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How to test smoke alarms in your home

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Did you know that there are around 37,000 house fires in the UK every year? Despite best efforts from the fire and rescue service, some lead to fatalities, with figures showing house fires are claiming the lives of at least 200 people a year.

Having a smoke alarm installed in your property is one of the best ways to keep you and your family safe. It will give you advanced warning of a fire and more time to react. When escaping a fire every second counts, so your smoke alarm must remain in good working condition.

According to First Alert’s statistics from 2018, 39% of battery operated smoke alarms did not sound during a fire. Why? Because the batteries were either missing, flat or had been disconnected.

No one wants to put their loved ones at risk because they forgot to test the smoke alarm. This is your reminder to do it now.

Below you’ll find a complete guide to testing your smoke alarm and how to change its batteries. Smoke alarm beeping without battery? Don’t panic, we’ve got hard-wired detectors covered too. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started…

How to test your smoke alarm

Wondering how to test smoke alarm batteries? It’s very simple. All you need to do is locate the button labelled ‘test’ on your detector. Push it in and hold. If the smoke detector is working, the alarm will sound, along with any other smoke detectors in your property that are linked to it.

How often should smoke alarms be tested?

Most smoke alarm manufacturers will have different recommendations on how often a smoke alarm should be tested. As a general guide and to be on the safe side, we recommend that you aim to test it weekly.

If you’re likely to forget to check your smoke alarm, you may want to suggest setting up a reminder on your phone. This could be an alarm that goes off every week at a time you’re guaranteed to be at home, so you know it’s time to test your smoke detector.

Some people, like the elderly, or those with mobility issues, may struggle to test their smoke alarms. If you know someone who needs help, offer to go round and test it for them as often as you can.

How to change smoke alarm battery

Nowadays, most smoke alarms will alert you if the battery needs changing. It’ll sound like a little chirping noise and it’ll just keep going until you do it.

Having said this, you don’t need to wait for the smoke alarm to remind you. It’s best to make sure that you change the battery at least once a year (unless you have one of the more expensive ten-year alarms fitted.)

Some people prefer to change their smoke alarm batteries twice a year – just to be on the safe side. A good time to do it is when we set our clocks forward for daylight savings time and then back to standard time. These two events serve as a great reminder.

Most smoke alarm units have a lifespan of around 10 years. You’ll need to buy new ones ahead of time to ensure your continued safety.

5 easy steps to change smoke alarm battery

  1. Remove the smoke alarm cover (it should unclip from the base with a slight twisting motion)
  2. Take out the old battery from its holder
  3. Replace with a new battery (check manufacturer’s instructions to make sure you install a battery of the right voltage)
  4. Put the cover back on
  5. Press the ‘Test’ button to check the new batteries are working (the alarm will sound)

Never take out the batteries of your smoke alarm, without immediately replacing them with new ones. You could forget to put new batteries in and will potentially be putting yourself and those living in your household at risk.

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Why is my fire alarm beeping?

If the alarm on your smoke detector sounds, the first thing to do is identify if there’s a fire in your property. In the event of a fire, make sure everyone is safely evacuated and dial 999.

Your smoke detector will sound the alarm if it has sensed combustible products in the air. It will be a loud, continuous alarm that will continue to sound until the air has cleared.

Here are some other reasons your fire alarm is beeping:

Loose / poorly installed battery - If you are 100% certain it's a false alarm, your smoke alarm may be sounding because the battery is loose or hasn’t been installed correctly. Follow our guide above on how to change smoke alarm battery.

Needs cleaning - A smoke detector beeping may also be down to dirt or dust. Clean your detector every month using the soft brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner. This will remove any dust, dirt or insects that could be clogging up the sensors.

Humidity and steam – Environmental factors like humidity and steam may result in a false alarm.

End of life – As we mentioned before, fire alarms only last so long. If your fire alarm keeps going off, it could be wearing out. You will need to replace the entire unit.

The battery needs changing - If you can hear a constant chirping sound coming from your smoke alarm (rather than the fire alarm noise), it’s almost certain that the batteries need replacing. Follow the steps above in the section titled ‘how to change smoke alarm battery.’

Hard wired smoke alarm beeping

Today, some properties have mains powered smoke alarms. They tend to be more expensive but have the benefit of not requiring regular battery changes.

Having said this, even if your smoke detector is hardwired, it will still have a backup battery in case of a power cut.

If it’s beeping continuously, the backup battery likely needs replacing. You should be aiming to replace the backup battery every 6 months to 1 year. The method of doing so will depend on the model of your wired smoke alarm, so it’s best to consult the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you’ve tried changing the backup battery and it’s still beeping, give your detector a clean with the brush on your vacuum.

You may also need to do a quick reset. To do this: press the reset button on the smoke detector, hold it for 15-20 and then release. Listen to see if the chirping continues. If you’re still having problems, it may be best to get in touch with a qualified electrician.

How to stop my fire alarm from beeping

Just to-recap if your fire alarm is beeping and there isn’t a fire in your property, you will need to:

  1. Change the batteries
  2. Clean your fire alarm
  3. Replace the unit (if older than 10 years)
  4. Re-set the alarm if it’s hardwired

Always test your battery-operated or hardwired smoke alarm after carrying out any of the tasks listed above to make sure it is still working properly.

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