Everyone knows the value of a reliable smoke alarm. However, having smoke alarms in your home isn't enough. If you are to have effective fire protection, the smoke alarms must actually work. Adopting the habit of quickly checking your smoke alarm each month will ensure that they are working properly, and changing the batteries in each smoke detector at least once a year will ensure that the batteries remain fresh and strong.
Why Would a Smoke Alarm Stop Working?
Smoke alarms might stop working for one or more of several reasons. It is very possible that they might outlive their usefulness if they have not been replaced in some time, especially if they are more than 10 years old. However, more commonly, these alarms fail to detect smoke and fire because their battery is dead or because the smoke alarm has been disconnected or is missing its batteries. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) warns that about two-thirds of home fire deaths in 2005-2009 resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
Won't My Smoke Alarm Remind Me?
You might wonder why you should not just wait until the smoke alarm's beeping alerts you that the batteries need to be replaced. That's a bad idea for many reasons such as…
- If you are not at home during time from when the beeping alert begins until your smoke alarm batteries go totally dead, you would likely not even know that your alarms are not working. This leaves your family and your home unprotected against fire.
- You might be tempted to just stop the beeping by removing the batteries or disconnecting your smoke alarm, if you don't have replacement smoke alarm batteries ready when the beeping alert occurs. Of course, this dangerously diminishes your protection from a fire until you remember to reconnect the alarm, replace the batteries and get your smoke alarm working again.
Tips About Smoke Alarm Batteries
- Install the correct type of replacement battery as recommended in the manual or label on your smoke alarm, and follow all directions. Avoid using rechargeable batteries in your smoke alarm because manufacturers of smoke alarms advise against them.
- If your smoke alarm is giving you frequent nuisance alarms, then it’s time to replace the entire smoke alarm unit. Don’t be tempted to just disconnect the battery to stop the nuisance alarms
- Almost all smoke alarms batteries should be replaced each year, including those in hard-wired smoke alarms with battery backup. The only exceptions are hard-wired smoke alarms without a battery backup and smoke alarms that have a 10-year battery that cannot be replaced. In the latter case, you would replace the complete smoke alarm every 10 years.
- Remember to change the batteries in your carbon monoxide alarm at the same time that you change your smoke alarm batteries.
- Take the opportunity to clean your smoke alarm at the time that you change the batteries each year.
- More About Home Smoke Alarms from the NFPA (Video)
- Smoke Alarms: Installation and Maintenance Tips
- Smoke Alarm Types: Ionization vs. Photoelectric