How to Upgrade Your Home to Hardwired Smoke Detectors

There are multiple reasons to convert your home to hard-wired smoke detectors. One of the most basic reasons people convert is that some battery-powered smoke detectors can be hard to reach. Moreover, hardwired systems offer peace of mind and reliably integrate with other tech features. Upgrading essential devices like smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarm to a hard-wired type has become increasingly accessible. And, for building codes in many areas, it's now required. Transitioning to a hard-wired smoke alarm system isn't as complicated as it may sound and if you have basic experience with household wiring, it could be a DIY project. If in doubt, call a pro.

Reasons to Upgrade from Battery-Powered to Hardwired

  • Reliability. Hardwired detectors are powered directly by the home's electrical system and have a battery backup to cover you during a power failure.

  • Interconnected units. They can be linked so that when one alarm senses smoke particles or carbon monoxide, all of the alarms throughout the home and garage will sound simultaneously which can save you precious time.

  • Integration with smart home systems. Allows remote monitoring and alerts by linking with other home automation devices. Depending on the type of detector, this can be done either through an electrical wire or Bluetooth (wirelessly).

  • Compliance with building codes. In many jurisdictions, hardwired smoke alarms are now required by building codes.

  • Long-term cost savings. Installing hardwired smoke alarms initially cost more than battery-operated smoke detectors but they have longer lifespans and cut the expense of battery replacements over time.

  • Enhanced safety. Hardwired detectors offer a higher level of safety and security with consistent and reliable detection of smoke and carbon monoxide.

Can I DIY this project?

Installing hard hardwired smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors can be complicated. It's possible to be a DIY project for homeowners, but it does require basic electrical knowledge and safety precautions. Plan ahead, have the proper tools and carefully follow installation instructions. Test the detectors afterwards. Install the backup battery in the battery compartment. If you're remotely uncertain, seek a professional electrician. Choose safety over savings.

When to Contact a Pro

  • Electrical unfamiliarity. If you don't understand or recognize the tools described below or if you're clueless about electrical codes, find an experienced electrician.

  • Complex wiring. Is it complicated? Outdated or complex electrical circuits require specialized knowledge.

  • Previous Installation Problems. If you've tried before and are dealing with false alarms or malfunctioning, get a second opinion.

  • Compliance concerns. Simply put, it has to be done right.

  • Time constraints. A pro can probably get it done faster.

  • Safety. Electrical charges are no joke. A licensed electrician assures that the installation is done safely and up to industry standards, minimizing the risk of electrical hazards of improper wiring or malfunctioning detectors.

  • Integration with home systems. Some home security systems require that you have a professional (sometimes one within their network) to do the installation.

  • Peace of Mind. Ultimately, don't lose sleep over attempting to DIY something out of your skillset.

Related: Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips to Keep Your Home Safe

Tools and Materials You'll Need

  • Hardwired smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors

  • Ladder

  • Screwdriver (flathead and Phillips)

  • Wire stripper and wire cutter

  • Voltage tester

  • Power drill

  • Hole Saw Drill Bit

  • Drill Bit—the appropriate size for your product's screws

  • Pliers

  • Wire nuts

  • Electrical tape

  • Stud finder (if mounting detectors to walls or ceilings)

  • Electrical wiring (if installing new detectors or extending electrical cable)

  • Round electrical box

  • Mounting brackets

  • Screws and wall anchors

  • Wire connectors

  • Batteries (for the backup power source)

1. Prepare for Installation

  • Turn off the power source at the circuit breaker panel. As a reminder, it doesn't hurt to turn off the whole house.

  • Gather tools and materials.

  • Double-check that the power is off to the smoke detector by testing with your voltage tester.

  • Read the instruction manuals for specific installation guidelines.

  • Plan your smoke detector locations based on wall studs, ceiling joists, and wall outlets. Be sure there are no obstructions in the wall or ceiling.

2. Remove Existing Detectors (if applicable)

  • If replacing battery-powered devices, remove them from their mounts on the wall or ceiling by twisting counterclockwise or removing screws as needed.

3. Drill Electrical Box and Mounting Bracket

  • Use the hole saw bit to drill a hole large enough for a round cut-in box. Insert them and screw them in place.

  • Use a mounting bracket as a template to mark and drill for the screws.

4. Connect Wiring

  • Run the wire from a functioning electrical outlet to each smoke detector location.

  • Strip the ends of the electrical wiring to expose the copper wire conductors.

  • Feed these wires through the electrical box and the mounting bracket.

  • Attach the mounting bracket to the ceiling.

  • Connect the wires on the smoke detector to the new wiring. Match the black (hot) wire from the detector to the black wire in the electrical box and the white (neutral) wire to the white wire and the red wires to the red wire. Use wire nuts to secure the wire connections and electrical tape to cover them.

  • Nestle the wires up and into the electrical box.

Related: Answering 11 Important Questions About Holiday Light Safety and Efficiency

5. Mount Detectors

  • Attach the detectors to the mounting brackets with a twist.

6. Test and Verify

  • Turn the power source back on at the circuit breaker panel.

  • Test each alarm and check the the interconnection feature by triggering one detector and verifying they all sound simultaneously.

  • Keep the instruction manuals for future reference and maintenance.