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My house was built in 2004 and came with fire alarms pre-installed and hardwired. The alarms also use a 9V battery backup, so we have to replace the batteries regularly (not an easy task with 9 ft ceilings, neither of us is exceptionally tall).

It's time to replace the alarms, and we were looking at the 10 year sealed lithium battery units (so we don't have to replace the batteries, we can test the alarms with a broom handle easily enough), but they don't seem to come in a hardwire variant.

Should we do something with the wires that are coming out of the ceiling? Would it be safe to not have them hooked up to anything? The circuit that feeds the alarms also powers the master bedroom (this house was built during the construction boom and it's terrible).

Would we loose any functionality by not using the hardwires?

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2 Answers 2

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Bad idea. Since the hard wiring was a building code requirement, a change could readily give your insurance company an excuse not to pay in case of a fire.

In addition your detectors are interconnected, so they all go off together. Wireless connected models are not available with ten year batteries ( I wrote on this topic at http://www.squidoo.com/you-have-three-minutes-to-escape-linking-home-smoke-alarms )

Instead consider pairing new detectors with ultra long life 9V or AA lithium batteries: such batteries cost more but last longer. And it's worth highlighting: smoke detector electronics generally come with a ten year rated lifespan (dating to 2004, as you note, yours are due for replacement).

Perhaps part of the problem was detectors that eat batteries? The hardwire alarm batteries only come into play when power is out: a two or three year lifetime for each battery is the minimum you should expect, even from a conventional alkaline.

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Insurance companies would have a hard time making that an excuse. Smoke alarms don't prevent fires, and your mortgage company would have a fit if they tried. –  Edwin Jan 17 at 21:46
    
Check your insurance contract, read in detail the section about code compliance. Smoke alarms can reduce reaction time and limit fire losses. Take the risk if you want, I will not advise anybody that way. –  Bryce Jan 17 at 23:30
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Many jurisdictions mandate hardwired alarms because people forget to change batteries. You should check with your local building authority about the requirements.

If you change something away from code, in addition to the risk, you many also be jeopardizing your insurance coverage.

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Eep! I found the code for single family units (I live in a townhouse) and hardwired smoke alarms are in that code, so they're probably in the multi-family home code as well (as soon as I find it). Thanks! –  Zaralynda Jan 17 at 19:51
    
Yup, multi-family is almost always stricter, not more lax than single. More people to burn it down, more people to die if it does... –  Ecnerwal Jan 18 at 2:15
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