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5 Essential Tips for Smoke Detector Maintenance

Jun 9, 2016

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Whether you live in a secluded home on the water or you share walls with your neighbors in an apartment or condo, smoke detectors are essential to the safety of you and your loved ones. They undoubtedly save lives, and give residents the chance to make it out safely when disaster strikes.

At times, they can seem like a necessary evil. If they aren't properly maintained, they become a nuisance, beeping when no smoke is present, and waking you out of your peaceful sleep. It's enough to put you on edge for hours. 

Here are some quick tips to help keep your smoke detectors in shape and your family protected in the event of a fire (and they might just save your eardrums from a few unnecessary beeps, too).   

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At least one smoke detector should be installed on every level of your home, but it's best to have one in each bedroom as well. There are two types of smoke alarms; ionization and photoelectric, detecting either fast-moving blazes or slower, smoky electrical fires within the wall. It's best to have a dual sensor smoke alarm which combines the two.  

Change the batteries once a year. Replacing annually, during your spring cleaning or New Years, is easy to remember. Plus, a fresh battery should eliminate the annoying low-battery chirps before they happen at 2 AM!

  • If you replaced the batteries (and you're sure the batteries are fresh) and your alarm is receiving power but it still won't stop chirping, the detector probably needs to be reset. Disconnect it from the ceiling, remove the battery, and press and hold the test button for 15-20 seconds. The unit should beep several times, and stop. Put the battery back in and reconnect the detector to your ceiling or wall.

Even if the batteries are fresh, many other things can cause false alarms.

  • Cooking? This is probably the biggest culprit. If this happens a lot, consider relocating the smoke detector, at least 20 ft from your oven. 
  • Humidity. It seems odds, but ionization alarms can go off when placed too close to showers and laundry rooms.
  • Dust and dirt. Use your soft brush vacuum attachment to clean out the detector chamber. 
  • Power outages. Hardwired smoke detectors may briefly sound when power is interrupted and restored. 

Test your smoke detectors once a month. This seems like a lot, but there are many reasons you should make this a habit. If the alarm doesn't sound when you press the test button, try pressing and holding for 10-20 seconds. If it still doesn't work, the battery could be loose, or your AC or power may not be on (check that the red or green light is continuously lit). 

Make note of your smoke detector install and/or expiration date. Alarms don't last forever: the average lifespan of a smoke detector is 10 years. If you aren't sure when it was installed, replace immediately.  

Stay safe out there! Here's a full list of smoke detector FAQ's and guidelines.

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