A beeping smoke alarm is probably one of the most annoying things we may ever have to deal with at home. At 2 in the morning, it’s no fun to fool around with a chirping smoke detector!
If you have a smoke detector that's actually going into alarm or falsing for no obvious reason, find out what to do here: Smoke Detector Problems and How to Solve Them.
If your smoke detectors are quiet, but your keypad is making noise, see one of these pages:
If you have a home security system, you may have low-voltage hardwired smoke detectors tied to it. 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.
Check to see if the alarm system keypads are beeping and/or showing fire trouble. Reset or silence the beeping using keypad commands, if possible (Check your alarm owner's manual). Notify your alarm company if the system shows any fire trouble condition. They can talk you through steps to diagnose exactly what the problem is.
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 alarm system.
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.
When you locate the offending unit, remove it from its base plate by twisting it counter-clockwise.
If there are no wires, the unit is a battery operated smoke alarm. Replace the battery, then test the smoke alarm following the instructions below.
If there are wires, unplug the 110-volt wiring connector from the back of the detector.
If the unit has a back-up battery, remove it. Press and hold the "Test" button for several seconds or until the unit sounds. Replace the battery, plug in the connector, and re-install the detector. Test the unit as described below.
If you have more than one electric smoke alarm beeping, you likely have an electrical problem with the house wiring, not a bad detector. 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. Call an electrician and have the wiring and connections checked out.
If you discover that the problem is a bad 110-volt detector, and you're fairly handy, you may want to change it out yourself. See this page for help replacing electric smoke detectors.
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.
After replacing the battery in a beeping smoke alarm, always test the
unit. Smoke alarms usually have a test button, which must be pressed
and held for several 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.
If pressing the "test" button doesn't make the unit sound, look for 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.
If you can't get the detector to test correctly by any of the above methods, replace the unit.
For details on cleaning and testing smoke detectors, see System Sensor Smoke Detectors, Cleaning and Testing.
For ways to avoid smoke detector problems before they happen, see Preventing Smoke Alarm Problems.
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