Smoke alarms - 10 year lithium battery models

Hi everyone. I’ve had a member complaint about a mass failure in their home for a batch of recently-installed 10-year lithium battery smoke alarms - the battery-powered type with a built-in battery that is claimed to last for 10 years, so you never need to replace the battery. The alarms started playing up with random nuisance alarms (aka false alarms). I’ve seen the same thing happen myself with this type of alarm. The alarms in question are all photoelectric.

I’m wondering if anyone else has had similar problems with this type of smoke alarm. It may be that these are no more or less likely to fail than other photoelectric alarms (mains powered or regular 9V battery models), but obviously, the 10-year claim is pretty pointless if the alarm misbehaves and has to be replaced well before the 10 years are up.

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It’s a worthwhile question. Our PE alarms false trigger at least once a year, sometimes more often. Especially considering they are in our circumstance (Qld older home) now required to be interconnected (wireless being the obvious solution). Apologies they are replaceable battery models which may not be of use. I’ve noted there are 10 year life lithium batteries available, however that is not assured in use, only the shelf life.

A concern with the fixed battery versions would be if one goes off they all go off! Hence the impact on reducing battery life of false triggering is amplified the greater the number installed. A basic 4 bedroom home may have 5 or more smoke alarms. ($300 for a 5 pack including master in one example).

Does the 10 year life warranty extend to replacing all of those interconnected in the home?
One has an older home with genuinely high ceilings (3.6m) and due to age etc may need to pay a sparky or other to climb a ladder to install same and link all to the master. Is the retailer under ACL responsible for replacement in situ?

On the second point I have several family members who have paid for battery alarms to be installed. It’s not to be unexpected, although not the only option.

P.S.
Note that QLD is progressively moving to require any battery powered alarms to have non removable batteries!
For existing dwellings | Queensland Fire and Emergency Services

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In case positives help too - we installed Quell PE 10yr - 1 about … 3yr ago & 1 a year ago & had no issues with them.

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Just to clarify… anything wired to 240V must be installed by a licenced sparkie.

Our experience, for what it is worth, is that ionising smoke detectors have non-stop false alarms in hot humid climates (e.g. Darwin). The unconnected battery type photoelectric detectors also have a high rate of false alarms, but nowhere near as bad. The other bad thing about battery-only detectors is that the battery invariably runs too low at 3am due to the lower temperatures and sounds an ongoing warning… not much fun getting up on a ladder at that time of the night to remove the battery.

We currently have 240V interconnected Brooks detectors, which have been quite good, with false alarms mainly due to insects getting inside them, no doubt attracted by the LED light at night. A blow out with compressed air now and then fixes that. Not cheap in the numbers now required, especially when a sparkie has to install them. But better than dying, I expect.

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yep - paid more thinking it was a longtime purchase, went off relentlessly with false alarms, and you couldn’t remove/replace the battery

worthless junk

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Many if not most or all of the 240V w/battery backup alarms have trays that once wired in allow the owner to slide the alarm module off and on so the sparky is a once off expense unless something breaks in the base. Some use 9V battery backups, and some use rechargeable lithiums for backup. Either way the alarms are supposed to be replaced at 10 year intervals.

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Worth a deep dive by Choice next time they update the product review? @ChrisBarnes

Following on from @PhilT observations.
The 240/230V mounting bases appear to vary between brands/manufacturer.

  1. What assurance that in 10 years the same base will be current, or will compatible detectors be priced at a premium?
  2. One product example is a base that accepts different detectors from the one product range. The base includes a built in battery and the wireless coms. ‘https://eref.se.com/au/en/clipsal/product-pdf/755RFB2
  3. For a different brand that we have installed the base supplies only a connection to the mains power, while the clip on detector/alarm module contains the backup battery etc.

I know which of the options I’d be paying for.

P.S.
It’s worth also considering the requirement/need to do an annual test and clean (vacuum recommended by some). Practical without climbing a ladder etc hopefully. If the manufacturer recommends removing or needing direct access to clean, I’d mark that down for anyone with high ceilings or those with greater life experience. We tend to fall off things more often.

We are looking to upgrade and link ours into the home monitored alarm system. Potential for false alarms and battery faults I’m inclined not to without a clearer understanding of all the issues.

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Ah yes, the old issue of standards, or lack of them. My near 10 year old Brooks detectors are on bases NOT compatible with current detectors from the same manufacturer, never mind other manufacturers. They are not even the same shape (square vs round).

And, I would bet that the 240V wiring and connectors to go into the detectors are also not compatible with any detector from any manufacturer. Oops!.. better call that sparkie again.

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There is a system of committees and advisory boards/panels that support development of standards. They often also advise on legislative initiatives through the responsible ministers.

It would be no surprise that the selected representation typically has a focus on those considered technically competent and involved. They include experts from the manufacturers, suppliers, consultants and trade organisations. Representation from the average consumer is not prominent. Choice does have opportunities through Standards Australia. At Govt level our esteemed MP’s or nominees may be the sole representative of the average consumer.

Public transparency of the contributing processes varies. Whether the issue of interchangeability and agreement for a standard mounting base was dealt with? The latest legislation and supporting Australian Standards have been more than a decade in the making. Plenty of time to have that one sorted.

When looking further at this topic on line there is now an increased prevalence of specialists IMO. All offering a full service to specify, supply, install and optionally maintain annually (first year or two service free) your standards compliant smoke alarm system. Not that many years prior I would have simply made a phone call to the local sparkie. Still my preference.

