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The requirement for smoke alarms comes from both the Ontario Fire Code and the Ontario Building Code and depends on the age of your home. Homes that were built before 1980 were never required to have smoke alarms until they became law in 1997. Modern homes require different types of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in different locations than in legacy homes. Additionally, a major renovation to your home (requiring a building permit) may have resulted in your home being brought up to the current smoke alarm standards at the time of renovation so you may need to treat your home’s age as ‘date of last renovation’ when determining your alarm requirements(*). The following guide will help you determine your home’s smoke alarm requirements:

If your home was built before 1980* it requires battery-operated smoke alarms on each level of the home. If the level has bedrooms on it the alarm must be installed outside the sleeping areas. The fire department would recommend purchasing wirelessly interconnected alarms but they are not required.

If your home was built between 1980 and 1990 it will have a hard-wired smoke alarm outside the bedrooms only. This alarm must be maintained as a hard-wired alarm – you cannot replace it with a unit that is only battery-operated. The other levels of your home require a battery-operated alarm. The fire department would recommend a hard-wired alarm with battery backup for outside the bedrooms and wirelessly interconnected alarms throughout.

If your home was built between 1990 and 2014 it will have a hard-wired smoke alarm on each level of the home. They are required to be interconnected (when one goes off, they all go off) but are not required to have battery backup. When replacing these alarms, you are required to maintain hard-wired interconnected alarms on every level, and can choose to buy alarms with battery backup as well for added protection.

Homes built after 2014 have smoke alarms located on each level as well as in each bedroom. Each alarm is hard-wired, interconnected, and features battery backup and a visual strobe light. These alarms must be replaced with alarms that perform all of these functions.

When making sure that your smoke alarms are compliant with Ontario Law be sure to check the following:

  • The alarms are CAN/ULC certified and sold be a reputable company.
  • They are installed according to manufacturer instructions.
  • They are not smoke detectors that are part of a home security system.
  • They are not expired, and
  • They are compatible with the smoke alarms already in your home (interconnection). See manufacturer literature or website for details.