Chris' Corner: Improper Smoke Detector Placement Can Cause False Positives

Improper Smoke Detector Placement Can Cause False Positives

Jay has managed to hit a personal "bugaboo" of mine right on the head.  Smoke detectors in kitchens or outside washrooms give so many false alarms that they are ignored or disconnected, both possibly having dangerous consequences.

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Every time my client uses the oven and heats the kitchen up the smoke detector would go off.  They found out that improper smoke detector placement can cause false positives.  When they called the builder about it they were told it is "normal."  What!!??

Well, of course the detector going off would be "normal" when the detector is in the kitchen only 8' from the range!  Heat is one of the things that set off smoke detectors!

That is not an appropriate positioning of the smoke detector by anyone's definition of appropriate.


I told my client that OF COURSE the detector going off would be the norm, but only because the detector should be somewhere else, like in the hall outside the kitchen.

Are there smoke detector location recommendations?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 2002 recommendations has this to say about smoke detector location:  

"Figure A.11.8.3(b)  In dwelling units with more than one sleeping area, a smoke detectors should be provided to protect each sleeping area in addition to detectors required in bedrooms. [Existing Figure A-8-1.2.1(b) from 1999 edition of NFPA 72.]

(c) Are more smoke detectors desirable?  The required number of smoke detectors might not provide reliable early warning protection for those areas separated by a door from the areas protected by the required smoke detectors.  For this reason, it is recommended that the householder consider the use of additional smoke detectors for those areas for increased protection.  The additional areas include the basement, bedrooms, dining room, furnace room, utility room and hallways not protected by the required smoke detectors.  The installation of smoke detectors in kitchens, attics (finished or unfinished), or garages is NOT recommended, as these locations occasionally experience conditions that can result in improper operation."

That is pretty clear! I would expect that heating up a kitchen with cooking might just be an "occasional condition" that can result in improper operation!  How do you spell "duh?"

My recommendation:  when builders try to shove things down the throats of your clients, claiming that it's"normal," find out!  It might not be!  A home inspector can surely help in this regard!  Call an experienced one!


Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia

Chris Smith CSSBB
          Sales Representative

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  ph: 1.866.936.3500

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Comment balloon 0 commentsChris Smith • September 07 2011 12:12PM