Basic Smoke Detector Care

Did you know? Smoke detectors are the single most important safety feature in preventing residential fire fatalities. 

Like all electronic devices, occasional maintenance is required to keep them performing at optimum levels.  Now is the time to perform basic maintenance to avoid that middle of night accidental activation.  Remember, that initial burst of dust from your recently activated heater can be read as smoke by your detector.  Here are a few simple steps you can take:

  1. If your system is monitored by an alarm company, notify them that you will be testing your system.
  2. Go ahead and run your heater for a few minutes to allow the dust to blow out of the duct work
  3. Remove each detector and replace the 9v battery.  Most detectors are easily removed by applying direct pressure and rotating ¼ turn counter-clockwise. Using compressed air, (cans of keyboard cleaner work great), blow around the circumference of your detector for a few seconds.   Re-install the detector back into position.
  4. Change the return air filters in your HVAC unit. This will prevent the same dust and dander from blowing back into your home.

Once you have taken these simple steps, your detectors are ready for another year of constant protection.  Here a few facts you should be aware of:

  • Intermittent chirping (every 10 seconds or so) is an indicator that you have a low battery in one of your detectors.  Find the detector with the unique indicator light (flashing, turned red, etc...) and that is usually the culprit. Remember if one battery is dying, the others are close behind!
  • If your system is hardwired into your home, an activation of one detector will result in ALL the detectors activating.  This is not a problem with your system. In fact, this is how they are designed so that a fire in one side of the home will wake all residents.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends these three easy steps to ensure your detectors will provide you and your family the ultimate protection:

  1. Test the alarm monthly. Depress the test button on the detector until it activates.  After a few seconds, the detector will stop squealing.  If the detector does not activate, remove the detector and have it checked or replaced.
  2. Replace the batteries at least once a year.  Remember, even hardwired detectors have internal 9v batteries for emergency power backup. A good rule of thumb is to change batteries on a date you will remember.  By changing your batteries on your schedule, you will avoid dealing with a chirping detector at 3 am in the morning!
  3. Replace the entire unit every 8-10 years.
While most homeowners will find these steps easy to follow, if you do find yourself in need of assistance with your smoke detector, Gilbert Fire and Rescue, through the participation of our community volunteers, are available to assist you.  Please call 480-503-6300 to schedule assistance.