Do the smoke detectors in my rented property need to be mains powered?

28th December 2020

Do the smoke detectors in my rented property need to be mains powered? It has been a legal requirement to ensure your rental property has adequate smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed since late 2015.

New Landlords often think they are required to install ‘mains powered’ alarms but this isn’t the case.

In the past five years, battery technology has improved massively with companies such as Tesla manufacturing cars that are cable of 0-62mph in 3 seconds, purely run on battery power.

With this in mind, some smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are now manufactured with a 10 year sealed battery unit, available for £10-£15 from many High Street retailers. Providing these types of alarms are tested regularly, they are a cheaper and more convenient alternative to mains powered alarms.

If we had been asked this question a few years ago, the answer undoubtedly would have been mains powered.

There was a very obvious issue with the battery alarms, and this had nothing to do with their ability to do the job they were designed to do, the issue was the battery itself.

The original alarms took the rectangular 9v removable battery, and the main problem with them could easily be summed up by the word... Removable! What did not help keep the batteries in the alarm was the fact that they conveniently fitted into many other household appliances like remote controls and children’s toys.

At Hawkesford James when we manage a property we undertake regular inspection visits,  and when we were checking the smoke alarms to ensure they were functioning, we frequently found the batteries had inexplicably vanished. I use the word inexplicable because having inspected literally thousands of properties I am yet to have one tenant adequately explain to me how a battery can simply vanish.

Obviously disappearing batteries were not unique to our managed properties and when the law requiring smoke alarms in all rented properties came into force, it was decided that if you fit a battery alarm then it needs to have a sealed battery that cannot be removed and that the batteries lifespan needs to be ten years.

It is also worth mentioning that mains wired alarms have exactly the same 10 year lifespan and need to be fitted by a competent person.

Therefore is it now worth fitting a mains wired alarm, when a 10 year battery alarm does the job, is cheaper to buy and is easier to fit?