If you’ve ever forgotten to change a smoke detector battery, this tip will be life-changing, and possibly lifesaving.
A working smoke detector cuts your risk of dying in a house fire in half. Most homeowners know you should change a smoke detector battery twice a year when you change the clocks for Daylight Saving Time. But what if I told you that you didn’t have to change a smoke detector battery ever again?
I didn’t believe it either, until a firefighter told me how I could skip changing out the batteries while still keeping my family safe.
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I should start with the back story.
We have a vaulted ceiling in our guest bedroom. The smoke detector is mounted near the ceiling, as it should be for safety and maximum effectiveness. But that makes it out of reach of our ladders and a huge chore to change the smoke detector battery.
While an electrician was hanging a chandelier in the guest bedroom, I asked him to him to replace the smoke detector backup battery backup.
And all was well… until the chirping started at 2 a.m.
After stumbling around in the dark — because these things never happen when you’re awake — we figured out the chirping was coming from the guest bedroom. My husband managed to hit the reset button with a broom, so we were able to go back to sleep.
How to Make a Smoke Detector Stop Chirping
Here are some steps you can take to reset your smoke detector if it starts chirping.
- Change the battery or batteries. Make sure you install brand new batteries and press the test button on your smoke detector after doing so.
- Make sure the battery is installed correctly and all connections are secure.
- Make sure the battery door is completely closed.
- Dust the unit and its sensors.
- Confirm that humidity, steam, dust or condensation aren’t causing the smoke detector to chirp.
- Extreme temperatures, below 40 degrees Farenheit or above 95 degrees Farenheit could also cause a smoke detector to chirp.
- If chirping persists, turn off the household power to the smoke dector and reset the breaker.
- Check that any wiring is secure.
If these steps don’t make the chirping stop, you should probably replace the smoke detector, even if it’s newer than 10 years old.
In our case, the electrician’s fix was short-lived. The chirping started up again again the next day.
So, I called the fire department.
How to Get Your Smoke Detectors Inspected
Here’s something else you may not know: Your local fire department will probably come out to your house to inspect your smoke detectors.
Some will even change the batteries or replace faulty smoke detectors for you, at no additional charge. Just call the NON-EMERGENCY number for your fire department and see if they’ll come.
Ours rolled into the neighborhood in their ladder truck and with three firefighters on board.
My son and his neighborhood pals had fun checking out the truck.
Once they hauled a huge ladder upstairs, the firefighters discovered that the battery door on our smoke detector wasn’t completely closed. That’s why it was chirping.
Different Types of Smoke Detector Batteries
In most residential settings, smoke detectors are hardwired into the home’s electrical system. The detectors also have battery backups in case of power failures or other malfuctions.
Always make sure the smoke detectors in your home have new, working batteries in them, even if they are hardwired. Those batteries could save your life in a fire.
- For years, most smoke detectors used 9-volt batteries as their backup power source.
- Now, you can find smoke detectors that use AA batteries for their backup or to operate.
- These 9-volt and AA batteries should be changed twice a year.
- You can now also buy smoke detectors and fire alarms with sealed 10-year, built-in lithium batteries.
The local fire department offered to change out the battery on our chirping detector, just to be safe. But one of the firefighters recommended we switch out the old smoke detector to ensure our family’s fire safety.
And here’s the kicker — with these new models, you don’t have to change the batteries ever! They have a 10-year sealed battery that lasts the life of the alarm.
The EPA recommends you change out the smoke detectors in your home every 10 years. Check the manufacturers’ recommendations on your particular model.
So, in my opinion, there’s no reason not to switch to one of the extended battery-life models, especially those mounted in hard-to-reach places.
Smoke Detector Safety
To keep your family protected and your smoke detectors and fire alarms in working condition, the National Fire Protection Association recommends:
- The smoke alarms in your home should be interconnected so when one goes off, they all sound.
- Smoke and fire alarm should be mounted near the ceiling in every bedroom and outside every sleeping area.
- Install smoke on every level of the home, including the basement.
- On levels without bedrooms, install smoke alarms in the family room, living room or den, as well as near staircases leading to upper floors.
