Choosing an Effective Smoke Detector and Maintaining It

Since the 1980s, when smoke detectors were made commercially available for purchase, the number of deaths linked to residential fires has been in consistent decline – gradually going from an average of 180 residential fire-related deaths per year to 40. Therefore, the advent of residential smoke detectors has played a crucial role in the safety of the population. Despite these encouraging stats, however, it is not enough to merely own a smoke detector – it is absolutely critical that people choose the right type of detector for their living situation, as well as learn to maintain it to ensure optimal functionality. This blog aims to serve as a guide on what to pay attention to when choosing your smoke detector, as well as how to properly maintain it.

Why should I have a functional smoke detector in my home?

Aside from the obvious safety and life-preserving reasons, the installation of residential smoke detectors is actually enforced by law. The regulations specified by Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal (Montreal’s Fire Security Service) clearly state that the installation and maintenance of smoke detectors is not a choice…it is a duty and an obligation. In order to ensure your safety, as well as the safety of your family, you are required to install working and properly-maintained smoke detectors in your home. Despite all this, however, many of us rarely think of testing our detector units on a regular basis.

If you fall into this category, keep this in mind: the majority of fires happen while you’re asleep. Carbon Monoxide, which is one of the many dangerous poisons contained in smoke, accentuates your state of unconsciousness, and will prevent you from waking up to the smell of smoke. Not only will this gas make you susceptible to the dangers of the fire erupting in your home, it can actually kill you itself. A fully functional smoke detector will alert you to the danger before the inhalation of this gas has a chance to affect your system.


The majority of smoke detectors available on the market are dependent on electrical current. This is fine, as long as it is also equipped with a battery option in the event of a loss of power.

Many smoke detectors are equipped with a lithium battery, whose shelf life is approximately 10 years. So, with regular testing, these will provide you with many years of reliable protection. Other models, such as ionization alarms, are more suited to areas containing highly-combustive materials. These models are sensitive to heat and direct flame. Also available are the ultra-sensitive photoelectric alarms, able to detect a fire started by a cigarette on a bed or couch.

All of these models will save your life, if maintained, when you need it most. Call in an expert to evaluate your living quarters and diagnose your needs. They will be able to point you in the right direction.


  • It is highly recommended that you have a installed on every floor, including your basement.
  • As a general rule, detectors should be installed in corridors, close to bedrooms. However, if you usually sleep with your bedroom door closed, we would suggest installing one inside your room, as well.
  • Installation in or near stairways is also a best practice.
  • If your smoke detector goes off too often, under NO CIRCUMSTANCE should you remove the battery. It may simply be too close to your kitchen or bathroom. Look into having it moved, rather than disarming it altogether.
  • If you own a cottage, equip it with detectors, as well – and be sure to text them on a regular basis.


  • Generally, smoke detectors are installed on the ceiling, with a minimum spacing of 10cm from the wall. You can, however, also install them directly on your wall.
  • They must also be installed at least 100cm away from your home’s vents, or any other form of aeration. Ventilation systems and windows clear the air in your home, but will also prevent your smoke detectors from getting a correct reading, and alerting you to any danger.
  • For an added sense of security, you can also have your smoke detector linked to a central response system. This enables firemen to quickly respond to an emergency as soon as it is signaled.


First and foremost, regular tests are required to ensure proper function and battery vitality. Generally, your smoke detector will emit warning “beeps” if your battery is low, or if electrical current has been cut off, but it is always better to be prudent and run regular tests yourself. Additionally, you should always use the same type of battery used originally, by the manufacturer when replacing it. We suggested using longer-lasting batteries, such as lithium, to ensure peace of mind over an extended amount of time.

Thereafter, thorough and regular upkeep is highly suggested. Using a vacuum to gently clear up any accumulated dust is the best way to get rid of obstacles that may affect your detector’s readings. Annually cleaning the inside of your detector’s cover is also a best practice in ensuring you’re getting the most protection from your system. It is also very important to remember that you should never paint the outside of your smoke detector.


Once a month, we recommend testing your smoke detector by keeping your finger on the “test” button for several seconds. An auditory signal will assure you that it is working properly. If there is no sound emitted by your unit, it may be time to change the battery.

We also strongly suggest you test your detector promptly after returning from vacation, or any other extended time away. Once again, an auditory signal will guide you on what precautions to take, if any. Don’t forget to also regularly test your connection to the central response system, if you’ve opted for this option.

On an annual basis, expose your detector to actual smoke that you can produce and easily extinguish yourself. This will determine your unit’s sensitivity to an actual smoke-producing situation.

At, or around, the 10 year mark, you should always look into replacing your smoke detector altogether. These systems are generally designed to be at optimal functionality for 10 years. Of course, if you notice any damage to the unit’s exterior, don’t take any chances…change the entire unit immediately.

For more information on the importance of properly installing and maintaining smoke detectors, contact the fire prevention experts at Guard-X!