions on your device, and never leave it unattended or turned on when you’re not home.

    • Keep all flammable materials away from the heater, whether that’s curtains, clothes, plastic, etc.

    • Be especially careful if you’re using a heater that requires fuel since it could ignite if mishandled.

Faulty wiring, sparking connections, or short-circuiting electronics may overheat and cause a fire. Electrical and lighting equipment is the leading cause of home fire property damage [3].

  • Electrical distribution and lighting equipment

    • Electrical fires often happen in corners or obstructed areas, making them harder to find.

    • Newer electrical systems tend to have a failsafe that prevents short-circuiting, but older wiring may be more prone to faulty connections or overloading.

    • When moving into a new home, it’s essential that a trained electrician checks out your property—especially if it’s an older home.

More than half of intentional fires start with a lighter or match, especially when someone is trying to ignite trash, waste, or other flammable rubbish.

  • Intentional fires: Intentional fires are when someone deliberately misuses a heat source or incendiary fires. This also includes arson.

Though smoking materials are the fifth cause of fire-related incidents, they still account for the most casualties every year, especially for 45–84-year-olds [2].

  • Smoking

    • Avoid smoking inside, especially near flammable items like curtains, beds, clothing, or upholstery.

    • Stub cigarettes out before going to bed in an ashtray to avoid falling asleep with a lit cigarette.


Help protect your home with fire detection from ADT.


Early fire and smoke detection are crucial to keeping your home and family safe. A big part of monitoring home fires is ensuring that you correctly place and install your fire alarm. Just like carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors help keep you and your family safe.

Our monitoring centers will alert both you and the fire department at the first signs of a fire, helping to provide you with peace of mind. And if you make a call to the ADT professionals today, we’ll make sure your detectors are placed correctly.


Frequently Asking Questions about Smoke Detectors

How do you test your smoke alarm?

Press and hold the test button for several seconds. You should hear a loud beeping, which indicates that your device is running appropriately.


What rooms need a smoke detector?

A smoke alarm should be in every bedroom, outside all sleeping areas (like in a hallway), and on every level of the home, including the basement.


How do home security systems protect against fire and floods?

Many home security systems use monitoring services to keep an eye on your home. As soon as the alarm detects heat and smoke, it transmits that signal to a trained professional, who then can alert both you and the fire department of a potential fire.


Why does my fire alarm keep beeping?

When your fire alarm is beeping, it’s usually the result of a low battery. You can silence this alarm by pressing the OFF button and replacing the battery with a new one.


Does ADT monitoring have fire protection?

ADT offers environmental protection against fire, carbon monoxide, and floods. The fire alarm system can be turned to either “Away” or “Stay” mode. Once triggered, the system dials an ADT professional, who can then call the fire department.








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