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Home owners have a lot of responsibility when it comes to keeping their family safe. One very important aspect is the placement of smoke detectors in their home. There are many factors that go into where you should place your smoke detector, and I will be going through in this article.

Quick Tip:

If there’s no ceiling, don’t use a traditional smoke detector.

They can’t be used to protect areas beyond the building’s perimeter from fire. In other words, to not just buy an indoor smoke detector and place it outside. We get this question more than any other. To find out what you need for outdoor fire prevention read on!

Using a Smoke Detector Outdoor in Your Backyard or Car Garage

Petroleum products are very volatile in nature and require early detection. Yes, parking garages have ceilings but they cannot be relied on to trap smoke and heat because the sides of the structures are open. The open walls allow wind to blow through them, diluting the fire’s gases and hot air as it sweeps away. This interferes with the smoke and heat reaching the ceiling or the area where conventional detection might have been placed.

There are however smoke detection devices that exist for outdoors. A detector that looks directly into the protected area, and then sees from a distance the source of the fire is called a video image smoke detector. These detectors don’t require that the smoke/fire to go through them for them to work.

These detectors can monitor the area using beams that detect if there is any ultraviolet (UV) or infrared light produced by the fire.

These detectors are quite advanced and can be used to detect specific fuels or for broad spectrum coverage. Light emission is a characteristic feature of natural gas, gasoline, oil, and other fuels. 

Fun Fact: The US military can identify the type of missile being launched by simply analyzing the light that the rocket fuel produces. They’re detection technology is more advanced but works on a similar principle

One device for this purpose is the Simplex 2098-9207a Long Range Beam Smoke Detector. While we plan on writing a more specific article on this topic in the coming weeks, for the time being you can research other resources on the topic.

10 Other Places not to Place Your Traditional Smoke Detector

Smoke alarms placed in an inappropriate place could cause them to not go off in a fire or go off unnecessarily. It could save your life to know the ideal locations to place smoke detectors.

There are 2 overall things to look for when picking the idea location:

  • Make sure smoke will reach the location: Avoid areas with drafts, dead air or open spaces
  • Make sure it is away from cooking appliances, heating appliances or washrooms where steam and heat will cause smoke detectors to go off

Near Vents and Supply Grills

Smoke alarms should not be placed closer than three feet to any furnace, A/C supply or return grills, or registers. Avoid placing them in turbulent air areas where the airflow could prevent smoke from reaching the alarms. Do not place smoke alarms in areas where airflow from vents could blow away the smoke.

Remember the traditional smoke detector requires smoke to reach it.

Sliding glass doors and windows

Avoid placing a smoke alarm in close proximity to windows that can draft. Similarly to the last paragraph smoke may be blown away by drafts from windows.

Wall corners and ceiling corners within 4 inches

Corner areas may have dead air. These areas may not be reached by smoke until it is too late. Don’t place alarms in corners.

Bathrooms

A bathroom should not have a smoke alarm installed as the steam from a bath or hot shower can often activate the alarm. While this is not dangerous, the last thing you want is for someone to deactivate a smoke detector and forget to turn it back on.

Moisture can cause alarm failure over time. You should not place a smoke alarm in a bathroom. Photoelectric smoke alarm should not be placed within 20 feet from a bathroom.

Near Fans

A smoke alarm should not be placed closer than three feet from the edge of a ceiling suspended fan’s blade. If the fan is placed too close to the fan, the fan will blow away the smoke alarm.

Nearby Cooking Appliances

Avoid placing near cooking appliances, stoves, and ovens. To reduce false alarms during cooking, smoke alarms should not be placed within 10 feet of a cooking appliance.

Furnace and water heater closets

Smoke alarms should not be installed in the gas-fired furnace or water heater closets. This will reduce nuisance tripping. These locations should be protected with heat alarms.

Dishwashers and laundry washers are located near each other.

Avoid placing smoke alarms next to washing machines or dishwashers. These appliances should be at least three feet from alarms.

Garage

As mentioned previously you should not install smoke alarms in your garage, but you can use a heat sensor instead. Smoke alarms should not be installed in rooms with shared walls, floors or doors.

Garages are not usually heated or cooled. The actual temperature in garages may be higher or lower than the range for which the alarm was designed. Smoke from cars can also cause nuisance tripping and damage to the sensors.

Unfinished Attic

Smoke alarms cannot be used in extreme temperatures or cold. They also can’t be used in areas where dust and smoke are common as they can damage the alarm’s sensors. Attics should have heat detectors.

Near fluorescent lights

Smoke alarms should not be placed closer than 1 foot to fluorescent lights. Electrical “noise” or flickering can affect alarm operation.

Conclusion

We hope you were able to enjoy today’s article on whether a smoke detector can be installed outdoors. Clearly, traditional detectors cannot be used outdoors, so we hope to be able to share with you an upcoming article on the types of smoke detectors that actually can be used outdoors.

If this article has helped you find the location of your home where you will be installing your indoor smoke detectors please take a look at our review articles:

Our article on the best wired smoke detectors of 2021.
Our article on the 5 best battery-powered detectors of 2021.

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