protect your home

a range of photo electric smoke alarms

About Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

Photoelectric smoke alarms, also known as optical or photo-optical, detect visible particles of combustion.

They respond to a wide range of fires, but are particularly responsive to smouldering fires and the dense smoke given off by foam-filled furnishings or overheated PVC wiring. 


  • Good for smouldering fire and dense smoke 
  • Not as prone to cooking nuisance alarms 
  • Contain no radioactive material 
  • Suitable for general use.

Your protection against fire increases with the quality and type of smoke alarm that is installed. Research indicates that photoelectric smoke alarms are generally more effective across a wider range of fires experienced in homes.

How Do I Keep My Smoke Alarms Working?

A hardwired smoke alarm is connected to a home’s 240v mains power supply and has a battery back-up.

If cooking smoke sets off the alarm, do not disable it. Turn on the range fan, open a window or wave a towel near the alarm until the alarm stops beeping; or use the hush button (if fitted). Consider relocating the smoke alarm.

Once a month check by pressing the test button. If you cannot reach the button easily, use a broom handle.

Dust and debris can interfere with alarm functioning, so vacuum over and around your smoke alarm regularly.

Replace the backup battery on 240v alarms:

  • rechargeable batteries - refer to manufacturer instructions 
  • non-rechargeable - replace annually.

Most alarms emit a short ‘BEEP’ sound when the batteries are low. This is your reminder to replace the battery. 

Smoke alarms must never be painted.

Read the manufacturer instructions.

When Do I Need To Replace My Smoke Alarm?

All types of smoke alarms have a limited life-span (10 years under normal conditions of use). They should be replaced prior to the expiry date on the manufacturer’s warranty.

For smoke alarms with 10-year batteries that are non-removable, the entire smoke alarm must be replaced after 10 years.

Contact the smoke alarm supplier or distributor for more detailed advice.

Small numbers of smoke alarms can be safely disposed of in household rubbish. Contact your local council for more information.

Specialty alarms are also available, including:

  • alarms for deaf and hearing-impaired people; or
  • alarms with emergency lights, heat sensors.

What’s Required By Law?

  • When it is time for your property's alarms to be upgraded, those alarms must:
    • be photoelectric and comply with Australian Standard 3786-2014
    • not also contain an ionisation sensor; and 
    • be less than 10 years old; and
    • operate when tested; and
    • be interconnected with every other ‘required’ smoke alarm in the dwelling so all activate together.
  • Any existing smoke alarm being replaced from 1 January 2017 must be a photoelectric-type alarm which complies with Australian Standard 3786-2014.
  • If a smoke alarm which is hardwired to the domestic power supply needs replacement, it must be replaced with a hardwired photoelectric smoke alarm.
  • In existing domestic dwellings, it is possible to have a combination of smoke alarms (240v and battery operated) and interconnectivity can be both wired and wireless.


Queensland Fire and Emergency Services 

information pdf 

Find out more


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