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My Smoke Detectors Go Off For No Reason, And Then They Won't Turn Off

You might find this to be true - my smoke detectors go off for no reason, and then they won't turn off.

Do you know why?

And worst - DO YOU KNOW IF THEY WORK RIGHT?

What are the reasons?  There are perhaps three.

Reason 1:  They are too old!

There could be couple of problems here.  If the smoke detectors are 10 years old or older they should be replaced immediately.  And, this is important:  they should be replaced with detectors of the same brand and age.  The CPSC and NFPA (National Fire Prevention Association) have done tests and come up with the same conclusions - detectors begin to fail at about 10 years of age.  So why take the risk with older detectors?  The CPSC study can be read here.

If you don't know the age of the detectors in a house it might be prudent to replace them.  If the plastic looks dingy or yellow that is a sure sign of age.

New detectors are cheap!  And it's important to replace them.  They will almost certainly be hardwired and it might require a professional to replace them, but that is worth every penny.

If the home is very old and it would be very expensive to install all new, hardwired smoke detectors, excellent wireless units are on the market.  Look into it!

 

Reason 2:  They are in the wrong place!

The placement of smoke detectors is essential!  Don't put them near HVAC registers or returns, or near places with high humidity like bathrooms, or near heat sources like the kitchen or space heater or wood stove or fireplace.  An excellent article on smoke detector placement can be read here.

Hardwired smoke detectors are difficult to move.  So it is important that the builder put them in the right places.  Usually the local jurisdiction authority is checking on that, but it ALWAYS pays to have a home inspector to look at that placement pre-drywall!   He will look!  I always do.

 

Reason 3:  They are not working right!

An older smoke detector can get dusty.  That dust can cause false alarms.  Older detectors can be ionizing detectors.  This is older technology.  You can tell if yours are ionizing if there is an "I" in the model number.  They also contain radioactive material!  They are considered to be less reliable.

Newer smoke detectors, like mine in the photo above, work off of newer, photoelectric technology.  They are considered superior to ionizing detectors. 

The differences between ionizing and photoelectric detectors has been studied by the NFPA.  You can read about their conclusions here.

The photoelectric detectors can sense both smoldering fires and flames.  They react quickly and with fewer false alarms.  They aren't affected by dust.  It is newer technology. 

You might notice that one conclusion in that NFPA study is that it would NOT be imprudent to have BOTH ionizing and photoelectric detectors in your house!

My recommendation:  check your smoke detectors!  Replace if too old!  Replace if you aren't sure of the age!  They are a wonderful invention and essential to home safety!  Treat them right and they will treat you right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 55 commentsJay Markanich • July 18 2015 03:17AM

Comments

Great post- I confess that I believe my smoke detector in the kitchen is badly placed and I curse it (and the contractor who installed it) whenever it goes off to tell me that I have burned something on the stove! LOL - how dare it make noise at me. so clearly - it is working as it should! LOL

I have a rental property aarlnd the tenants have moved out - Just bought 2 new smoke detectors at COSTCO  - $35.00 for 2 10 year batteries - you are right - they are not expensive. Thanks for the nudge to all of us

Posted by Lise Howe, Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC (Keller Williams Capital Properties) about 5 years ago

Lise - in a previous house or ours one detector was in the kitchen (wrong place) and it would go off when we cooked.  We had a magazine nearby to fan it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Good morning Jay,

Thank you for this information.

I will add to the honey do list before she might find and read this.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) about 5 years ago

We have a smoke detector on the opposite side of a wall near the end of the kitchen w/the stove. It goes off everytime the oven is used.  Frustrating, but I know it works.

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty) about 5 years ago

Who is that Raymond?  She who must be obeyed?

A friend of mine is retired navy.  He calls his wife - The Commander.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

See my comment to Lise above, Kat.  It is frustrating!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Hi Jay: This is a very critical matter that should not be taken lightly. Thank you for bringing this out. You will save numerous lives by writing this.

Posted by Maria Gilda Racelis, Home Ownership is w/in Reach. We Make it Happen! (Home Buyers Realty, LLC-Manchester, Bolton. Vernon,Ellington) about 5 years ago

Great explanation, Jay.  Yes, nothing lasts forever.  I will need to look into this soon, too.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) about 5 years ago

In the worng place indeed.  On a low part of a ceiling in a room with a hot, hot fireplace going, that thing wouldn't shut up.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) about 5 years ago

Jay Markanich You have to love it when these babies go off in the middle of the night! Good post!

