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Hey, you're in the home improvement zone--YOUR HANDYMAN ZONE!

Security Systems and Tips Category

Improvement Project:

How to install a smoke detector.

Tools / Materials (See Below for Applicability):

  • Smoke detector(s) (usually comes with screws)

  • Anchors

  • Screwdriver

  • Awl

  • Appropriate batteries (usually 9-volt batteries)

  • Small straight edge/ruler

  • Power drill with the appropriate bit

  • Tape measure

  • Pencil

  • Paper

  • Match



Having smoke detectors in your house is very important, is practically a universal requirement in developed countries.  There should be at least one smoke detector in every bedroom and hallway of your house.  If your house has an attic, garage or basement, each should also have a smoke detector.  Smoke detectors can either be wired to operate on electricity and/or independently on batteries. In this instance, the installation of a battery-operated smoke detector is discussed.

Caution: Of course, when dealing with sharp objects, such as a screwdriver, or with combustible material, such as a match, make sure you take precautions.

Installing a battery-operated smoke detector can be done in a few steps, and here's how:

  1. The smoke detector should be placed about 7 inches down from the ceiling of a room on a wall, or, alternatively, at least 1 foot away from the wall when the smoke detector is secured on the ceiling; use a tape measure if you must to ascertain where the smoke detector may be placed given either of the foregoing measurement criterion.

Measure the distance that spans between the top screw hole and bottom screw hole of the backside of the smoke detector, and then use this distance measurement to determine, and then actually puncture with an awl (if you have one), the holes--with such a measurement distance span--either in the wall in the 7-inch-below area of where the smoke detector will be installed or in the ceiling 1 foot away from any adjoining wall where the smoke detector will be installed. (Should you find it necessary, using a straight edge or ruler, you can mark where the two holes will be in the wall or ceiling with a pencil or awl, and then use a power drill with an appropriate bit to drill in such holes.  Watch out for existing wiring.)

  1. If you find it necessary, install screw anchors in the screw holes just made in either the wall or ceiling.

  2. With a screwdriver, install the two screws so that ultimately about 1/8 of an inch of the heads of both screws stick out from the wall or ceiling; these are which the smoke detector will be attached to.

  3. Place the backside of the smoke detector over and onto these screws so that the sticking-out screw heads lock into the detector's backside holes, all so that the detector becomes securely attached to either the wall or ceiling, whichever may be the preference you have.  See the manufacturer's instructions for further information.

  1. Install the battery into the smoke detector per the manufacturer's instructions.

Important note:  The battery of a smoke detector should be replaced at least twice a year. 

In no event should the vents of the smoke detector be covered.

Test the smoke detector per its manufacturer's instructions; the smoke detector should be tested on a regular basis.  You may want to test the sensing capability of the smoke detector by lighting and carefully allowing a match to burn in front of it for about 35 seconds or so.  Be very careful of your surroundings, making sure you take all necessary precautions, including having a fire extinguisher on hand.

Overall, there are two types of smoke detectors:  Photoelectric smoke detectors and Ionization smoke detectors.  Photoelectric smoke detectors are primarily designed to detect smoky, relatively longer-burning fires;  ionization smoke detectors are primarily designed to detect fires that are burning really fast and are a lot less smoky.  You may consider installing both types of smoke detectors in your house.

That's what it takes to install a smoke detector.

Ed the Handyman


Your Handyman Zone Team


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