Hard-Wired Smoke Alarms Fact Sheet

Do Smoke Alarms Work?

YES. Data compiled by the National Fire Protection Association demonstrates that a person who has a home fire and does not have an (operable) smoke alarms is twice as likely to die in that fire as another person who suffers the same fire but is protected by (operable) alarms. 

What Does the Hard-Wired Smoke Alarm Ordinance Require?

Since 1973, the State building code has required that all new homes be provided with a hard-wired smoke alarm. And since March 20, 1995, a hard-wired smoke detector with battery back-up is required outside the sleeping area of the home. This hard-wired Smoke Detector Ordinance, which became effective in November of 1988, provides that homes in Saint Paul built even before 1973 have one of these reliable smoke alarms outside the sleeping area. Installation and inspection are required within 60 days of receiving notification from the Department of Safety and Inspections whether the home is sold. (Remodeling projects have entirely different requirements in the Building Code.)

Why Hard-Wired Smoke Alarms with Battery Back-Up?

Battery-powered smoke alarms became popular in the 1970’s as inexpensive life-safety devices. Now that these detectors have been in some homes for such a long time, they are no longer being maintained as they need to be. Unfortunately, experience is showing us that many people do not keep fresh batteries in their alarms and some even remove the batteries altogether.

Only 74 percent of households in the United States even have smoke detectors. A survey by the United States Fire Administration reveals that 25 to 35 percent of those smoke detectors do not work. Almost all the smoke alarm failures were due to non-functioning or missing batteries. On the other hand, hard-wired smoke detectors rarely suffer a power interruption. To provide the best protection, a combination hard-wired alarm with battery back-up is required (NEWER THAN TEN YEARS OLD).

Who is Responsible for Installation?

The seller of the home is responsible for installation and inspection of the hard-wired smoke alarm with battery back-up. An electrical permit must be obtained prior to installing a HWSA.  Only the homesteaded homeowner or a Minnesota Licensed Electrical Contractor can perform electrical work in a single-family home.

How Do I Comply?

  • If you are the homesteaded homeowner and will be installing the HWSA yourself, you may obtain an electrical permit from the Department of Safety and Inspections (651-266-8989) to install your own alarm. If you hire a Minnesota Licensed Electrical Contractor, be sure they obtain a permit.
  • Install the alarm in the correct position outside the sleeping area and wire it into a nearby circuit that is not controlled by a wall switch. You do not have to wire the smoke alarm all the way to your electrical panel.  The newly installed electrical wiring is required to be AFCI protected per NEC 110.12.  This can be accomplished by either an AFCI device or circuit breaker.
  • Once the alarm is installed, contact the Department of Safety and Inspections for a final inspection appointment. This is required to be done within 60 days.

How Much Will it Cost?

  • The hard-wired smoke alarm with battery back-up is comparable in cost to some battery-powered alarms.
  • The total cost to have an electrician install your hard-wired smoke alarm can range from $300 - $1000 or more.  It is always recommended that you get several estimates prior to hiring a contractor.  If you have any questions about their estimates you can call the DSI electrical department at 651-266-9003.
  • A homesteaded homeowner may install his/her own alarm for less.
  • The cost of the electrical permit from the Department of Safety and Inspections (651-266-8989) is $77.00.

What Do You Do if You Need More Time to Install?

If you need more time beyond the 60 days of installation of the alarm, call the Department of Safety and Inspections at 651-266-8989 to request an extension of time.

What Do You Do if Your Home is Sold Before Receiving the Installation Requirement Letter?

If your home has been sold and the alarm has NOT BEEN INSTALLED, it is the seller’s obligation to arrange between themselves and the new homeowner for an inspection.  The previous homeowner can no longer purchase an electrical permit, or install a HWSA after the property has been sold.

What if the Home Does Not Sell, or is Taken Off the Market?

Installation of the smoke alarm is required within 60 days of receiving the installation requirement letter whether the home sells.

What Do You Do if the Truth-In-Sale of Housing Evaluation is Wrong?

If the Truth-in-Sale of Housing evaluator made an error in their inspections, you must contact the evaluator to file an amendment with the Truth-In-Sale staff at 651-266-8440. Truth-in-Sale of Housing will notify the Department of Safety and Inspections of the amendment.

What if the Home is For Sale, but Vacant?

If the home has not been sold and is vacant, call the Department of Safety and Inspections to request an extension of time. A hard-wired smoke alarm with battery back-up is required to be installed within 60 days.