New Massachusetts regulations, in effect as of December 1, 2016, require replacement of old and expired smoke alarms.
The Board of Fire Prevention revised the state fire code to require that one- and two-family homes built before 1975 must have working smoke alarms that have not expired. Working smoke alarms installed prior to December 1, 2016 (that met previous requirements) can continue to be used until they are 10 years old or have exceeded the manufacturer’s recommended life, whichever occurs first. Major manufacturers of smoke alarms typically indicate that smoke alarms have a life expectancy of about 10 years and recommend replacement after that because the sensing technology deteriorates over time.
Homeowners can check the manufacture date stamped on the back of the alarm to see how old it is. If it doesn’t have one, then it is already more than ten years old and needs to be replaced.
New Requirements When Replacing Alarms
The new regulations require expired smoke alarms be replaced with new photoelectric alarms with a hush button feature to silence nuisance alarms. Intensifying smoke will override the hush feature. New smoke alarms can be photoelectric alone, or in combination with ionization technology. The alarms may also provide smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detection in the same device. The biggest rule change is that battery-powered alarms now have to have a 10-year, sealed, non-replaceable, non-rechargeable battery. These batteries won’t ever have to be changed for the life of the smoke alarm. The entire unit, the smoke alarm and the battery, will need to be replaced at the end of ten years, and the alarm will give you an end-of-life warning.
The Board of Fire Prevention reports that 55 percent of the 31 fire deaths last winter were in homes without working alarms, and one-third of those deaths were people 65 years old or older.
Guide for Homeowners
The Massachusetts Department of Fire Services recently posted an updated version of its Consumer's Guide to Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Requirements for selling one- and two-unit homes.