Massachusetts Smoke Detector Requirements – March 2010 Q&A
Q. I heard that the rules regarding smoke detectors are changing. What are these changes and how do they impact me?
A. What you heard is true. On April 5, 2010,* a new regulation regarding the installation and maintenance of smoke detectors will become effective. These new regulations were enacted by the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services and will apply to single and multi-family homes built (or most recently renovated) before 1975.
*Note: April 5, 2010 is the new effective date. The original effective date was January 1.
For homes sold on or after April 5, 2010: The regulations require two different types of smoke detectors to be in place depending upon the location in the home. First, in zones within 20 feet of a kitchen or bathroom, smoke detectors using photoelectric only technology will be required. Outside of the 20-foot kitchen & bath zone(s), the regulations require smoke detectors using both ionization and photoelectric technology to be installed.* Compliance can be achieved by installing either dual technology (“combination units”) or by installing separate ionization and photoelectric units. Again, all smoke detectors within 20 feet of a kitchen or bath must be photoelectric ONLY.
*Note: The regulation was recently amended to provide an exemption from the ionization sensor requirement for homes w/ low-voltage alarm systems (due to product availability problems).
These requirements were developed, in part, based upon research that shows that ionization smoke detectors tend to give false alarms due to fumes given off from typical cooking activities or steam from a shower. Frequent false alarms often lead residents to disable smoke detectors by removing their batteries. The intent of the new regulations is to make homes safer by preventing residents from disabling smoke detectors that are triggered by typical cooking or bathing activities.
Q. What about battery-operated smoke detectors? Do they comply with the new regulations or, must the units be hard-wired?
A. The battery/hardwire rules are not changing at the State level. Statute specifically provides that “… the head of the fire department shall allow the installation of approved monitored battery powered smoke detectors.” But do check with the local fire departments, as some cities and towns do have certain rules set by local ordinance/by-law.