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I bought five Quell Q4000LDCS-WCH models a couple of years ago (around $125 each at the time). They are 10 year sealed battery models, photoelectric, and interconnected.

Nothing but false alarms - mostly in the middle of the night. Because they are interconnected we got a (very nice) lady calling “Fire! Fire! Smoke detected” sounding throughout the house. This would be terrific if there really was a fire.

Because we have high ceilings we resorted to having a broom handle handy to press the button - if we could identify which alarm was the culprit. (They all flash, so it can be hard to tell).

I did endless testing with the alarms on a table and monitored false alarms. Full credit to the Quell/Chubb rep who tried to help. Vacuuming and compressed air cleaning made no difference. In the end they replaced one directly but did report they found “debris” from an insect in the returned unit. They commented by email:
“With the contamination there is nothing you could do to rectify the issue without the alarm being pulled apart which is not recommended. Even in the cleanest environment you’ll be surprised what can get into smoke alarms. Sometimes vacuuming will assist with this type of thing but if a web is near the sensor it will cause an issue. They have bug screens fitted to the sensors but can only be minimal size to allow smoke to enter them.”

Also full credit to Bunnings who replaced another one that clearly gave a fault indication.

In the end we disabled ALL the alarms for a while, so we could have uninterrupted nights. Recently I activated two more and left them on tables - they both gave false alarms within a few days so are now disabled again. I should mention that the environment is very clean, with full insect screens throughout.

We live in a mainly timber home, in the middle of a rainforest, with cane farms (that love their fires) nearby - and have no protection! If we sell the house we will need to reinstall and set up the wireless connections again - but I pity the new owners!

Would love to find a solution if there is one…

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Hi, I had same, and rang the manufacturer, then reminded me of the maintenance (annual) of using a vacuum cleaner to remove dust from the unit - That did the trick, all good for the next 5 years.

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In terms of getting woken up by continuously sounding alarms due to low battery I have found that the ones used where I have lived simply start “chirping” once in a while - You may be woken up once or twice during the night but it is by no means continuous.

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I had 2 installed last September; a week ago they or one (they are interconnected) began to ring; nothing wrong - so we pressed the reset button – 20 mins. later, same again, and again… I can’t remember the brand name, but they were 10 year lasting (supposedly) batteries available in Bunnings! I’ve had them replaced, luckily got an electrician that day!

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Seems like that model has very bad reviews at Quell Photoelectric Smoke Alarm Q4000DCS-WCB | ProductReview.com.au

I’m looking to upgrade to interconnected smoke alarms now. Though probably end up using both standalone + interconnected ones together.

Currently using Quell’s 10yr photoelectrically non-interconnected smoke alarms and they have been fine and no false alarms as long as they’re not placed directly in the kitchen. My house has an open floor design for kitchen, dining and living areas so I placed the smoke alarm outside of the kitchen.

Any folks want to share their experience with interconnected 10yr lithium battery models? I found https://www.photoelectricsmokealarms.com.au/ but that smoke alarm looks a lot like ones on Amazon.com.au but they only have 1x 5 star ratings on them all so not sure if you’d trust a lone rating? They range from AUD$50-80/each. While some known brands like Clipsal are AUD$110-130/each.

Several years ago an electrician quoted for hardwired interconnected photoelectrically smoke alarm installation at AUD$450/each - haven’t asked lately so no idea of the price for hardwired. But that quote took me back a bit seeing as I’d need at least 7-8 of them!

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:rofl: opportunity or a very difficult install with no roof cavity and cathedral ceilings.

Clipsal PE hard wired alarms can be had for similar pricing to Quell <$80 at one supplier on line. The Clipsal product range allows you to mix and match as well as offering optional wireless interconnection bases. A system can be a mix of hard wired and wireless if there are a couple of hard to get to locations.

The wholesale market place is very competitive, if one chooses to shop around and look to the better known brands for alarms with the same features.

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Nah single story house with 2.8m ceiling LOL

Saw that during google search but that description threw me off 240V infers it’s a hardwired version but description says rechargeable battery? Or it’s seems to be hardwired with battery backup. The wireless interconnected battery only Clipsal is >AUD$110 for sure

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Yes for the backup when the power goes out.
The battery is built in - non removable.

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Cheers @mark_m Coincidentally Ozbargain posted a deal at Emerald Smoke Alarm with RF (Wireless Interconnectivity Ready) $49.50 + Shipping (Was $77) @ Homewatch Security - OzBargain !

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From Smoke Alarm Installation in QLD - PropertyChat

Just for more information for you guys

The Emerald Planet ones are just rebranded Siterwell ones. They come off the exact same factory and workshops. Some companies are quoting either/or but they are the same thing.

Regarding the smoke alarm guys supposedly they manufacture their own alarms with no middle men (hence why they back their alarms with 10 year parts and labour). I’m going to give these guys a chance with 10+ of my remaining houses in QLD.

From reviews I’ve read they are pretty good and reliable. Nice ppl as well from my conversations with them.

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Many thanks for that ProductReview link, George.

I thought I was going mad or had a specific environmental problem (no units near the kitchen and all away from fans and air conditioners, etc - as per instructions). Now I know it’s not me, it’s them!

I think the obvious issues with the units justify a serious discussion with Quell/Chubb. They’ve been helpful in the past so I’ll pass on that link (which they’ve probably seen!) and ask them very nicely to credit or replace with a more reliable model.

Hopefully CHOICE will add the feedback to their next review.

Cheers.

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