6 Tips to Stop Your Fire Alarm's Unnecessary Alerts


If you’re a “Friends” fan, you likely remember The One Where a malfunctioning smoke detector kept Phoebe up all night. After removing the battery and even smashing the device with her shoe, she finally gives up and calls the fire department. This made for a funny episode of television, but it’s much less comical in real life when your fire alarm randomly starts going off for no reason. Here’s how to stop your fire alarm from beeping or chirping when there’s no smoke or fire.

Common smoke detector issues

Smoke detectors and fire alarms go a long way toward protecting your home, but they, like any other mechanical device, can occasionally glitch. Why would a smoke alarm go off without any smoke? Built-up dust, bugs, high humidity, or even water leaks can set off a fire alarm. Even lighting your fireplace or simply taking a hot, steamy shower can set off your smoke detector.

Random beeps and chirps from your smoke detector also may indicate drained batteries, operational malfunction, or it may be a sign your alarm needs replacing. Many times, that blaring siren is a false alarm. Before you dismiss your smoke detector’s beeping, however, check your home thoroughly to ensure you can’t see any smoke — or that you didn’t forget the garlic bread in the oven. If you do suspect a fire somewhere in your home, evacuate to a safe place, and call 911.

Other causes of smoke detector beeping

Once you’ve confirmed your home is safe and free of fire or smoke, here are a few other things to check in or around your smoke detector before you reset or replace the device:

  • Look for bugs. Spiders, beetles, or other insects maneuvering inside or around your detector can set off the alarm. Remove the device’s cover, and have a flyswatter ready. Keep bugs at bay by applying insect spray around, but not on, your smoke detector, or schedule a visit from pest control.

  • Clean your device regularly. If your fire alarm goes off for no reason and the issue isn’t bugs, it may be bunnies — dust bunnies. When you’re routinely cleaning your home, remove the detector’s cover and clean the inside. Then make sure to reconnect any components, and replace the cover.

  • Check the batteries and connection. No bugs or bunnies? Inspect the wired connection of your fire alarm, or replace the device batteries.

  • Consider your alarm’s placement. Relocating the device may help, especially if your detector is installed in an area that consistently produces smoke or steam, such as the bathroom or kitchen. A smoke detector in the kitchen is essential. Just ensure it's a safe distance away from your stovetop, oven, or microwave, so you don’t experience false alarms when cooking. However, don’t position the fire alarm so far away that it can’t detect an actual fire or the presence of smoke.

  • Monitor humidity. Use a fan or open a window to clear out steam or humidity that may affect your smoke detector. Bathroom overhead fans or a kitchen hood fan should do the trick. If those actions don’t help, make sure you don’t have any leaks that could trap water and create humidity.

  • Upgrade your device. Smoke detectors have a life expectancy of around 10 years. If your longtime device continues to malfunction, it may be time for a replacement.

What to know about hardwired vs. battery smoke alarms

When you’re moving into a new home, should you opt for hardwired smoke alarms or battery-powered versions? Battery-operated smoke detectors are easier to install than their hardwired counterparts, and they only require periodic battery changes. Just keep in mind that when batteries start to run low, so can a smoke detector’s accurate response. This option is excellent for renters or in areas of the home lacking electrical boxes. Hardwired alarms connect to your home’s power source and include a battery backup in the event of a power outage. Consider having professional installation and maintenance on your hardwired smoke detectors.

No matter which type of smoke detectors you have in your home, you can still connect them to a Brinks Home™ FireFighter device that monitors all smoke alarms within your home, detects when they sound, and sends a wireless signal to your home’s control panel, contacting the central monitoring station and affording you the peace of mind that your home is protected at all times.

Get professional monitoring

A comprehensive home security system with professional home installation and 24/7 home monitoring helps ensure both real fire alarms — and false ones, too — get resolved quickly. Visit the Brinks Home Blog to learn more about keeping your home and family protected.

Jason Stevens is a senior writer for Brinks Home. He is a "tech guy" who enjoys sharing home security and automation tips with others.

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