Smoke Detector

Smoke detector, which have been mandatory in France since 8 March 2015, detect if a fire has started and alert the occupants of a home either during the day or at night. Also known in France as an autonomous smoke detection and alarm device, this simple-looking unit detects smoke and sounds the alarm if a domestic fire breaks out.

Why install a smoke detector?

  • Why install a fire detection device?
The risk of a domestic fire is very real. Every year, more than 260,000 domestic fires are reported to insurance companies. 800 annual deaths are recorded, 80% of which are caused by poisoning from toxic smoke. These figures are revealing and show that the occupants of a residence where a fire breaks out realise too late that there is smoke in the home. The highlights how important it is to have a smoke detector in order to detect the start of a fire.
70% of deaths from a fire also occur at night, when the occupants of a household are sleeping. An alarm would be enough to wake them up and probably save their life. Other countries where fitting a domestic smoke detector is mandatory have seen a 50% decline in the number of fire-related deaths, not counting the fall in the number of times the fire service has to respond to a fire. Installing a smoke detector alerts a home's occupants early if a fire starts. Right from the beginning of the process and before a fire breaks out, the smoke detector detects the first smoke and gives the alert via an audible alarm. This alarm wakes up the occupants and allows them to react quickly, whether by evacuating the home, using an extinguisher or alerting the emergency services quickly. By reacting to the first particles of smoke, a smoke detector triggers an audible alert early on, which reduces the risk of poisoning from toxic gas and smoke.

What is the law on preventing fire risk in a home?

On 8 March 15, it became mandatory for every home in France to install a smoke detector. This means that each home must be fitted with at least one autonomous device that detects smoke and triggers an alarm. To comply with the law, every smoke detector must also meet certain conditions.

It must bear the CE marking, which indicates that it complies with the European standard EN 14 604. Ideally, you should choose an alarm that also has the "NF" marking. This indicates that it complies with French standards, which are even more stringent and guarantee that the product complies with current standards.

If a residence is large or has several floors, it's recommended to install several alarms and at least one per floor. This is an essential measure in preventing fires and although there are no penalties by law if an alarm isn't fitted, a smoke detector is an obligation and is vital for the safety of a household's occupants.
In rented homes, the owner (or landlord) and the tenant must check that the device complies with standards and is working properly when the check-in inventory takes place. The tenant is then responsible for maintaining the alarm, changing the batteries and checking that it works properly. Whether tenant or owner, the occupant must always give their insurer a certificate stating that the home is fitted with a smoke detector.

Another criterion to ensure that smoke detectors are fully effective is that their audible alarm must be loud enough to be heard in the other rooms and wake up a person who is fully asleep.

Also note that ionisation chamber smoke detectors are now banned by law, as they contain a radioactive component and may pose a health risk. Discover all our products

How does a smoke detector work?

Since ionisation chamber smoke detectors were banned, only one type of device has been available: optical smoke detectors. This product contains a photoelectric sensor that measures variations in a light signal emitted by an electroluminescent diode. If the smoke particles disrupt the signal received, the alarm is triggered.
This design detects the smoke from a smouldering fire well before a fire breaks out. Given that these types of fire account for 80% of domestic fires (including fires started by a cigarette in particular), it's clear why it's important to fit this type of smoke detector in your home.

Smoke detectors can be powered by the power circuit in your home, although most devices contain a battery. Some models of smoke detector have a test button for checking that the product works properly, notably the audible alarm. Other smoke detectors have a remote control, which is very practical for turning off the alarm if it's set off accidentally (e.g. if steam or smoke from cooking trigger the alarm).

Some smoke detectors also combine an audible alarm with a light or even vibrating system to alert people who are deaf or hard of hearing in case of a fire.

Installing a smoke detector in your home

To ensure your home is safe in case of a fire, you also need to install your smoke detector in the right place. It's recommended to choose a central position in a corridor, nearby the main bedroom, so that it can be heard at night. The ideal position for the alarm is on the ceiling, as smoke tends to rise due to its heat, and at least 60 cm from every wall. Position the alarm away from the kitchen and bathroom, as rooms where steam or smoke from cooking is produced can accidentally set off the alarm.

If you can't install the alarm on the ceiling, you can place it at a height on a wall, at least 30 cm from the ceiling and always in a central position in the home so that the alarm can be heard even in the bedrooms.

In homes that measure more than 60 m2 it's best to fit several smoke detectors. This will alert you more quickly if a fire breaks out thanks to more effective detection.

Choosing the right smoke detector

There are numerous types of smoke detector. They differ depending on the options included, the price, the battery type and life, the marking of the standard, etc. Below is some advice on how to choose a safe optical smoke detector that complies with the law and protects a household's occupants in case of harmful smoke or a fire.
  • Price and batteries
The price of a smoke detector depends on the product's options, as well as the type of battery it contains. A smoke detector is fitted with alkaline or lithium batteries. Alkaline batteries last for a year, while a lithium battery can last five years. Some smoke detectors have a battery that lasts 10 years, although the battery can't be changed. When the battery is flat, the smoke detector needs to be replaced. Whichever type of battery it has, the smoke detector triggers an audible alert when the battery is running low and needs to be changed.
  • Smoke detectors and standards
As mentioned previously, you should choose a smoke detector with the CE marking, which indicates that it meets the European standard EN 14604. It's often recommended to purchase an alarm that also has the "NF" marking, which guarantees reliability. A list of NF-certified smoke detectors is also provided by the French standardisation association AFNOR.
  • Smoke detector options
A smoke detector may also have additional options. These include an insect screen and a pause button that mutes the alarm for 10 minutes. It's up to you to decide whether these options are useful in a smoke detector.
Some smoke detectors state "can be used in a caravan", which means they have undergone additional testing to verify they withstand temperature differences. This type of alarm can be useful if you travel a lot in a caravan so that you can be alerted in case of smoke.
In some cases it may be useful to connect several smoke detectors, as all of them will trigger an audible alert at the same time if suspicious smoke is detected. In a large home that has several floors, this will alert the household's occupants even if they're asleep in a bedroom upstairs.
A smoke detector can also be smart. Not only will it alert you to the presence of smoke by triggering an alarm, it will also notify you via a smartphone app. This notification provides another layer of safety and alerts you even if you're away from home. You can then alert the owner, someone you know or the emergency services. If you're integrating your smoke detector into a smart home system, a preset scenario in case of danger can be created to turn on the lights and open the blinds and windows if the alarm is set off. This makes it easier for people to evacuate your home or for the emergency services to enter.
Lastly, some alarms have a dual function and act as both a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector. Although this type of product might seem beneficial, it's difficult to find a position that's suitable for both purposes.

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