10 Year Smoke Alarm Law in New York

New York state adopted a new law that changes requirement for residential smoke detectors, effective April 1st of this year.  The change in law has received lots of attention from the media, much of which is full of incorrect information.  I wanted to clarify here what the new law means to Buffalo and Western New York homeowners and buyers.

I wanted to read the law for myself, but surprisingly it was tricky to locate.

Understanding New York State's 10-Year Smoke Detector Law

This is the entire section of the new law, quoted verbatim. It can be viewed directly here.

1. It shall be unlawful for any person or entity to distribute, sell, offer for sale, or import any solely battery operated smoke detecting alarm device powered by a replaceable, removable battery. All solely battery operated smoke detecting alarm devices that are distributed, sold, offered for sale, or imported, shall employ a non-removable, non-replaceable battery that powers the device for a minimum of ten years.

2. All product packaging containing a solely battery operated smoke detecting alarm device shall include the following information:

(a) the manufacturer’s name or registered trademark and the model number of the smoke detecting alarm device; and

(b) that such alarm device is designed to have a minimum battery life of ten years.

3. The provisions of this section shall not apply to solely battery operated smoke detecting alarm devices powered by a replaceable, removable battery that have been ordered by, or are in the inventory of, owners, managing agents, contractors, wholesalers or retailers on or before the effective date of this section. The provisions of this section shall not apply to smoke detecting alarm devices that receive their power from the electrical system of the building, fire alarm systems with smoke detectors, fire alarm devices that connect to a panel, devices that use a low-power radio frequency wireless communication signal, or such other devices as the state fire administrator shall designate through its regulatory process.

 

What does this new law actually mean to you as a home buyer or home owner?

  • All battery-powered smoke alarms that are sold in the state must have batteries that last for at least 10 years.  The battery must be permanently installed and can’t be replaced.
  • Hardwired smoke alarms are excluded from the change in law
  • There are a couple exception for commercial fire alarm equipment, such as if a fire monitoring system is in use
  • Interestingly, there is an exclusion in the law for battery-powered smoke detectors that use a “low-power radio frequency wireless communication signal”.  Nest Protect and other “smart” smoke alarms would fit into this category, although I think the intent of the law is to avoid impacting larger office buildings.

Do you have to run out and buy a house full of new smoke alarms?

No – Contrary to much of the media coverage of the change in law, you do not have to replace all of your smoke alarms with right now.  The law only applies to new battery-powered smoke alarms, contrary to what you may have heard on the radio, seen on TV or read on Twitter.  False information is even spreading among real estate agents in Western New York.  I attended a meeting in Cheektowaga, that was attended mostly by real estate agents, where the new law was mentioned as if it had some kind of impact on home purchases.  In fact, it does not in any way affect home purchases.

Does the law apply to carbon monoxide detectors?

No – It only affects smoke alarms

Should I replace my smoke alarms?

I am a big fan of modern smoke alarms, and highly recommend to my clients that they replace all of them in a house with new ones that detect both smoke and carbon monoxide.  I frequently find old, yellow, broken smoke detectors during home inspections. 

 I rarely find them installed in all of the recommended locations.  The way I see it, if the fire detector looks old then in the interest of life safety it would be best to replace it.

Where should smoke alarms be installed in a home?

The National Fire Protection Association recommends that smoke alarms are installed on every level of a house, including the basement, and outside of every bedroom.

Where should carbon monoxide (CO) detectors be installed in the home?

The National Fire Protection Association chimes in here as well, and recommends that “CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards”.

What type of smoke detector should I buy?

Unless you live in a 100% electric home  (requiring the use of a geothermal/ground-source heat pump, or air-to-air heat pump), I would invest in combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.  A couple products to consider are the Nest Protect ($110) and the Kiddie Worry-Free($69) models.  Although pricey, I prefer the Nest Protect because of its easy linking features and notification features.