My smoke detector has been poked at so much with the end of my broom that you'd think it would just stop working out of sheer protest. At one point, the constant false alarms had me jabbing the broom stick at the reset button almost daily. Frustrated, I would sometimes take the smoke alarm down -- often when I was cooking -- and put it on the counter just so it would stop making noise.
I admit it the way I was managing these false alarms was nothing short of dangerous. Most people experience one of three main issues with their smoke alarms:
- It chirps constantly
- It has false alarms
- It does not sound at all
Here's how to troubleshoot these common problems.
My Smoke Detector is Chirping All the Time
If your smoke detector beeps or chirps constantly -- or goes thorough periods of random, unprompted beeping -- it's probably time to change the battery.
Batteries should be changed yearly. Even hard-wired detectors have back-up batteries that should be replaced every year.
It is also possible that the presence of dust or bugs is causing the dreaded false alarm. Simply vacuum
the smoke detector to clean the area around it, and rid it of any debris.
My Smoke Detector is Too Sensitive
The trouble with alarms that beep at the slightest provocation is that we stop paying attention to them. This is really dangerous, especially if you have children in the house who see you routinely ignore an alarm. Avoiding false alarms will help you take each alarm seriously
, and save the nuisance of dealing with it on a continual basis. Here are some of the ways to avoid false alarms:
- Do not place smoke detectors immediately outside the bathroom.
The steam from a shower can falsely trigger the alarm. Moving it over just a few feet should manage this.
- Avoid placing alarms near fresh paint.
The chemical fumes might set it off.
- Use a different type of smoke detector in the kitchen.
False alarms typically occur in the kitchen
. This is also the most common place for a fire to start, so it's important that you don't just turn it off out of frustration from all the false alarms. Some experts recommend that you have a heat detector in the kitchen instead of a smoke detector.
The idea is that it will still detect a fire, but will not go off at the fist bit of smoke wafting from your stove. This recommendation has been criticized
, though, with warnings that heat detectors don't give enough warning for life threatening fires. Instead, a photoelectric smoke alarm is a popular choice for the kitchen as opposed to the more sensitive ionization smoke alarm.
While neither the ionization or photoelectric alarm
is necessarily better at detecting fires
, they use different methods, and the photoelectric alarm is less likely to go off without cause. Still, what works for the kitchen might not work in the workshop or garage. Photoelectric alarms may have false alarms if the area around the alarm is too dusty. An ionizing alarm goes off at the first sign of smoke. This makes it a good choice for bedrooms, where any amount of smoke probably indicates a bigger problem.
My Smoke Detector Doesn't Sound When Being Tested
If you ignored the first problem and now it doesn't sound when it's supposed to, chances are your batteries are dead. If that isn't the case, it might be that the wires have become loose or damaged. While it's tempting for a DIYer to fix this, it's recommended that you simply replace the alarm.
If All Else Fails...
Apart from these main fixes, you probably don't want to dig too much into the actual smoke detector. They aren't expensive, so if your troubleshooting doesn't work, just replace it. The user manual for your alarm might have more instructions tailored to your specific device.
Smoke Detector Guidelines
Each jurisdiction has different smoke detector regulations. In our community, the requirements have recently changed, leaving the shelves at local hardware stores empty as people flock to the store and buy new smoke detectors by the basketful. Please check your local requirements, but here are the general guidelines:
- One smoke detector in every bedroom
- One smoke detector every 30 feet in hallways
- One smoke detector at the top of every stairway
- One smoke detector in each main living space
- Test your alarm each month
- Replace the batteries (even if they are not dead) yearly
Unless you're bugged by the beeping (which you now know how to stop), it's easy to forget about the smoke detectors in the home. Add the monthly tests and battery replacements to your calender to make sure you get it done.
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Smoke Alarm Maintenance (Lifehacker)