In 2019, the US Fire Administration reported almost 3 million fires, with over 3,700 deaths and 16,600 injured. Smoke detectors are a common feature in most homes and buildings. However, injuries and fatalities can still occur due to issues with smoke alarms.
Perhaps the batteries needed replacing, or the occupants did not hear the alarm due to the device’s location. Whatever the case may be, performing maintenance is important to ensure that your smoke and CO detecting units work as intended. Here are a few tips to ensure that your detectors stay in good working condition.
1. Check the manufacturer’s instructions
Most smoke alarms generally fall under one of two categories: ionization types and photoelectric units. The difference lies with what triggers the alarm. Ionization types respond better to flaming fires. On the other hand, photoelectric models are triggered by flameless, smoldering fires.
The manufacturer’s manual can tell you how to make the most of your detector. Manuals often include instructions on how to install the unit correctly. Checking the manual is especially important if you are using multiple fire detectors from different companies as it’s one way to confirm if they are compatible with one another.
It may also be worth checking the cleaning instructions. For instance, some alarms can be cleaned with a mixture of water and soap. On the other hand, some models can only be cleaned using a dry brush or vacuum. If batteries need to be replaced, the manual may indicate what brands and models can be used.
2. Check the alarm’s power source
Fire and smoke alarms can be powered in one out of three ways: using batteries, hardwiring them, or plugging the device into an available outlet. When it comes to batteries, there are two types: replaceable 9-volt batteries or sealed lithium batteries.
Replaceable batteries should be changed at least once every year. Even if you don’t hear the low-power chirp, make it a habit to replace the batteries annually to ensure that it has enough power to run throughout the year.
Hardwired alarms will often have a battery that acts as a backup power source. Much like in battery-powered detectors, the battery in hardwired models should also be replaced yearly.
The batteries don’t need to be replaced in a 10-year smoke alarm. This type of fire alarm is powered by a sealed lithium battery. This type of battery provides the alarm with enough power for the duration of its use. Sealed lithium batteries cannot be removed. As such, you need to replace the entire alarm, not just the battery itself on the 10th year.
3. Test your alarm monthly
Regardless of the type of alarms you own, testing them on a monthly basis is critical to making sure that they are working properly. It is also a great way to prepare your loved ones or the people you live with on what to expect in case it goes off. Most alarms can be tested in the same way although checking the manual is always recommended.
When testing your alarm, keep the following tips in mind:
- Inform the residents of the test. Alarms typically produce a high-pitched sound that may scare kids or stress out some people. Let them know ahead of time so they’ll know what to expect.
- Have someone stand in areas that are furthest from the alarm being tested. This is to ensure that people can hear the alarm wherever they may be inside the space. Consider installing additional alarms in areas where the existing one sounds too weak or muffled.
- Hold the test button for a few seconds. You should hear a sharp sound while the button is pressed. Replace the battery or check the power source if the alarm sounds low or if there is no sound produced at all.
4. Replace your alarm every 10 years
Smoke alarms are designed to work for 10 years, regardless of the type or model. Some models may produce a low chirp or sound to remind you that it needs to be replaced. If your alarm doesn’t come with such a feature, check the date of manufacture and replace your alarm once it reaches the 10th year.
Smoke detectors are typically installed on the ceiling. As they are not within the usual line of sight, it is easy to forget that you have alarms installed inside your home. To avoid a case of out of sight, out of mind, regular maintenance is key to making sure that they continue to function as intended. You may not know when a fire happens, but having a working alarm ensures that you and your loved ones have enough time to escape safely.
Get in touch with our team if you have any questions or need assistance with your smoke detectors. We have licensed electricians in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina who are ready to help fix any issues in your home, office, or industrial property.