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I am going to have an electrical inspection done soon after some electrical work that I am doing. The local electrical inspector told me that state law (Illinois, nowhere near Chicago) requires smoke alarms with the following properties:

  • 10 year sealed battery
  • interconnection (wireless or wired)

I fact checked these claims and they appear to be true (the 10 year sealed battery point is easy to find, the other point is harder).

He recommended getting 10 year sealed batteries with wireless interconnection as the easiest way to satisfy this requirement. But, these are expensive, around $50 per alarm as opposed to $5-$10 per alarm for normal alarms. I considered wiring a bunch of interconnection wires in the 1870 house, but that would be a huge amount of work that makes the $50 seem worth it, and the copper alone would make up the price difference. Since each room is fed by different circuit, this would be quite the task. This is then even more expensive by the fact that I'm spending $50 per alarm every few years! Truly absurd!

Is there some cheaper way than these options to satisfy this requirement? I am not interested in any sort of bamboozle, like returning the stupidly fancy alarms after the inspection.

I found some non-listed smoke alarms on Amazon (X-Sense) that seem to satisfy these requirements at a reasonable price, but I am not willing to take the risk of non-listed smoke alarms (both to safety and passing the inspection). If I knew that they'd pass the inspection, then having those with a proper, listed, normal alarm beside it could be a possibility that I could be okay with.

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    Why are you comparing to "$5-$10 per alarm for normal alarms"? If, as you say, your locality requires 10-year sealed batteries regardless of whether the interconnect is wired or wireless, I think you're going to be spending at least $25 each. You have to do the math with the number of units needed and the value or your time to figure out whether wireless or wired makes more sense.
    – nobody
    Commented Jun 18 at 23:40
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    @nobody There are good $10ish options with 10 year sealed batteries but no interconnection. Two examples (one photoelectric one ionization): menards.com/main/electrical/fire-safety/smoke-detectors/… menards.com/main/electrical/fire-safety/smoke-detectors/… Commented Jun 18 at 23:41
  • Interesting. When I had my heavy-up done, my electrician told me that the inspector could require smoke alarms even though that was out of the scope of work. (As opposed to, for example, requiring AFCI on existing circuits etc. which is specifically not required with a heavy-up). I have smoke alarms (10-year, but not interconnected - and interconnected isn't required in my area at least not for existing construction) but might have had to add one or two more based on updated coverage rules. But inspector didn't bring up the issue, so no problem for me. Commented Jun 18 at 23:46
  • @volcanosandwich What's your point? Those aren't interconnect-capable, so they're useless to you if your inspector requires interconnection. Regardless, you have to do the math and make the call.
    – nobody
    Commented Jun 18 at 23:56
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    @nobody I'm pissed at this making me pay for waaaaaay more expensive fire alarms, much more so than it seems it'd cost to add the interconnection feature. It smells strongly of corruption to me. Commented Jun 19 at 5:50

1 Answer 1

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Every so often, states upgrade the smoke alarm requirements, but usually the strictest requirements are for new houses. For existing homes, they usually only require that you install new alarms with 10-year sealed batteries. I don't think that Illinois is asking that the alarms be interconnected. Here is the relevant portion of the Illinois law:

(e) The requirements of this Section shall apply to any dwelling unit in existence on July 1, 1988, beginning on that date. Except as provided in subsections (f) and (g), the smoke detectors required in such dwelling units may be either: battery powered provided the battery is a self-contained, non-removable, long-term battery, or wired into the structure's AC power line, and need not be interconnected.

But don't take my word for it: call your local fire department and ask -- it might be that in IL the electrical inspector has jurisdiction, but everywhere else I've seen, it's the local fire chief. I've found that local fire depts are very helpful when I call asking about fire alarm rules.

But back to the law: For new houses, IL does require that the detectors be both hardwired and interconnected:

The smoke detectors required in such dwelling unit shall be permanently wired into the structure's AC power line, and if more than one detector is required to be installed within the dwelling unit, the detectors shall be wired so that the actuation of one detector will actuate all the detectors in the dwelling unit.

Whatever you decide to do, do not get the cheap Amazon non-UL alarms, as the inspectors might reject them outright. I've seen it happen.

Yes, UL-listed alarms are more expensive. But assuming 4 alarms in a house, that's $200 every 10 years. Hardly an expense when you are talking about something that is protecting your family's life.

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    My local fire department was clueless about detectors having a finite lifetime when I called. Yours may actually be competent.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jun 19 at 0:31

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