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My fiancée and I will be closing on a house soon. One thing that came up during the inspection was that the (non-finished) basement doesn't have a wired smoke + CO detector, which is required by our town's current house code (the house was built decades ago when the detector wasn't part of the code). I have a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, my day job is electrical engineering, I respect electricity and its dangers, and not that I'll get complacent, but, I've done other DIY home electrical work before - swapping old outlets and light switches for new ones and replacing lightbulb sockets. So, I would like to perform the installation myself to learn and to save some money.

I feel wholly confident that I can safely wire up the smoke + CO detector to the house's wiring - I have no concerns whatsoever on getting the detector to function. The issue is I don't know what needs to be done for the project to comply to the housing code. I've tried looking up my town's house code to see what needs to be done, but only found:

Installation of smoke detectors shall be in accordance with the provisions of the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code.

Editor's Note: See Executive Law § 370 et seq.

I tried looking up the executive law mentioned and found a humongous wall of text. I would try working through it, but it's overwhelming and I'd have no clue if I found all of the requirements or not.

So, I would like to ask: does anyone have a checklist of what I'll need to do to install the detector to NYS code? My current plan would be to:

  • Install the detector on the wooden ceiling in the center of the basement.

  • Buy some housing-grade electrical wire.

  • Safely (including turning off the electricity, testing with a voltage tester, etc.) connect one end of the purchased wiring to wiring that already powers another part of the basement.

  • Run the wiring to the detector in the center of the room (stapling the wiring to the wooden beams that run across the basement as necessary so that there's minimal slack in the wires).

  • Connect the wires to the detector.

  • Turn the power back on.

  • Test the detector with its push button.

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  • What make/model are the existing detectors in the house? Oct 10, 2023 at 2:54
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    Usually, when code changes, there is no requirement for existing structures to be brought up to current code. Are you actually required (by law and/or terms of sale) to have a wired detector down there, or is it your desire to?
    – FreeMan
    Oct 10, 2023 at 11:37

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Typically installations that were done to code at the time of construction are grandfathered as acceptable even if they don't meet current code, as long as that area isn't materially changed. So although it may not meet current code, it's probably not illegal (though check with your AHJ to be sure). But, in general, you're correct on the process. Just make sure to provide protection for any wiring that you run, as there are requirements for physical protection of wiring run in open locations that you'd need to adhere to. This also includes wiring run across a ceiling to make sure it's not in a position for anything to be hung off of it.

If it were me, I'd put up a battery detector (with long life battery), and call it good, especially if it's in an unfinished basement. It's better to have a battery detector than no detector at all.

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  • Though in many modern installations, not only are the detectors required to be powered from line power (with battery backup), but they have an additional signal line connecting them together, so if one goes off, they all go off to alert the whole building. If that's a requirement, then there is a lot more work to be done to connect up with the common signal line that's connecting the other detectors.
    – Milwrdfan
    Oct 10, 2023 at 19:18

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