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How to Test a Smoke Detector Properly

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A reliable smoke alarm is an important tool in home security. Smoke detectors can fail, though, such as with a dead battery. Dead batteries are responsible for more than a quarter of smoke detector failures in North America. That’s purely from people not replacing the smoke detector battery regularly.

Your smoke detector can alert you to fire and dangerous smoke before you’re aware there’s danger. They save lives. With a fire that occurs in another room where you are not or a fire that starts overnight while you are sleeping, you won’t know there’s a problem until the fire’s spread significantly.

Smoke detectors will alert you and give you the time to evacuate. Periodic testing is required to ensure all smoke alarms are functioning properly. You need to keep your alarm in working condition.

Here is how to test a smoke detector properly:

Where to place smoke detectors

The rule is generally to place smoke detector on each level of the home, including the basement, and install a smoke detector in every sleep quarter. If there’s a cluster of bedrooms, having a smoke detector just outside the doors in the main hallway is a common location.

If you do not have any smoke alarms in these locations, they are affordable to buy, and battery-powered smoke detectors can be installed with ease. If you are somewhere, you can’t hear a smoke alarm. That’s also somewhere to put a smoke detector.

How often should smoke detectors be tested?

Smoke detectors should be tested once a month. The batteries in smoke detectors should be replaced 1-2 times a year. You can mark it on your calendar or opt to test your smoke alarm the same day you change your clocks for daylight saving time.

You should also test your smoke detector if it’s been giving false alarms, if the smoke detector’s been beeping regularly without anyone touching it, or if kitchen cooking or smoke from the kitchen is causing the alarm to go off regularly.

How long do smoke detectors last?

In addition to replacing the smoke detector batteries, replacing the smoke detector is also important. They are very inexpensive, and replacements are easy to find. The lifespan of a smoke alarm is ten years.

Even if it’s still performing well after a decade in the home, to avoid any malfunctioning, replace your smoke detector. You may want to consult the smoke detector manual for further information on when to replace your alarm.

Types of smoke detectors

There are two types of smoke detectors. Battery-powered alarms are susceptible to worn-out batteries. You will want to test the smoke detectors once a month for these. Always put in a brand new battery when replacing the batteries. Do not use pre-used batteries.

Any hardwired smoke detector is a little different. Your home’s electrical system powers it but still carries backup batteries to keep it operational during a power outage. A hardwired alarm should also be checked monthly to ensure they are still functioning properly.

How to test smoke detectors

Before you test a smoke detector, let everyone in the house know what you’re doing. A lot of smoke detectors have high-pitched alarms. If you have cats or dogs, you may want to put them in a room somewhere. The alarm might also frighten small children. You don’t want to scare anyone so let them know you’ll be setting off the smoke detector.

Ideally, you can station a family member in an area of your home away from the alarm to make sure it can still be heard. In areas where the sound is weak or muffled, this may be a call for installing another smoke detector in that location.

Press and hold the test button to set off and test a smoke detector. After a second or two, an ear-piercing siren will sound. If the sound isn’t very loud or doesn’t produce a sound, replace the batteries and try again.

How often to change smoke detector batteries

Change the batteries in your smoke detector every six month. Maintain this schedule regardless of the result of the smoke detector test. This is for your safety.

When replacing the batteries, always test before walking away. If there’s any dust blocking the grate, remove it with a tissue or duster when testing the smoke alarm.

Do you need smoke detectors?

Yes, you need smoke detectors because they save lives. Almost 60% of all fire-related home deaths are in homes with either no smoke detector or a smoke detector that was no longer working.

A recent study analyzing smoke detector use found that people are more than twice as likely to die in a fire without a working smoke alarm than in a home where there is a working smoke alarm. Testing your smoke alarm is a simple act to take that protects you.

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