Check Your Smoke Detectors

by April Reinhardt
(last updated October 19, 2012)

Easy to install and check, and quite inexpensive, smoke detectors save millions of lives each year. Most residential smoke detectors use a single nine-volt battery to power its alarm. If the battery is weak or dead, then the smoke detector will not work. Many smoke detectors sound a quick, loud chirp to indicate that the battery is failing. But what if you are away for a few days' vacation and you aren't home to hear the chirp? What if, by the time you return, the battery inside of your smoke detector is dead? A dead battery will not be able to activate your smoke detector's alarm.

If you have a regular schedule in place to check your smoke detectors, and change its batteries twice yearly, you can avoid the dead battery scenario and, more importantly, you can troubleshoot non-functional smoke detectors. Check your smoke detectors once a month and change their batteries twice yearly. A good habit to form is to test your smoke detectors on the first Saturday of each month, and replace their batteries on New Year's Day in January and on Father's Day in June.

To check your smoke detector, simply press the red test button on its cover. If the alarm sounds, then it is working properly. If your smoke detector does not have a test button, then replace the entire alarm with a newer model.

Some people argue that simply pressing the test button is not an indication that your smoke detector will detect smoke, and they recommend these steps to test a smoke detector:

  1. Using a ladder or step stool to reach the smoke detector, press the test button to determine if the alarm works. If you hear a loud alarm, then it works properly. Now you need to determine if the smoke detector will actually detect smoke.
  2. Light a jar candle and hold it away from the smoke detector.
  3. Gently blow out the candle, and immediately hold the jar a few inches from the smoke detector. The alarm should sound if the smoke detector is working properly.
  4. If the alarm did not sound, replace the batteries, and complete the smoke test again. If the alarm still does not sound, immediately replace the smoke detector.

When performing your monthly smoke detector testing, it's a good idea to dust and vacuum the covers of the units. Never use rechargeable batteries in smoke detectors, as they self-discharge very quickly. Always replace smoke detectors after ten years of use.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

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