11 Places NOT to Put Smoke Alarms – can you name them?

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Having smoke alarms in the wrong place can result in them NOT going off in a fire or nuisance tripping. Knowing where these places are can save your life.


Smoke alarms should not be installed in a bathroom because the steam from a hot shower or bath will often trigger the alarm. The moisture can also damage the alarm over time and then it will fail. therefore, do not put a smoke alarm in a bathroom or too close to a bathroom. Any smoke alarm that is within 20 feet of a bathroom should be the photoelectric type.

Near Fans

Do not place a smoke alarm closer than 3 feet in a horizontal path from the tip of the blade of a ceiling suspended (paddle) fan. The fan will tend to blow the smoke away from a smoke alarm when it’s placed too close to the fan.

Near Vents, Supply Grills and Registers


Do not place smoke alarms closer than 3 feet from any furnace or A/C supply and return grills or registers. Do not place in areas of turbulent air, where the airflow may prevent the smoke from reaching the alarms. In other words, where the air blowing from the vents, blows the smoke away from the smoke alarms.

Windows and sliding glass doors

Avoid locating a smoke alarm near openable windows where a draft may occur. Drafts from a window may actually blow smoke away from an alarm.

Within 4” of wall / ceiling corners

Dead air space in corner areas. Smoke may not reach these areas until it is too late. Therefore do not put the alarms tightly in corner areas.


Near Cooking appliances

Do not place close to cooking appliances, stoves and ovens. Smoke alarms should be installed at least 10 feet from a cooking appliance to minimize false alarms when cooking.

In Furnace and water heater closets

Do not put smoke alarms in gas fired furnace and gas fired water heater closets. This will help reduce nuisance tripping. Use heat alarms in these locations.

Near laundry washing machines or dishwashers

Avoid placing smoke alarms near dishwashers or washing machines. Install at least 3 feet away.


Do not place smoke alarms in a garage but use a heat alarm. It is recommended that smoke alarms be installed in rooms that have shared doors, walls or floors with the garage.

Note that garages are usually not heated or cooled, the actual temperatures in a garage may be above or below the temperature range that the alarm has been designed for. The smoke from cars exhaust fumes may also cause nuisance tripping or damage the sensors of the smoke alarm.

Unfinished Attic

Smoke alarms are not designed to work in extreme heat or cold, or in areas where smoke and dust are common, as they could damage the sensors of the alarm. Heat detectors should be used in attics.

Near fluorescent lights

Do not place smoke alarms closer than 1 foot from fluorescent lights, electrical “noise” and flickering may affect the alarm’s operation.

How big of an area will one smoke alarm cover?

Roughly 900 square foot is the maximum coverage for a smoke alarm. Beams, ceiling pockets, architectural design and a number of other factors determine the area a smoke alarm will actually cover.

Heat Alarms – what are they; where do they go?

Heat alarms are usually used in locations where smoke alarms may trip unnecessarily or falsely. They detect high heat from fires. Heat alarms can be situated in the kitchens, gas furnace closets, gas water heater closets and in garages, because heat alarms don’t react to smoke and they are not prone to false alarms from cooking and exhaust fumes. They are inexpensive and are normally carried by Home Depot, Lowes and other home improvement stores.


  • 10 year battery: all replacement smoke alarms should have a 10 year battery
  • Manufactures instructions – read and follow the manufactures recommended instructions when installing a smoke alarm.
  • Test all your smoke alarms on a regular bases; per manufactures instructions
  • Replace old smoke alarms (if over 8 to 10 years old ); replace damaged smoke alarms; and ones that have been painted over.

The Bottom Line

You wouldn’t put your seat belt around your neck or install a car baby seat backwards; for serious injuries might result. The same is true if you install a smoke alarm in the wrong place.

Be safe. Check your own smoke alarms and advise your friends, clients and neighbors

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