Smoke detectors can be a great tool for saving lives, but you want to make sure they are installed properly and are regularly maintained. Each year people die because their smoke detector did not alert them to smoke or fire. The most fatalities happen in homes that are without these working smoke detectors. Often times, the alarm didn’t alert them because the batteries were dead or had been removed to stop false alarms.
In other cases, the detector was past its service life or was located where it could not be heard. Smoke detectors seem like such a small thing but when we hear the stories of fatalities it makes me take it even more seriously and I am sure you will too. Below we will give you some tips to maintaining your smoke detectors and keeping your family and home safe.
Tips for Maintaining Your Smoke Detector
It’s recommended that you install (at least) one smoke alarm on every level of your home and inside every bedroom.
Test Battery-operated detectors should be tested every month to ensure they are working correctly. To test, press the test button and
the alarm will sound (try holding for 10-20 seconds). If it doesn’t make a sound, change the battery and test again. Replace the batteries
in your smoke detector once a year. If the alarm chirps indicating a low battery, you will need to change it. If the detector is hardwired and doesn’t work, replace it immediately. Even if it does sound off when tested, check the date on the label and replace the detector by that date.
If the batteries have been replaced and it keeps chirping, the detector probably needs a reset. Remove the detector from the ceiling, remove the battery, then press and hold the test button for 15 to 20 seconds. The detector should make several beeps. Then, reinstall the battery and reinstall the detector to the ceiling.
Even if the batteries are new, there other things can cause false alarms:
- Could it be your Cooking? If your detector sounds off a lot when your cooking relocate the smoke detector, at least 20 ft. from your oven.
- Humidity from your shower? Bet you never heard this one huh? Ionization alarms can sound off when they’re installed in close distance to showers or laundry rooms.
- Is your detector dusty? Yeah, hard to believe but its true. Use a soft brush vacuum attachment to clean your detector.
- Power outages. Hardwired smoke detectors may briefly sound when power is interrupted and restored.
Smoke detectors need replaced every ten years. If you do not know how old your smoke alarm is, replace it as soon as possible. When it’s replaced, mark it with the date of install or expiration. A piece of masking tape can do the trick. The ten-year lithium battery smoke detector doesn’t need to have its battery changed. Just replace these smoke alarms that use extended-life, lithium batteries when the alarm “chirps” or fails to respond to testing.
A hardwired detector is powered by your home’s electricity. If your detector is connected to two wires, it’s not interconnected but if its connected to three wires, it is interconnected with other detectors in your home. This means that if even one detector senses smoke, they will all sound off.
Are your detectors hardwired?
Rotate the detector to release it from the base and pull it away from the wall or ceiling. If you see wires, then it’s a hardwired detector.
If it needs replaced then you will need another hardwired detector. If you have a home built before 1989 with hardwired detectors, more than likely, your detectors are not interconnected. In 1989, the building codes started to require all hardwired smoke detectors to interconnect. Interconnected hardwired detectors connect to three wires inside the electrical box. Knowing if your detectors are interconnected or not will help you buy the right replacement.
Duel Sensor Detectors
A majority of all homes are now equipped with an ionization smoke detector. Ionization detectors respond to fast moving fires. These are cheaper than the photoelectric detector. The photoelectric detectors respond faster to slow and smoldering fires. You never know what type of fire you’ll encounter. It is now recommend to install both types of detectors on each level in your home and in all areas where you sleeping. The dual sensor (ionization and photoelectric) detectors cost roughly $50 each and work great for basement and main floor hallway applications. For hallways and outside bedrooms it is recommended to install two detectors. The first should be a photoelectric detector with a battery backup and an escape light. The second should be an ionization and carbon monoxide (CO) sensor. Use photoelectric detectors only for kitchen and hallway locations near bath areas. These types can handle cooking smoke without setting off the alarm.
Wi-Fi and Apps
Now Wi-Fi enabled units and smart device apps allow you to monitor your home from anywhere. You can check the CO reading and smoke detector status, receive alarm notifications and shut off a false alarm using an app on your phone.
The batteries in these units cannot be replaced. Smoke detectors are only good for 10 years. Some detectors let you know they’re due for replacement with a chirping sound. Others provide no warning. If your detector doesn’t have a ‘replace by’ sticker on the outside, rotate the body and detach it from the base. Look for a date on the inside label. If in doubt throw it out and replace.
Use the hush button to dismiss a false alarm from cooking smoke. Don’t disconnect or remove the battery. If your smoke alarm doesn’t have a hush button, use a towel to fan the smoke away from the detector.
If you live in a rented house or apartment, your landlord is required to provide you with smoke and CO detectors. The tenant is responsible for maintaining the alarms. If your rental property does not have a smoke detector, inform your landlord right away.
How to Recycle Old Detectors
Smoke detectors should never be tossed in the garbage. Check your local recycling company to see if it will accept old detectors. Many will accept photoelectric detectors but not ionization detectors because they contain a radioactive material. You can contact the manufacturer for return policies or go to the USPS website for more information.
We learned about proper detector maintenance, when to replace a detector, types of detectors and even how to recycle them. We do hope this has given you some great insight on how to properly care for your smoke detectors and keep your home safe.