Posted by Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI, Presence, Persistence & Perseverance (HomeSmart Realty West & Lend Smart Mortgage, Llc.) about 5 years ago

Jay, it pays to get theword outto thosethatdo notpay attention. Thnks! Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) about 5 years ago

Thank you for another topic for next month's newsletter to our spheres 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) about 5 years ago

Having this basic understanding of the smoke detector and it's function can go a long way in taking the mystery out of them Jay.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) about 5 years ago

Good morning Jay,

I also thank you for the great information on smoke detectors..will be sharing in my e-newsletter in August! Replacing our smoke detectors!

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899) about 5 years ago

Good morning Jay. This is terrific and easy to understand. I just replaced a carbon monoxide detector: not worth playing around.

Posted by Sheila Anderson, The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133 (Referral Group Incorporated) about 5 years ago

Excellent advice - thank you! And to think all along I thought noise meant dinner's ready :)

Posted by Wayne and Jean Marie Zuhl, The Last Names You'll Ever Need in Real Estate (Samsel & Associates) about 5 years ago

Jay, awesome, and when installing your new photo electric type alarms make sure you use the 10 year batteries.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 5 years ago

I can't believe a Builder would place a smoke detector in the kitchen, that's just crazy. On the other hand I believe that it happens. In central Florida they must be placed in each bedroom and between a bedroom and the kitchen. Placing one in the ktchen is just ridiculous and even dangerous as it's likely the homeowner with disable it because it's annoying. 

Great post! Reposting.

Posted by Michael McGuffie, Custom Home Building, Additions & Remodeling (Regal Classic Homes) about 5 years ago

I had one that was demon-possessed going on and off during the night and then one day, beeped me into near insanity. When I decided to kill it off by removing the battery, it still beeped! I called the inventor in another state and he walked me through to remedy saying he had a problem with that model. Amazing

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) about 5 years ago

Good morning Jya - Yes, sooner or later we MUST replace those batteries!

Posted by Gay E. Rosen, As Real as Real Estate Gets! (Julia B. Fee Sotheby's International Realty) about 5 years ago

Expect realtors to have the ability trouble shoot....

Posted by Sam Shueh, mba, cdpe, reopro, pe ( (408) 425-1601) about 5 years ago

Able to use clients how to change keyless, NEST threholds, modern high tech alarm....

The instructions should come with the license test(just kidding)...

Sam Shueh

Posted by Sam Shueh, mba, cdpe, reopro, pe ( (408) 425-1601) about 5 years ago

Amazing how folks just assume they last forever. Excellent information here!

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) about 5 years ago

I have the ones in the middle of the picture in my house. The house is only 7 years old so I should have a few more years left on them. I had them all tested and had new batteries put in before we moved in. 

Posted by Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert, Broker/Owner of Zion Realty ZionRealtyAZ.com (Zion Realty) about 5 years ago

I believe the new requirement is a 10 year battery life on the sticker...

 

Sam Shueh

Posted by Sam Shueh, mba, cdpe, reopro, pe ( (408) 425-1601) about 5 years ago

Almost every house I do here has them over 10 years old. I don't think most people pay any attention to them till they start chirping!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 5 years ago

Mine did that once in the middle of the night. Nothing worked to shut it up. Not even shutting the power down.

Posted by Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist, Probate Real Estate (KD Realty - 408.972.1822) about 5 years ago

Thanks Jay. Some terrific information that should be helpful to all of us. We've seen some of those dingy yellow ones and absolutely recommended that they be replaced!

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) about 5 years ago

When my parents built and they finished the hardwood floors after the smoke alarms were in place (covered in plastic, but in place) apparently dust got into them from the floors that caused random middle of the night alarms multiple times (they were only a few weeks old).  But a very thorough vacuuming of them by the contractor it stopped and they have tested fine. 

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) about 5 years ago

Safety always comes first! thanks for these great tips!!

Have a great weekend.

Posted by AndreaBFerreira CRS - SRS - CLHMS, Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County in FL (Keyes Co. ) about 5 years ago

Thanks Maria.  I don't know about saving lives, but if everyone read this I suppose so!

Thanks Debbie.  Check the house!  These detectors are a great invention.

Did you get out the hammer Lenn?  Shotgun?

S&N - that is written into the law.  Local, state and national.

Wayne - this is something to pay close attention to!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Wow S&D!  Hope you found some good info!  And do your spheres include Pluto?  Some great photos coming from there!

