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I recently purchased a 2001 built condominium unit with original battery powered smoke and CO2 alarms. Since I have to replace all the alarms at this point anyway, I'm curious how invasive a procedure it would be to get wiring run for these in a traditional wood frame / drywall construction.

Can I expect someone marketing themselves / licensed as an electrician to be able to do a job like this or do I need to seek help from a more general contractor for the drywall / etc. work on the ceilings?

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I would first consult your local fire inspector and get what is and is not required ie, locations, how many, and what brands they recommend. They may even know a decent electrician to install them

Also, the current locations of your smoke alarms may be improperly placed and doesn't make sense to spend the money to just do it wrong.

I would keep the alarms on their own AFCI breaker/circuit too, even though the NEC does not require this. Just smarter that way because less chance of interference from other AFCI and GFCI if shared with existing lights and outlets.

The extent of the project could be very high since you did mentioned you're in a condo. Some condos have no attic and basically have a concrete slab for a ceiling. Others may have a drop ceiling grid, so it is hard to give a fair estimate without knowing for sure.

And yes, a licensed electrician would be required since the type of smoke detection we are talking about uses high voltage. If it were low voltage then most of the time the alarm company handles their own installation.

  • Pretty much every place in the US now requires AFCI protection for outlets, NOT just receptacles. Hard wired smoke/CO detectors are installed at "outlets", so if an electrician installs new smokes they would require AFCI protection. – Speedy Petey May 31 '15 at 14:30
  • Most jurisdictions amend their own regulations too, hence why I said 1st check with fire inspector. – Kris May 31 '15 at 15:32
  • My comment is now a bit vague after your edit. Thing is, your edit is still incorrect. In by far most places in the US AFCI protection definitely IS required for smokes. Maybe ten years ago places had amendments to omit AFCIs, not so much today. As a self proclaimed electrician I am surprised you wrote this. Would you like the code section? – Speedy Petey May 31 '15 at 16:14
  • You may also want to edit and change from "high voltage" to "line voltage". Nothing in a home is high voltage. – Speedy Petey May 31 '15 at 16:17
  • In my jurisdiction anything over 50 volts is considered "high" voltage. Your comment was a bit vague to begin with. – Kris May 31 '15 at 20:11
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For how invasive the project will be here's what to look for. You will need to steal "hot all the time" power from somewhere. Sometimes that's a light or sometimes a plug. Its not always a light because sometimes the power that is in that box is only switched hot, as in only hot when the switch is on which you don't want. So first would be finding some sort of power that's close to where you want to put a smoke alarm. Than you would need to run a three wire piece of cable from one smoke alarm to another. So that when one goes off, it signals for the other smoke alarm to also go off (sound the alarm).

As you can see that can be pretty hard to do when you imagine all the wood studs below the drywall that you will have to drill through to get those wires pulled.

You can call an electrician to first come and scope the scene out and let you know the easiest route. That will let you know how much drywall needs to be cut in the process. And you can decide if it's worth it to you. When the electrician is done the job (if you go through with it), that is when you could call a dry wall professional to come and repair your drywall (or perhaps some guy advertising his services for cheaper on Craig's List).

If you have an unfinished basement I could see this going easier....

I believe some electrical companies give you free quotes. I would start there.

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