Smoke Alarm on Yellow Background

What is a smoke alarm?

When it comes to smoke alarms, there is a common misconception. A smoke alarm is an all-in-one device that will sound an alarm when it detects smoke. They are different from the smoke detectors connected to fire alarm systems. You can find smoke alarms in residential homes or apartments. They are also found in sleeping quarters in hotels and other camp-style accommodations.

Smoke alarms encompass different technologies to detect smoke, which are covered here. They sometimes come as combination units that can detect carbon monoxide within the same device. Many of these devices are battery-powered, while others are connected to the 120V supply of the building. If the smoke alarm is a 120V connected device, they can often interface with other alarms to sound throughout the home.

How to maintain a smoke alarm

Smoke alarms, like any piece of technology, should be appropriately maintained. With the proper maintenance, smoke alarms can save lives. The maintenance of these alarms is quite similar, no matter the detection technology or power method. Testing should be completed at least monthly by following these steps:

Smoke Alarm Test Button
  • Press the button on your alarm and keep it pressed down. The alarm should sound. If interconnected, the other alarms should sound as well.
  • If your alarm has no button, it is outdated and must be replaced.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on testing and maintaining your alarm.
  • Check the expiration date on the side or back of the device. If there isn’t one, replace it.

If the alarm fails to sound or the alarm is past its expiration date, we recommend it be immediately replaced. We also recommend that you blow any dust that may be present within the casing out of the unit every year. This will minimize false alarms and maximize its detection potential.

Regular false alarms can be a detriment to these life-saving technologies, as they desensitize the occupants of the sound. With the alarm regularly sounding, people will automatically assume it a false alarm, which may cost them their life. When replacing a line-voltage or 120V unit, please ensure to hire qualified personnel, such as Nexus Fire & Safety to make sure the device is replaced properly and safely. When replacing interconnected devices, it is important to replace all units with the same make and model, to make sure the interconnection continues to work.

Why is my alarm beeping/chirping?

Smoke alarms are built with fail-safes to provide a warning if something is malfunctioning. For battery-powered or battery-backup devices, the unit will start chirping if the battery is low or missing. For line-voltage or 120V powered, the units will often chirp if line voltage is lost during a power outage. This is used to indicate that the unit is on its battery backup and may power off if power is not restored to it.

All detectors have an expiry date, which is usually 10 years, but as short as 5 years for some brands and types. Many of these detectors will start beeping in regular intervals, once every minute or something of the sort. If there is no expiry date or if the data has passed, we recommend the smoke alarm be replaced immediately.

A beeping or chirping alarm is not just an annoyance, but it is trying to tell you that something is wrong. We recommend immediate action be taken as it is a life-safety device and should be maintained to the highest possible standard. If in doubt as to what the beeping is indicating, consult the manufacturer’s manual, which should be available on their website.

Nexus Fire & Safety carries a large stock of smoke alarms and is ready to assist with replacing any outdated units that you may have. We have electricians on staff that are more than qualified to assist with any new installations or replacements of the devices. Additionally, we can provide design assistance for placement and answer any general fire safety questions you may have.