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Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarms

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms can save your life in an emergency.

Every home in Ontario must have working smoke alarms installed. Smoke alarms are required on every floor and outside every sleeping area. Building codes for new homes require the installation of smoke alarms in all bedrooms. You should test your smoke alarms once a week.

All homes in Ontario that have an attached garage, fuel burning appliance or fire place must have a working carbon monoxide alarm installed.

Types of alarms

If your home was built with hardwired smoke or carbon monoxide alarms, you are required by law to keep them in place. You can buy hardwired alarms with backup batteries to provide added safety in the event of a power outage.

If your home was not built with hardwired smoke alarms you may use battery powered or plug in alarms.

Ionization smoke alarms detect fast flaming fires while photoelectric smoke alarms detect smouldering fires. Photoelectric smoke alarms tend to provide fewer false alarms in kitchen and bathroom areas of the home. Having a mixture of both types of alarms in your home provides added safety. You can also buy smoke alarms that combine both photoelectric and ionization detection.

Replacing alarms

Most smoke and carbon monoxide alarms need to be replaced at least every 10 years. Each alarm will have an expiration date on the bottom of the unit.

Landlord responsibilities

Landlords are responsible for making sure rental properties have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Landlords should keep a record of installation, maintenance and alarm testing. Landlords are required to provide smoke alarm maintenance instructions to tenants. Landlords must test alarms annually and after any tenancy changes.

If there are fuel burning appliances in your building service rooms are required to have carbon monoxide alarms. Any apartment sharing a floor, ceiling or wall with a service room, or having a fuel burning appliance contained within it, requires a carbon monoxide alarm. Office of the Fire Marshal Technical Guideline - Maintenance of Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Tenant responsibilities

Tenants are required to notify their landlord if an alarm in their unit is disconnected or not operating, or if there is a problem with their alarms. Office of the Fire Marshal Technical Guideline - Maintenance of Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Door-to-door smoke and carbon monoxide alarm program

Firefighters go door-to-door to make sure homes have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. We talk about fire safety information and make sure you have a fire escape plan for your home. Participation in the program is voluntary. If you would like us to visit your home, contact Kawartha Lakes Fire Rescue Service. You can learn more about fire public education programs on the fire safety and prevention section of the website.

Why participate in the program?

  • Peace of mind that your home and family are protected by working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms as required by law.
  • Meet firefighters from your neighbourhood fire station and ask safety questions.
  • Learn how to stop fires from happening and what to do if there’s an emergency.
 Is participation mandatory?


Having working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms is mandatory (it’s the law). However having a firefighter enter your home to complete an in-home assessment is completely voluntary.

 What if I was not home and I missed the firefighters?

Sorry we missed you. Door hangers will be left with installation and maintenance requirements for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. A door hanger will also be left with information about open air burning with respect to By-law 2016-110.

Homeowners and tenants are encouraged conduct their own home safety assessment and if they have questions they may be directed to fire prevention via email or telephone 705-324-5731 Ext. 545.

 What if my home does not have working smoke or carbon monoxide alarms?

It's the law that every home in Ontario must have:

A smoke alarm on every level and outside all sleeping areas in your home

A carbon monoxide alarm next to all sleeping areas in any home with a fuel-burning appliance (i.e. natural gas, oil burning furnace, water heater, etc.) and/or an attached garage

If you participate in the door-to-door program and firefighters find that your home is not compliant with Ontario laws, you will receive a notice of violation and will be responsible for any costs associated with required upgrades or changes to achieve compliance within 10 days.

Does the 10 year expiry date apply to all smoke and CO alarms even if they are hard wired or battery operated?


Both battery-operated alarms and hardwired alarms expire after 10 years as the sensing technology may no longer be reliable in detecting smoke or fire in your home. Reference the manufacture date provided on an alarm.  If you can't find a date on your alarm, it's likely more than 10 years old and expired.

Alarms that are more than 10 years old do not comply with the Ontario Fire Code and are required by law to be replaced.

I have hardwired (electrically-powered) alarms, can I put up a battery-operated alarm in its place?


If your home has hardwired (electrically-powered) alarms, either the homeowner or a certified, licensed electrician must install the alarms. According to the Ontario Fire Code, you cannot replace hardwired alarms with battery-powered alarms.

If you are the homeowner, you may be able to replace hardwired alarms yourself.

Important Safety Tip: Ensure power to the circuit is turned off at the main panel before attempting to install hardwired alarms. 

If you cannot safely replace them yourself, hire a licensed electrician to do the job. Visit the Electrical Safety Authority website for more information and to find a licensed electrical contractor in your area.

Any potential costs to meet Ontario smoke and carbon monoxide alarm laws are the homeowner’s responsibility.

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