It’s hard to ignore the shrill beep of a smoke detector, but you can tackle it with ease
After a long day of work, you’re looking forward to a good night’s sleep. You snuggle under the covers, and then it starts: the high-pitched, intermittent smoke detector beeping that startles you wide awake. After ensuring that there is not actually an emergency taking place, you want to stop the smoke detector from beeping as quickly as possible, so you can return to dreamland.
Our tips will help you learn how to stop a smoke detector from beeping at 2 p.m., at 2 a.m., or any time in between.
1. Always Check for a Home Emergency First
Yes, the beeping can be very annoying. It’s understandable that you will want to stop it as quickly as possible. But take a breath and consider whether you may have a true emergency. If the beeping is fast and steady, this likely indicates an emergency, as does a continuous signal. The beeping of a dead battery or a detector malfunction will be random or will occur every 20 to 40 seconds.
If your detector is beeping, always check for an actual fire or an emergency. If you believe that you may have a fire or a carbon monoxide leak, leave the house immediately and call for help.
2. Replace the Battery
The most common reason for a smoke detector beeping is that its battery is nearly out of power. The drained battery eventually will not be able to deliver the power needed to sound an alert if a fire occurs, and this intermittent beeping is your warning. Replace the battery immediately, but be sure to practice good ladder safety tips if the smoke detector is up on a high ceiling.
It’s important to understand the differences between traditional battery-powered and hard-wired smoke detectors. Both these detectors should last about 10 years, but you may have to replace batteries several times during that period.
Battery-Powered Smoke Detectors
Traditional smoke detectors run on battery power only. They do not connect to the electrical wiring in the home or business. These detectors require 9-volt batteries, so you will want to have a few of these on hand in case of a late-night beeping smoke detector. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends replacing this 9-volt battery at least once a year. It may last longer than 12 months before it begins beeping, however.
Hard-Wired Smoke Detectors
The hard-wired detector connects to the building’s electrical wiring. Some of these detectors have a replaceable backup 9-volt battery installed inside. The detector may beep when the backup battery needs replacing. Other hard-wired detectors have built-in backup batteries that you cannot replace. These batteries should last about 10 years, equal to the lifespan of the detector itself.
3. Check the Battery’s Fit
If you replace the battery when the smoke detector is chirping, but it doesn’t stop the noise, you may have a loose battery or a backward battery. Most modern smoke detectors make it nearly impossible to insert the 9-volt battery incorrectly, but it could happen, especially at 2 a.m. through bleary eyes. Try inserting the battery again. You may want to visit the website for your smoke detector to see specific instructions for replacing a battery if all else fails.
4. Look at the Battery Door
If you do not quite close the battery door or compartment when replacing the battery, the detector may continue beeping. The type of battery compartment will vary from model to model. Inspect the unit closely to ensure that you have completely closed the door. If the compartment isn’t closing easily, you may need to readjust the positioning of the battery.
5. Monitor for Temperature Fluctuations
Some components of the smoke detector may have sensitivity to significant changes in temperature and humidity levels. Such environmental changes could cause the smoke detector to beep.
Try to avoid placing a detector near a shower, in a bathroom, or in an area of an attic or basement where air from the home’s heating and cooling system does not reach.
6. Look at the Hard-Wired Smoke Detector’s Breaker
If a breaker in your electrical panel trips, and you have a hard-wired smoke detector, that may be why you hear beeping. A hard-wired detector connects directly to the electrical wiring in your home.
You can check and flip the breaker yourself, but you may want to hire a trusted local electrician or handyperson to look into it further if the beeping continues. Never try to disconnect the wires in the hard-wired detector on your own to stop a smoke detector from beeping. This is definitely a job for a pro.
7. Verify the Smoke Detector’s Age
A typical smoke detector will last 10 years, including hard-wired models. Some hard-wired detectors will begin to beep at around the 10-year mark, as they contain built-in backup batteries designed to last this long.
You cannot replace the battery in these types of detectors, as the manufacturer seals it into the detector. You will need to call an electrician to replace your hard-wired detector. When certain battery-powered smoke detectors approach 10 years old, replacing the 9-volt battery might not stop the beeping. You then will need to replace the smoke detector. (Understand that the 10-year limit is simply an estimate, and some detectors may fail much earlier.)
8. Reset the Smoke Detector
You will need to reset some smoke detectors after replacing the battery or resetting the electrical breaker. With many detector models, you’ll simply need to press and hold the test button for at least 15 seconds to reset the unit and hopefully stop the smoke detector from constantly beeping. (Some units have a mute button next to the test button, so the detector doesn’t sound its shrill alarm for the entire 15 seconds.)
9. Check Other Safety Devices
If you have other safety devices installed in your home, like a carbon monoxide detector, these devices may beep too. You can use many of the same troubleshooting techniques to quiet them—as long as you can accurately track down the source of the beeping.
10. Consider Calling in a Pro
The beeping of a smoke detector is not always easily fixable. You probably will not want to tackle this problem yourself if you have a hard-wired smoke detector. Or, if you have vaulted ceilings, you may not have a ladder large enough to reach the detector to stop the beeping.
Calling in a professional who has the proper equipment may be better than trying to buy and climb a huge stepladder. Many local handypeople can fix a beeping smoke detector in short order. If you have a subscription to an alarm company, this may be a service the company offers as well.