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. ...

MORE FROM APRIL

Cleaning Your Chimney

If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, you should regularly clean your chimney as part of a home fire prevention ...

Discover More

Preventing Common Garage Stains

Prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Prevent stains by making sure that you have a place for everything in your ...

Discover More

Conserving Energy Around the Home

Taking small measures to conserve energy around your home can add up to big savings annually, not to mention the help ...

Discover More

Cordless, Compact, and Powerful! DeWalt's 18-volt drill-driver kit packs a big punch in a small package, with a powerful high-performance motor tucked away inside a compact design. A great addition to the tool chest of any professional or DIYer! Check out DeWalt 18-Volt Drill/Driver Kit today!

More Home Improvement Tips

Troubleshooting Fire Alarms

Fire alarms are a necessary and essential element for a safe home. But what do you do when these vital safety devices ...

Discover More

Removing Asbestos

Asbestos used to be an extremely popular, though ultimately dangerous home insulating material. Removing asbestos has ...

Discover More

Getting Rid of Mold

Mold is a nasty and dirty natural growth that can be found almost anywhere. If you would like to make sure that your home ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured home improvement tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is five less than 7?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured home improvement tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)