2-in-1 and 3-in-1 Fire Alarms
Our local fire department gave us this 2-in-1 Smoke & Fire Alarm from US Electric for our guest bedroom.
We replaced the rest of the smoke detectors in the house with this same type of alarm. (Many new models can integrate with smart home systems.)
What is a 2-in-1 Alarm?
A 2-in-1 alarm detects both smoke and fire.
What is a 3-in-1 Alarm?
A 3-in-1 Alarm detects fire, smoke and carbon monoxide.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Our local firefighters DO NOT RECOMMEND the 3-in-1 models that include a carbon monoxide detector.
Instead, they recommend a separate carbon monoxide detector, since the gas tends to disperse through the air.
Crbon monoxide detectors give the most accurate readings when they’re placed 5 feet from the ground.
If you have gas heat, gas logs or gas appliances in your home, you need carbon monoxide detectors in your home to protect your family from this deadline gas. They’re also a good idea if you have an attached garage.
- Use carbon monoxide detectors in bedrooms, family gathering areas like the living room and in areas where you have gas appliances.
- Place carbon monoxide detectors near attached garages where gas can quickly build up if a car engine is left running.
- To avoid false alarms or issues with functionality, don’t place carbon monoxide detector too close to avoid any fuel-burning appliance, in bathrooms or other humid areas, in direct sunlight or near fans, vents or open windows.
You can buy carbon monoxide detectors that can be hardwired into your home’s electrical system or ones that plug into outlets.
Like smoke detectors, these should be dusted and tested monthly, and you should change any backup batteries twice a year. Carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced every five to seven years.
Fire & Smoke Alarm Safety Tips
Please don’t take risks with your family’s safety. Replace those smoke detector and carbon monoxide detectors and their batteries as recommended.
Here are some other helpful tips I want to pass along from our local fire department:
- Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home, including the basement.
- Install alarms in living room, dens and family rooms, at the top of stairways and at the bottom of stairways leading to a basement.
- Test smoke alarms every month.
- Change batteries in smoke alarms twice a year, unless you have an enclosed system with a 10-year battery.
- Replace smoke detectors and alarms every 10 years, no matter what type of batteries they use.
- Your local fire department may offer free inspection, testing and battery changes. Just call their non-emergency number to inquire.
- You may be able to get a FREE smoke detector and installation form your local fire department.
- Dust and test carbon monoxide detectors monthly.
- Change batteries in carbon monoxide detectors twice a year.
- Replace carbon monoxide detectors every five to seven years, based on the manufacturer’s recommendation.
- Some local fire stations may also offer free carbon monoxide detectors
I should note that I am not a fire safety professional, and you should do you own research and speak with firefighters in your area before following any advice in this post. I just wanted to share our family’s experience. Most importantly, I wanted to remind you that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors aren’t things you can buy once and expect to last a lifetime. They need maintenance and should be replaced regularly to keep your family safe.
Thank you–this info is very helpful. I currently have a chirping detector that woke me and my furkids up at 1:35 a.m. today, a dog who can’t stand the chirps so much that he went through his dog door, broke out of the back fence, and was gone all night (found again this morning and currently the poor soul is stuck in the house with the chirping while I’m at work), and a smoke detector lid that will NOT twist off.
I am going to call the fire department this afternoon, after work, if I still can’t get the lid off, as the detector is in a hard to reach spot, that is treacherously next to a tile staircase. And when I replace all my detectors, I’m simply going to get the kind with the lithium batteries that you recommend, or I’ll get some sort of “smart detectors” that one can shut off the notifications via an app, versus risking life and limb by trying to get up to the ceiling with no knee cartilage and vertigo at 1:41 a.m. Thanks again!
Atta Girl Amy
Edi, so glad you found your sweet doggie. I imagine he was quite frightened by the middle-of-the-night chirping. But good to know that he would get himself outside to safety in the case of a real fire. I hope the fire department is able to help you with your hard-to-reach detector, and good luck with installing a smart detector to avoid those middle-of-the-night chirpy wake-up calls.