Knowing how to deal with a chirping smoke alarm is a handy home
improvement DIY skill. Here’s how to locate and fix the offending unit,
without going “medieval” on it…
Is the Beeping Smoke Alarm Tied to a Home Security System?
If you have a home security system, you may have hardwired smoke detectors tied to it. Check to see if the alarm system keypads
are beeping and/or showing fire trouble. Home alarm systems will give
an audible and/or visual indication at the keypads, and monitored
systems will send a signal to the central station.
Most wired smoke detectors that connect to a home alarm system DON'T make noise themselves. That's what the keypads and sirens are for.
Notify your alarm company if the system shows any fire trouble
condition. They can talk you through steps to diagnose exactly what the
If you have a smoke detector beeping, but the keypads are quiet,
you can be reasonably sure the problem smoke detector isn’t part of the
Identify the Beeping Smoke Alarm
Try to locate which smoke detector won’t stop beeping. This is easier
if you have a ladder, so you can get close to the detector. Houses more
than a few years old often have 2 or 3 different kinds and brands of
smoke detectors installed, sometimes right next to each other. In that
case, try holding a folded bath towel over one of the units to muffle
the beeping. This should make it easier to tell which one is chirping.
If you still can’t narrow down the offending device, consult an
electrician. They have the tools and experience to quickly find a bad
If you have more than one smoke detector beeping, you likely have
an electrical problem with the house wiring. 110-volt hardwired smoke
detectors are usually wired to each other in a string. If one unit loses
a connection, all the units will chirp. This is also a job for an
Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors have lifespans ranging from about 5 to 10 years. They don’t last forever!
Most smoke alarms are designed to last for 5-10 years. Manufacturers include literature with all units, which will list specifications, life expectancy, and smoke alarm placement guidelines.
A carbon monoxide detector, or CO detector will normally be good for around 5 years. Most carbon monoxide detectors that I have installed have had a built-in “end of life” warning feature, and are designed to begin beeping and/or blinking when it’s time to replace the unit.
Whenever you buy smoke alarms, look for some of the newer features becoming available.
One of the coolest allows you to test your smokes using an infrared TV remote. This is fantastic for testing detectors in hard-to-reach locations, like above stairwells or on high ceilings.
Replacing smoke alarms with newer technology will not only solve your beeping smoke alarm problem, but give you better protection than you had with the original unit.
Smoke detectors with no steady light are usually battery-only type devices. Some of these have a battery tray on the side, so you can change batteries without removing the unit. Other models require batteries to be installed from the back. For these, twist the unit gently counter-clockwise to remove it from its base. The battery or battery lid should then be accessible. Replace the battery, re-install the unit, and test it.
Replacing Smoke Detector Batteries
Changing batteries is one of the easiest money savers of all home security DIY projects. To avoid future headaches, do it the right way!
Always replace the battery in a beeping smoke alarm with a fresh alkaline cell, not a rechargeable type. NiMH, NiCad, and other types of battery are great for high-demand electronics like digital cameras, but they won’t hold a charge over long periods of time.
Even a few days are enough to drain much of the “juice” out of a modern rechargeable battery. Any professional photographer will tell you that they routinely “top off” the charge on their batteries just before an important shoot.
Alkaline batteries maintain a steady voltage for many months, especially in low-demand devices like smoke alarms, CO detectors, and other types of fire alarms.
Testing Smoke Alarms
After replacing the battery in a beeping smoke alarm, always test the
unit. Many have test instructions molded into the plastic housing, or
printed on an attached sticker. If you don’t see test info on the device
itself, try googling the model number. User instructions are widely
available, and most are free to download.
Smoke alarms usually have a test button, which must be pressed
and held for a few seconds to activate. Some have the button recessed
behind a small hole in the housing, so use an unfolded paper clip to
press the button.
Even after all your efforts, you may decide that your system is beyond reasonable repair. If this happens, find out what a new system will cost by getting a few Free Home Security Systems Quotesfrom companies in your area.
These quotes can help you decide whether to pull the plug on the old system, install a new system yourself, or step aside and let a professional security company do the work.
There is no obligation to buy, and no credit card information is requested.
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