As annoying as their beeping can be, and as irritating as you might find the need to replace batteries in your smoke alarms on a regular basis, these devices are among the most important in your home.  When you consider it can save you from losing everything in a household fire, is it really that bad to ensure they are working at all times?

When to Change your Smoke Detector’s Battery

Smoke detectors warn you when their battery is about to stop working. It’s an annoying and intermittent chirp that’s not as loud or constant as the one they sound off when there’s a fire, but it’s certainly loud enough to irritate, and gets more demanding as the battery nears total expiry.

Not all non-alarm based beeps are signalling a tired battery. The very annoying ones which occur briefly at about 3am, may be responding to temperature changes and not a failing battery. You will soon know this when the smoke alarm goes quiet shortly afterwards and doesn’t chirp at any other time of the day.

As most houses have a number of smoke alarms, it could be difficult to determine which one is softly beeping, and annoying to have just finished replacing one set of batteries when another starts indicating its expiry a week later. That’s why it is recommended that house-owners set aside a regular time twice a year to change the whole lot. And never remove the battery without replacing it. It could be just the moment when you need the detector most.

Do all Smoke Detectors have Batteries that Need Replacing?

Not all smoke detectors rely solely on batteries to function. Yet most of them do contain batteries, and most sound the low-battery alarm. This includes those that are wired directly into the electrical system. In this case, the battery serves as a back-up plan in case the power system is downed by fire. Most batteries can be replaced, with the exception of lithium battery smoke detectors which promise a battery lifespan of 10 years, after which the whole unit is discarded and a new one installed.

Changing a smoke detector’s battery

It’s important to determine whether or not your smoke alarm is wired into the electrical system. If it is, be sure to turn off the power to the unit before starting work on replacing the battery.

  1. Remove the cover or body of the smoke alarm by gently prying open the cover or, if it has a removable body attached to a baseplate, twist it slightly to remove it. Inside will be the sensing chamber, a loud horn and the battery. If it’s connected to the electrical system you will also see signs of that connection.
  2. Unclip the old 9V battery and replace it with a new one, making sure to orientate the male and female terminals correctly.
  3. Close the cover or put the body back in place.
  4. Test the detector to make sure everything is in order, by pressing the test button on the detector. If all’s well the detector should beep when the button is pressed.
  5. If it continues to beep after you have replaced the battery, it could be that the unit needs to be reset, as some smoke alarms contain a small processor which stores error codes like the one that causes it to beep because of impending battery failure. Ensure you have turned off the power to the alarm if its linked to the breaker box, then redo the steps above, stopping at the point when you have removed the battery. Then press the test button and hold for about 20 seconds before returning the battery to its position, remounting and closing the smoke alarm, and turning on the power.

Keep suitable 9V batteries on hand at all times in case your smoke alarm stops working, and try to set a pattern of changing all units at the same time twice a year. Perhaps choose the weekends when the clocks are reset for standard time and daylight savings. That way you are unlikely to forget. For further advice on smoke detectors and how they function, or if you need to have a wired smoke detector replaced, call your friendly electrician in Colorado Springs CO.

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