Do It Yourself: Common Smoke Detector Problems And How You Can Repair Them

Tips for keep a smoke detector/alarm operational including common problems and easy repairs.

A smoke detector or alarm is one of the most important devises a home and family can have. Safe passage from a fire thanks to a sounding alarm is literally a lifesaver. For a relatively low cost and simple once-a-month maintenance, you can ensure a safe escape in the event of a fire. Therefore, it's best to have operating and dependable alarms throughout your house.

Use these tips to keep your alarm in working condition and your conscience at rest:

All smoke alarms have a test button either on the top portion of the alarm or on the side, depress this button once a month to be certain the alarm sounds. Get the family involved by having people in different rooms and be certain they can hear the alarm from where they are. If the alarm is difficult to hear, consider adding another alarm in an area that covers that section of the house.

In addition to the monthly alarm test, perform a smoke test by holding a candle, just blown out, near the sensor (usually an area of the alarm with slates or holes in the plastic). If the unit is too high or inconvenient for a smoke test, use a fan or piece of paper to lift the smoke to the alarm. Alert all household occupants of the test to avoid confusion.

Most fire departments will publish a reminder at daylight savings time, twice a year, to change the battery in your smoke detector. A good plan is to change the battery even if your monthly test is successful. Before changing the batteries, be certain your smoke alarm actually contains them and isn't hard-wired to the electric or security system of your home. Remove the alarm cover and replace the batteries per the manufacturer's instructions.

Replace all smoke alarms that reach ten years of use. If you are not certain of the alarm's age, replace it and guarantee your safety.

Some common problems and repairs follow:

A chirping alarm usually means a battery replacement is necessary. Replace the battery and dust the inside of the alarm. If the alarm is chirping and the unit is hard wired, a connection may be loose. Inspect the connections and tighten; if worn, contact an electrician for repairs.

If the alarm doesn't sound when tested and the battery is fresh, check the alarm for debris and remove or dust the interior and try again. If the alarm still doesn't sound, simply replace the unit.

If the alarm sounds without signs of smoke, it could simply be the location of the unit. Dust, steam or small amounts of smoke can set off the alarm. Alarms should be twenty feet from ovens and toasters, and ten feet from heaters, furnaces, vents, and bathrooms. If the alarm continues to sound with relocation, a defective alarm is probably the cause, discard and purchase a new alarm.

A dependable smoke alarm is a great first step; add an escape plan on how to exit the house with a meeting area and review, or even practice, with the family a few times a year.

© High Speed Ventures 2011