Everything you should know about smoke alarms and how to stop false beeps

by | Jun 27, 2024

Smoke alarms are crucial for home safety, alerting you to potential fire hazards with a loud, piercing sound. But it can be incredibly frustrating when a smoke alarm doesn’t stop beeping or chirping.

Common causes for these noises include low batteries, dust buildup, or other issues. Knowing how to troubleshoot your smoke alarm is key to maintaining fire safety in your home. After all, you don’t want to ignore a real danger because of constant false alarms!

The importance of smoke alarms in home safety

Smoke alarms, or smoke detectors, are essential for keeping your home safe. They detect smoke and alert you to potential fire hazards, giving you precious time to react. You can choose between battery-operated alarms and hardwired smoke alarms.

In Australia, most states and territories mandate at least one hardwired, mains-powered smoke alarm in homes. These alarms come with a built-in, non-removable lithium battery backup that lasts around 10 years, ensuring they work even during power outages. This backup feature provides an extra layer of safety, making hardwired alarms a reliable choice for protecting your home and loved ones.

Types of smoke detection technologies

Smoke alarms usually use one of two main types of smoke detection technologies:

  1. Ionisation: Ionisation smoke alarms are more responsive to flaming fires, making them ideal for detecting fast-moving, high-heat fires.
  1. Photoelectric: Photoelectric alarms excel at detecting smouldering fires, which produce more smoke but less heat.

🔎Bell Electrical insight: Some modern hardwired smoke alarms combine ionisation and photoelectric technologies, offering comprehensive fire detection capabilities to keep your home even safer.

How to take care of your smoke alarms

Whether you own your home or are renting, maintaining your smoke alarms is crucial for your safety. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Monthly test: Press the test button until the alarm sounds to ensure it works.
  1. Annual battery replacement: Replace the battery every year, or sooner if it emits a warning sound (a high-pitched beep every 30 seconds).

💡Bell Electrical tip: If your smoke alarm has a long-life or lithium battery, you won’t need to replace it separately. These batteries are designed to last as long as the smoke alarm, typically around 10 years. When it’s time to replace the smoke alarm after this period, be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the specific model.

  1. Timely replacement: Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for replacing the smoke alarm. Most units have an expiration date underneath the battery. Generally, smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years.
  1. Regular cleaning: Use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust buildup regularly, as dust can affect the sensitivity and performance of the smoke alarm.
smoke alarm maintenance
smoke detector or household fire alarm at home

Where should I get my smoke alarms installed?

Installing smoke alarms properly is crucial for early fire detection and your safety. Here’s what the Australian Country Fire Authority (CFA) recommends:

  1. Placement near bedrooms and living areas: Install smoke alarms in or near each bedroom and living area. This ensures that they are in a position to wake residents up in the event of a fire.
  1. Interconnection for enhanced safety: Interconnect all smoke alarms in the residence so that if one alarm detects smoke, all alarms sound simultaneously. This ensures everyone in the home is alerted promptly.
  1. Ceiling installation: When installing on ceilings, place smoke alarms in the centre of the ceiling and at least 30cm away from any cornice or wall.
  1. Wall installation: If installing on walls, position smoke alarms between 30 to 50cm from the ceiling.

How many smoke alarms do I need?

Safety can’t be quantified. When it comes to smoke detectors, the more the better. In Victoria, it is required to have at least 1 detector per storey of a residence.

Where not to install smoke alarms

While every room can use a smoke alarm, some areas are more likely to cause false alarms:

  1. Kitchen: Always place smoke alarms at least 3 metres away from cooking appliances like toasters and ovens. These appliances are more likely to trigger false alarms.
  1. Bathrooms: Steam from hot showers can sometimes be mistaken for smoke. If you have a very steamy bathroom, consider installing the smoke alarm a few metres away to prevent false alarms.

Why your smoke alarm might be beeping falsely

  1. Low battery: A low battery is a frequent cause of beeping. When the battery is low, the smoke alarm emits a chirping noise, signalling the need for a replacement.
  1. Defective battery: Old or faulty batteries can cause constant beeping. Replace the battery backups to stop the noise.
  1. Power disturbances: In hardwired smoke detectors, a power outage can cause beeping as the alarm switches to backup battery power.
  1. Excess humidity: High humidity can trigger false alarms and chirping. Ensure proper ventilation and avoid placing smoke alarms near humid areas like bathrooms.
  1. End-of-life warning: Smoke alarms typically last about 10 years. When they reach the end of their lifespan, they emit a distinct beep indicating replacement is needed.
  1. Dust: Dust accumulation can interfere with the alarm’s function, leading to false alarms or beeping. Regular cleaning helps prevent this.
  1. Steam and moisture: Steam from hot showers or high humidity can cause false alarms and chirping. Avoid placing alarms near sources of steam.

How to prevent unnecessary smoke detector alarms

  1. Identify the beeping source

Start by determining if the beeping is from a single smoke alarm or an interconnected system. Locate the specific alarm that initiated the alert.

  1. Replace the batteries

Access the battery compartment of the beeping smoke alarm and replace the batteries with compatible ones. For interconnected systems, replace batteries in all alarms to prevent further issues.

  1. Clean your smoke alarm

Dust and debris can cause false alarms. Disconnect the alarm from power and clean both the exterior and interior, including the sensing chamber, to reduce this risk.

  1. Check environmental factors

High humidity or steam can trigger false alarms—place smoke alarms away from bathroom doors and sources of steam or heat.

  1. Get professional help

If the smoke alarm continues to beep after battery replacement and cleaning, it may have a malfunction or faulty wiring. Contact a licensed Bayside electrician like Bell Electrical for diagnosis and potential replacement of the smoke alarm.

Contact us for all things electricity

Looking for a trusted electrician in Melbourne? Bell Electrical Contractors is here for you! Whether you need smoke alarms installed, replaced, or repaired, we’ve got you covered. Just give us a call at 0411 471 922 or click the button below. Our friendly technicians are ready to help you with your needs.

Need Help?

Do you need to have your electrical systems done? Bell Electrical Contractors is happy to help. Call us on 0411471922 or email us at info@bellelectrical.com.au.