Massachusetts smoke detector law

347New Smoke Detector Rules Go Into Effect On December 1, 2016

Catching many people by surprise, including me, a new change in Massachusetts smoke detector regulations will take effect Dec. 1. The new rules provide that when homes built before 1975 are sold, the house must be equipped with smoke detectors with a 10-year life span. These detectors are sold as 10 year sealed lithium battery power smoke alarms. They can be found at your local Home Depot or hardware store.

Also remember that current rules require photoelectric detectors covering the area within 20 feet of a kitchen or bathroom containing a bathtub or shower. The 10 year sealed detectors are sold with both photoelectric and the older ionization technologies. I found this Kidde 10 Year Kitchen Model at Home Depot selling for $49.97.

As part of this year’s Fire Prevention Week in October, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey told the Boston Globe that “what we’ve seen in the past eight to 10 months across the state is that our fatal fires involve homes that have smoke alarms in them, but they are inoperative.” Ostroskey said that as investigators search charred wreckage of fatal fires, they have discovered that batteries have been removed or that the smoke alarms themselves have not been replaced even though they are no longer functioning properly because they are 10 years old or older.

Ostroskey said the 1975 cutoff date was chosen because homes built after that year were already required by the state building code to have hard-wired power supplies for smoke detectors. But even those hard-wired detectors need to have backup batteries replaced and the detectors should be replaced every 10 years, too, he noted.

A Fact Sheet from the State Fire Marshal is available here.

Thank you to Realtor Rona Fischman at 4 Buyers Real Estate for advising me of the new rules.

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Daylight Savings Time has started which is always a great reminder to change the batteries on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

You should also consider replacing old detectors with the new photoelectric smoke detectors for the kitchen and bathroom areas which are now required by law in new homes under the Massachusetts smoke detector regulations which went into effect last year. Photoelectric smoke detectors are not as prone to false alarms as older ionization based detectors especially in steam filled areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

The new smoke detector law specifically requires photoelectric detectors covering the area within 20 feet of a kitchen or bathroom containing a bathtub or shower. The older ionization detectors are prohibited in these places due to their tendency to be set off by steam.

Home Depot sells a Kidde brand combination photoelectric/ionization smoke detector for $22.97.

Here’s a great Guide to the smoke detector law put out by the Department of Fire Services. Click here for my prior post about these changes.

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Whenever a home is sold in Massachusetts, the smoke detector law requires that the local fire department issue a certification that the smoke detectors are working properly and are in the correct location. The  new smoke detector regulations go into effect on April 5, 2010. The new regulations require that certain properties be equipped with the latest photoelectric smoke detectors which are not as prone to false alarms as older ionization based detectors.

Detectors Must Have New Photoelectric Technology (Except Near Kitchen or Bathroom)

Currently, there are two primary detection methods used in modern smoke detectors: photoelectric and ionization. Ionization detectors are often faster to alert than photoelectric detectors. But they are prone to false alarms such as when steam from a shower or other source interrupts the current. Photoelectric detectors emit a beam of light. They are less sensitive to false alarms from steam or cooking fumes but can take longer than ionization detectors to alert.

Since the introduction of detectors using the photoelectric technology, there has been an ongoing debate as to whether to require property owners to replace their ionization detectors with photoelectric detectors. Fire departments generally favor the new photoelectric technology. The new regulations were enacted to resolve this ongoing debate.

Under the new regulations, a smoke detector utilizing both technologies is required in all living levels and the basement, except within 20 feet of a kitchen or a bathroom containing a bathtub or shower. Compliance can be achieved by installing two separate detectors using these technologies, or by installing one detector which uses both technologies. For the area within 20 feet of a kitchen or bathroom containing a bathtub or shower, a photoelectric smoke detector alone is mandated. An ionization detector is prohibited in these places due to their tendency to be set off by steam.

Who Must Comply?

The new regulations will apply to all single family homes sold on or after January 1, 2010. If you are not selling your home, you don’t need the new smoke detectors, but it’s a good idea for safety reasons. The new rules will also apply to all apartment buildings sold or transferred after January 1, 2010, which are less than 70 feet tall, have less than six units, or have not been substantially altered since January 1, 1975. Larger apartment buildings or those that were substantially altered since January, 1975 were already required to upgrade their fire safety systems under other existing laws.

If you question whether your property is in compliance, your best bet is to contact your local fire department.

Here’s a great Guide to the smoke detector law put out by the Department of Fire Services. A very informative bulletin from the Boston Fire Department can be downloaded here.

Also remember that under “Nicole’s Law,” carbon monoxide detectors are required for homes using fossil fuels.

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