Your Guide to Photoelectric Smoke Alarms in QLD

Your Guide to Photoelectric Smoke Alarms in QLD


QLD Smoke Alarm Legislation has changed - do you know your obligations? 


Did you know, in 2017 new legislation was introduced in Queensland requiring all domestic properties to have interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms in bedrooms and hallways? 

The purpose of an interconnected smoke alarm system is this: if a fire starts in one area of the building, all of the alarms will sound, giving the occupants maximum warning time to evacuate. 

As a home owner or investment property owner, you are probably wondering what  exactly this means for you? Well, the new law is to be rolled out over a ten-year period. 

Here’s the basics: 

From January 2017:  all new dwellings and substantially renovated dwellings must have an interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms installed. Also, when replacing smoke alarms in existing dwellings, or dwellings being sold, leased or renewed, they must be of a photoelectric type. 

From January 2022: all residential properties that are sold or leased must be updated with an interconnected photoelectric system

From January 2027: all existing dwellings must be fitted with an interconnected photoelectric system
Photoelectric smoke alarms must also be hardwired, which means connected to the domestic dwelling’s electricity supply, and they must also have a non-removable back-up battery. 

In addition to upgrading the type of alarm, there are also new laws around the location of alarms, e.g. there must be one in every bedroom and hallway. 

Click here for more in-depth information. 


Why are smoke alarms so critical to our safety?

photoelectric smoke alarm installer



While many people believe being burnt is the most significant risk to people in a fire, it’s in fact the smoke and poisonous gases spreading quickly, causing inhalation of toxic fumes that is a more common cause of serious injury or death. 

A robust smoke alarm system is absolutely essential to alert occupants and neighbouring properties that a fire has started and help is needed.



Types of smoke alarm


There are two types of smoke alarm - ionisation and photoelectric. 


  • Ionisation smoke alarms - the ‘old’ type of alarm

Ionisation smoke alarms are the traditional alarm most homes currently have and are being phased out. Electrically charged plates ionise the air causing an energetic current to flow through the detector.  As soon as smoke gets close to the detector, the ions are disrupted, and the alarm activated. 

To tell if your alarm is an ionisation type, it will have the’ radioactive’ symbol on the outside. Smoke alarms with this symbol are not photoelectric and do not meet the 2017 legislative requirements. 


  • Photoelectric smoke alarms - the new, mandatory alarm 

Photoelectric refers to the method the alarm uses to detect smoke. Photoelectric smoke alarms detect visible particles of combustion and are also referred to as optical or photo-optical smoke alarms.  

These smoke alarms are a more effective alarm than the ionisation type for many reasons:

  • More effective across a wider range of fires in the home 
  • Offer earlier warning allowing more time to escape the danger
  • Detect slower burning or smouldering fires earlier
  • Don’t contain radioactive substances  
  • Less prone to false alarms when you’re cooking or have burnt the toast! 


Photoelectric smoke alarms must conform to Australian Standard 3786-2014. You can check to see if your alarm is compliant by visiting the CSIRO ActivFire website.


Smoke alarms only last for 10 years

photoelectric smoke alarm installationJust like other electrical appliances, smoke alarms don’t last forever.  You may not be aware that smoke alarms only have a 10 year operational lifespan. 

Having any smoke alarm installed is not enough. 

  • It needs to be the right type of alarm - photoelectric
    • Needs to be installed properly
    • Must be within its 10-year expiry date


You might be thinking you can get away with not replacing your alarms to save money, but there’s a reason they have a short lifespan. 

Even if your smoke alarm has never been activated, its sensors are constantly working to detect smoke.  Over time, the sensors can lose sensitivity and effectiveness which may not be detected through annual smoke alarm testing. 

So to ensure your smoke alarms provide adequate protection for your family or tenants, you must replace them every 10 years. 


Now that you’re aware of the new legislation and understand the implications of not upgrading to the legislated interconnected photoelectric alarm system, let us be your next port of call. 

We supply and install smoke alarms, upgrade to interconnected photoelectric systems, conduct testing and maintenance to ensure your fire warning system is as safe as possible. 

For a friendly chat about your needs or to get a quote, call Cameron today on 0400 767 534