Nearly every homeowner has experienced the maddening intermittent chirping of a smoke alarm, too often in the middle of the night. Though it may seem the chirp is just there to annoy you, it’s actually designed to alert you that your smoke alarm needs attention. Here’s how to stop a chirping smoke alarm
That chirp can save your life
The National Fire Protection Agency reports that there was no working smoke alarm present in 60 percent of house fire deaths. That bothersome chirp allows you to make sure your smoke alarm is in good working order so it can protect you.
Know your alarm type
Home alert systems are more sophisticated than the early smoke alarms. Today’s devices alert to smoke, heat and carbon monoxide.
There are three types of alarms.
- Hardwired systems that run on your home’s electric power. These contain a backup, nine-volt battery to keep the alarm working during a power failure.
- Alarms with long-life lithium batteries.
- Alarms that run on a standard nine-volt battery.
When you hear a chirping smoke alarm, it usually means the battery is low on power. In alarms whose power comes solely from a battery, replacing the dead battery is crucial or the alarm won’t work. With hardwired systems, the battery needs replacement so that the alarm will function during a power outage.
It saves time to know in advance what kind of battery your alarms take and stock up. When you hear that chirping smoke alarm, you can quickly replace the batteries.
Replacing the battery
To stop the chirp, carefully mount a ladder to reach the alarm on the ceiling. Turn the alarm counterclockwise to detach it from the mounting plate. If the alarm is hardwired, the power wire clips into a socket on the alarm. Detach it if you want to take the alarm down completely; otherwise, it can hang temporarily while you inspect the battery.
To view the battery, which is tucked inside a tray that slides out of a small compartment, slide the tray out. Replace the battery and close the tray. You must get the tray fully seated in place for the alarm to function properly. Then remount the alarm on the base plate.
Remedies for other issues
Replacing the battery should stop the chirp. If not, after remounting the alarm, push and hold the reset button for 20 seconds. This should clear the chirp.
Pushing the reset button also works if the alarm mistakenly goes off with its regular alarm tone, but there is no smoke or fire. If the system is hardwired and reset doesn’t stop the alarm, turn off power to the alarm system at the electrical circuit breaker box. After about five minutes, turning the power back on should stop the alarm.
Two important warnings
In two cases, an unexplained alarm warrants further attention.
No smoke alarm lasts forever. If yours is more than 10 years old, a false alarm means it’s time for an upgrade.
Second, if your device has a carbon monoxide feature, the alarm may actually be detecting the presence of carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that is colorless and odorless. Having a separate, battery-operated carbon monoxide detector that can independently verify the alarm can confirm whether you have a carbon monoxide leak.
If the carbon monoxide alert is genuine, the source is usually a malfunctioning fuel-burning heater such as a gas furnace. You should shut off the furnace, open windows and doors, go outside the home and immediately call an HVAC professional for assistance.