Most smoke alarms (smoke detectors) have a useful life of 7 to 10 years. After this time period, the detecting elements start to wear out. Newer smoke detectors are more sensitive and more reliable. Homeowners should consider changing their smoke detectors every 7 to 10 years. (Remember: Batteries should be changed at least yearly).

Most newer homes have combo “hardwired” (with battery backup) smoke detectors. The smoke detectors are wired to a 120 Volt circuit as well as have a backup 9 Volt battery (when power fails).  Changing the smoke detectors can be done in about an hour.

Here are the basic replacement instructions:

  • Turn off the power (the circuit breaker) to the smoke detectors.
  • Remove the old detector and mounting plate.
  • Remove the old “pigtail” electrical connection (1 black, 1 white and 1 red wire).
  • Install the new pigtail (per manufacture’s directions).
  • Install the new mounting plate.
  • Connect the new detector.
  • Install new battery.
  • Continue replacing the remaining detectors.
  • Turn on the power (the circuit breaker) to the smoke detectors.

Now, push the test button and this should signal all the detectors in the house to activate. Remember to discard the old detectors per the manufacture’s recommendation.

If you’re unsure or unable to perform these repairs, make sure you contact your favorite handyman or electrician.

Lowe’s & Home Depot have hardwired (with battery backup) smoke detectors for about $15 each. Most homes are wired for 5 to 12 detectors. Newer-combined “smoke & carbon monoxide” detectors are available for about $45 each.

Recently passed Colorado Law requires all rental (and For-Sale property) units have a Carbon Monoxide detector within 15 feet of the door to any sleeping area (or installed per manufacturer’s recommendation).  Owners are responsible for the initial installation of the detector.  Tenants are responsible for the general maintenance and notifying the owner if the unit is defective or a repair is needed.