Smoke detectors are a great way to make your home safer. They can help you detect fires early enough by triggering an alarm that warns people to evacuate. If they are hooked up to a power suppression system, they could even quench a fire before it gets going.
Like most disaster mitigation systems, it would be best if your smoke alarms never go off – unless you are testing them.
Sometimes, hard wired smoke alarms can go off for no reason. This can be disorienting and annoying.
Treat Every Fire Alarm Trigger as a Positive
Regardless of whether you’ve been getting negative alarms in the recent past or not, it would help if you always treated every fire alarm as a true positive.
Evacuate the people in the house and confirm that there is no fire anywhere in the house just to be safe.
After ensuring that there is no visible fire or smoke, you can then conclude that it was a false alarm and move on to figuring out why your smoke alarms keep going off for no reason.
Reasons for False Alarms on a Wired Smoke Alarm System
While they might be false alarms, something is triggering your smoke alarms. They don’t go off for no reason at all.
All you have to do is check out potential alternative problems that you might not have considered before. Some of the most common issues might be:
Some Burnt Food in the Kitchen
Forgetting the goose in the oven or burning something slightly while pan frying in the kitchen can cause some harmless smoke.
The smoke could be enough to detect with your eyes or nose. The smoke detector will definitely pick it up, especially if it is a hybrid or photoelectric system that relies on refraction to detect smoke.
Resetting the wired smoke alarm should be sufficient. Remember that in a wired system, one alarm close to the kitchen will catch the smoke and trigger every other alarm in the entire building. To you, it might be a false alarm, but the person in the kitchen will know what is going on.
Steam Gathering Near the Smoke Sensor
Photoelectric smoke detectors can also trigger false positives when there is a lot of steam in the air. Since they look for light refractions and steam can cause a similar effect, there is every reason to expect false positives if things get steamy.
The steam could be from something as innocent as boiling some water in the kitchen or opening the bathroom door after taking a hot shower.
You can avoid such positives by installing the sensor a bit far from the bathroom door or waiting for a minute or so until the bathroom exhaust fan draws out all the steam before opening the door.
Dust and Dirt on the Smoke Detector’s Sensors
Excess dust and dirt accumulating on the smoke detectors of your smoke alarm could trigger false positives.
The blocked sensor could translate the blockage into intense smoke from a smoldering fire, triggering the alarm.
Cleaning your sensor often should get rid of such problems. Your smoke sensors will be clean and look fantastic, too, adding to your home’s aesthetics.
A Low Battery Chirp
Apart from the loud, hard-to-miss blare of a potential fire alarm, most units also emit occasional chirps for error reporting.
Do not confuse these gentle chirps or beeps with a real fire alarm. Instead, consult your user manual to determine what the frequency and beep count means.
The low battery chirp is the most common, even in wired units. Wired smoke detectors still have a battery backup to ensure they remain online even during a power blackout.
Replace the batteries as soon as possible as the smoke detector will keep beeping until you do or find a workaround. Regardless of how many workarounds you might see online, replacing the batteries is the safest and easiest way to eliminate the low battery chirp.
Improper Installation Warning Chirps
If you got your system wired up recently and are getting constant chirps every five or so seconds regardless of having new batteries in the sensors, chances are your interconnect wire is installed wrong.
An interconnect wire lets different wired smoke sensors share detection and alert people far away from the fire. All smoke sensors in the system will go off if one detects smoke.
If the interconnect wire is erroneously installed, for instance, connected to the ground, the sensors will keep chirping until you fix the problem.
The same chirp can also be triggered if you daisy chain different model devices that are not compatible. Stay safe by sticking with the same model and manufacturer of smoke detectors when wiring your house.
It is Time to Change Your Smoke Detectors
Even though smoke detectors don’t necessarily expire, there’s a unanimous consensus that you should replace your sensors with newer and better ones every ten years.
There will be so many technological advancements in a decade that could make your old system not as safe as you think.
This could translate into multiple false positives or failure to detect a fire when it should have. Here are some reasons you should consider replacements.
Older Gadgets Might Be More Prone to Failure
Electronics and sensors also grow old. While silicon chips can live for decades under the right conditions, you wouldn’t want to let old and potentially failing sensors handle something as crucial as sensing a fire in your house.
Servicing and maintaining existing units for around ten years before replacing them sounds like an excellent tradeoff for your family’s safety, regardless of what other people say.
Old School Detectors Don’t Have the Latest Fire Detection Techniques.
Upgrading your sensors lets you tap into the latest fire detection sensors and algorithms. For instance, you could get a connected system that incorporates smoke, temperature, and ionization to detect fires accurately.
In the very simplest, NFPA recommends a dual fire alarm system that uses photoelectric sensors and ionization detectors.
- Ionizing fire detectors are old-school smoke detectors that are great at catching high flame fires. They do not fare on so well with slow smoldering fires with small flames and a lot of smoke. Even though such fires might not burn everything up, you will still suffocate from the smoke
- Photoelectric smoke detectors are great at identifying smoke since they use light refraction to identify particles in the air. However, they are easily fooled by dust, dirt, and steam.
Dual system smoke alarms have both units built in. The system will be triggered when one or both sensors detect fire-like scenarios.
Modern Smart Detectors Might Be Easier to Manage
Finding out what different beeps mean in a traditional smoke alarm can be challenging. How about a modern unit that also pushes error codes to an app in your smartphone.
Check this too: Ecobee Thermostat How to & Troubleshooting Guide
Smart smoke detectors will also let you disable or reset them from your phone. You will also get an alert if they’re triggered when you are not at home or can be part of a smart home that automatically fires mitigation measures after using other sensors to confirm that it is a positive fire alert.
ProTip: Modern smoke sensors in a smart home setting can be wired to use other smart home sensors to increase fire detection accuracy.