Getting Free Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The cost of installing a complete fire and carbon monoxide alarm system ranges up to $950 with wiring.

Of course, the number of rooms in your home, the quality of the equipment, and the type of units (ionization versus photoelectric) can impact the project’s price.

Low-income families, senior citizens, and the hearing impaired might find this sum challenging to afford – especially when the systems need replacement every ten years.

Fortunately, you might be able to get free smoke and CO detectors if you know where to look and how to use creative approaches to solve your problem.

Smoke Detector Grant Programs

The federal government does not provide grants directly to homeowners for personal uses such as free smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. However, clever alternatives exist that might accomplish your goal of sleeping safely at night.

Low-Income

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) provides low-income families with free smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. The federal grant money improves homes’ energy efficiency and security.

A local WAP-certified contractor might install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors under their health and safety protocols when needed. However, because energy efficiency is their primary mission, you could qualify for other more valuable services at no charge.

Senior Citizens

USDA Section 504 grants of up to $10,000 could easily support free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for senior citizens because the project would remediate health and safety hazards.

Severe burns or smoke inhalation from a house fire is hazardous to an older adult’s health. Therefore, most seniors would satisfy the initial criteria.  

The Section 504 program provides grants to low-income seniors over 62 who own and occupy their house and cannot afford to repay an improvement loan because their total debt ratio exceeds 40%.

Hearing Impaired

Do not overlook your homeowner insurance policy as an indirect source of free smoke detectors for the hearing impaired and those able to pick up high-pitched tones.

Many homeowner insurance policies include fire protective discounts, which might cover the cost of a bed-shaker or strobe light fire alarm needed to alert a deaf family member to burning wood and plastic materials.  

The insurance companies would rather forgo a portion of the annual premium to avoid a costly claim. A deaf or hard-of-hearing homeowner can promptly protect the company’s investment by calling 911 after the first sign of a fire – if shaken out of bed.

Free Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors Near You

Other times, you might be able to get a free smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector by finding a resource located near your neighborhood. Follow three strategies to find local assistance.

Red Cross

The American Red Cross provides free smoke detectors through its Sound the Alarm program. The organization recruits volunteers and solicits donations in support of this noble effort to keep families safe.

American Red Cross claims to have installed 2.2 million smoke alarms at no cost to the homeowner since 2014, or about 275,000 annually during yearly events held every May.

Find an American Red Cross chapter near you by typing your zip code into the online directory. Contact your local office to ask them how to get on the waiting list for this specific service.

Fire Department

Your local fire department might offer free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to needy families. It cannot hurt to call and ask. However, this strategy for getting alarms at no cost is hit or miss because there are approximately 30,000 departments nationwide.

Furthermore, roughly 70% of fire stations are staffed by volunteer personnel, indicating that budget constraints make it fiscally impossible for many to hand out smoke alarms at no cost to homeowners.

However, the American Red Cross Sound the Alarm program often distributes its equipment through local fire departments, so you have a second reason to make that phone call. Plus, they may be aware of other resources in your neighborhood.

Local Laws

Knowledge of the laws in your community is a simple way for renters (not homeowners) to get a free replacement smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors. Your landlord might have to follow local ordinances.

For instance, your state or city might list several legal requirements for property owners in its housing code.

  • Provide and install operational equipment in each dwelling unit
  • Replace the alarms upon the expiration of their useful life

Of course, the same laws might hold you, the tenant, responsible for testing the equipment once per month and changing the batteries twice per year.

Below is a sampling of smoke and carbon monoxide detector laws.