Smoke detectors. They've been commonplace for decades, protecting generations of people from injury and death. But are you legally required to have them?

The short answer is yes. But it's actually more complicated than that.

Most of us know the importance of having a working smoke detector in our homes and wouldn't be without one constantly keeping watch over our families.

But if you only have one - or you think one is enough - you may be in violation of the law.

Good Luck Finding the One That's Beeping

The discussion about smoke detectors came up in my house a couple of days ago when one started chirping, indicating a low-battery situation. Then came the task of finding the culprit. Is it in this bedroom? No. How about this one? Nope.

I've always thought having one in each bedroom was overkill; some arbitrary thing my wife decided years ago. As it turns out, we're operating just inside the law.

Michigan Law:  One Isn't Enough

Smoke Detector
Kidde, Amazon

According to Michigan Residential Code, smoke detectors are required in Michigan homes, and must be installed in the following areas.

  • A working detector is required in each sleeping room (or bedroom).
  • Outside each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms.
  • On each additional story of the dwelling, including the basement and any attic that is considered 'habitable.' They're not, however, required in uninhabitable attics and crawl spaces.

Smoke Detectors Through the Years

Smoke Detectors have been around (in their earliest form) since the 1890s, but they didn't become commercially available until the late 1960s.

By 1972, the first Ionisation detector (using a 9-volt battery) became available, selling for just over $100 per unit.

In 1976, the first 'Life Safety Code' was passed, requiring smoke alarms in every home. Yet by 1980, the units were only present in about half of all homes nationwide. According to, that number jumped to about 75% by 1984.

If you don't have one (or if you don't have enough) Here's a link to buy one online. Today, you can get them for right around eight bucks.


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