Massachusetts Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
January 12, 2016 | Morgan Wigden
There always seems to be a lot of confusion on where to place smoke and carbon monoxide detectors within your home.  This blog will inform you on the correct and legal placement of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors within your home.

During the sale of residential property within Massachusetts, law requires an inspection by the local fire department in order to certify correct installation of working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.  The specific requirements of the type of detector and the correct locations for installation vary based on the type of device actually used and the date the home was constructed.  One-family and two-family homes built after 1975 are subject to the State Building Code requirements while those built before 1975 have a separate set of requirements. 

 There are two different types of technology used in smoke detectors: photo-electric and ionization.  Photo-electric detectors are light sensitive and are more responsive in detecting smoldering fires, while ionization detectors are radiation based and are more responsive in detecting flaming fires.  There are some detectors that contain both types of technology.  Detectors may be hard-wired or battery powered.  
The Massachusetts Building Code requires all newly-constructed one and two-family dwellings and newly-constructed additions to residences, namely those that include bedrooms, be built with hard-wired interconnected smoke detection with battery backup.  The detectors must be installed on every level of the home, at the base of stairwells, outside bedrooms, and inside each sleeping area/bedroom.  

For one-family and two-family residences built before January 1, 1975, smoke detectors are required in a few different locations within the home: On every habitable level; On the ceiling at the base of each stairway; and On the ceiling outside each separate sleeping area.  

The smoke detectors may be battery powered, hardwired, or a combination of the two.  
If the smoke detector is located within 20 feet of a kitchen or bathroom that contains a bathtub or shower, the smoke detector is required to be photo-electric.  If the detector is further than 20 feet away from a kitchen or bathroom containing a bathtub or shower the residence must have one of the following: A dual detector (containing both ionization and photo-electric technologies; or two separate detectors: one photo-electric and one ionization).  

Smoke detectors cannot be more than 10 years old.  Residences with a fire alarm system (low-voltage) are exempt from the dial detection requirement.  

Newer homes must be have hardwired detectors.

In 2005, Massachusetts passed a law requiring carbon monoxide detectors in residential properties.  They must be installed in all housing where "fossil fuel" such as oil, gas, coal or wood is burned as well as in dwellings with enclosed garages.  This requirement does not apply if there is no equipment (heating systems, hot water heaters, dryers, fireplaces, and wood stoves) that burns fossil fuel and no enclosed garage.  

Carbon monoxide detectors are required to be placed on every level of the residence, including habitable portions of basements and attics and must be located within 10 feet of each bedroom door.  Combination detectors (photo-electric smoke and carbon monoxide detector) may be used if the detector is within 20 feet of a kitchen or bathroom that contains a bathtub or shower.  Combination detectors must have both a tone and simulated voice alarm to distinguish the type of emergency.  Carbon monoxide detectors can be plugged into a wall outlet, hardwired, or may even be included with a fire detector that is battery powered and installed on a ceiling.  

Important Note
An inspection by the local fire department is required when residential property is transferred, this is done at the same time as the smoke detector inspection.  A Certificate of Compliance will be issued if the inspection is approved.  Landlords of residential properties are required by law to install carbon monoxide detectors before the start of each new rental or lease entered into after March 31, 2006.  

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