They have been around for a while Tom.  And, like most things, they get better and better.

Thanks Dorie, and glad you found something to share!

Those have to be paid attention to also Sheila!  Good for you!

That depends on the noise W&J!  I guess you could put the two together -- "Burned dinner is ready!  Come and get it!"

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

They make those now Charlie?  Oh, wait.  You're right.  (Makes sense to me...)

Michael - the builders do!  The code is very similar nationwide.

Twas old, twas Richie.  And the code requires that they wake you up.  I'm pretty sure of that.

Get up there and do it Gay!  Send a video, please.

Sam - for sure, some things are getting more and more complicated.  And you realtors are supposed to know everything.

Thanks Gary.  And for sure, people do assume that!

 

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Prudent and smart, Nicole.  Test during the day - the family will appreciate that!

Some come with the 10 year battery Sam.

Which means they are woken up Fred!  Ever heard one go off at 2pm?

Kathleen - you didn't do the magic chant?

That is a sure sign they are old Tom.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Tammy - good thing the vacuuming worked!  I have never heard the technique.  Good info!

Thanks Andrea.  To a home inspector safety ranks very important!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Jay Markanich - Another very informative blog.

I encountered a smoke detector that absolutely refused to stop beeping. I would replace the battery and it would stop for an hour or so, then it would beep again. Finally, I got wise to it and vacuum all the little vents and so far it has been behaving. 

Posted by Les & Sarah Oswald, Broker, Realtor and Investor (Realty One Group) about 5 years ago

How timely...I think mine need to be replace and one of my clients I spoke to today has the same issue...Photoelectric is the one to get...thanks, Jay.

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) about 5 years ago

Every year we get calls asking to look at someone's detectors because of this very issue. We've replaced an entire house of detectors many times. It's always best to keep them up to date. Technology changes and newer models are more efficient. This is one of those areas that no one should go cheap on.

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) about 5 years ago

Thank you for the information. I will share it with others.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) about 5 years ago

Great post and very true. Inspectors here are suggesting replacement if the detectors are showing the signs of age.

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max By The Sea) about 5 years ago

Don't tell anyone..but I had one go off at the cabin, hardwired and way up high. Told the electrician I had to call late Friday....Yank that thing out. 

Posted by Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner, Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395 (Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395) about 5 years ago

I had a client last year complain about this...I tild them something is wrong so go by a new one...$25 will buy a decent one.

Posted by William Feela, Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No. (WHISPERING PINES REALTY) about 5 years ago

Good morning Jay.  Great advice as always.  I've seen detectors in some homes that are so discolored they stick out like a shore thumb

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) about 5 years ago

Thanks S&L.  Sounds like you bought yourself some time.  But still, replacement is always a good way to go to be sure they work right.

Ginny - the newer, well-known brand names are all good ones.

Mike - I got the newest Kidde units, and the wiring was so different I had to rewire.  Wasn't hard.  I found out my circuit breakers weren't labeled right by my builder!

Gita - hopefully it will be useful for them.

Bill - it's a safety issue and should be noted.  And good for everyone.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Hopefully he moved it to a lower, more accessible location Karen!

William - newer, brand names are all good ones.

That is a sure sign of age, James.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Jay, this is great information and advice.  As, I've seen to many that just disable their detectors and thus just waiting for a disaster.

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) about 5 years ago

Gabe - I often see where people simply remove one, apparently because it chirped and would not stop.  That compromises some brands, perhaps all, from communicating properly, so the system is itself compromised.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Jay - mine are too old and are hard wired.  I have asked my alarm company to replace the hardwired ones as well as those attached to the alarm.  The new ones also have CO detection as well.

Posted by Grant Schneider, Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes (Performance Development Strategies) about 5 years ago

I once had to get rid of one that would NOT stop that "low battery" beeping. New batteries didn't help. Removing the battery didn't help. I finally put it outdoors, away from the house, so I could sleep that night. 

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) about 5 years ago

They will likely bring them up to date Grant.  Various smoke/CO combo detectors have been recalled.  So beware.

You need a new one there Marte!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Jay Markanich at last smoke inspection, the fire marshall told me that we MUST replace the smoke detectors every 10 years! Is that correct?

Also, the smoke detector law keeps on changing a bit and come up with tougher guidelines. It's the time for home owners to change them when this happens.

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) about 5 years ago

There's no law Praful.  But all the studies indicate that they break at about 10 years of age.  He is emphatic about it because of his job!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Guess what I just added to my To Do list for tonight?

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) about 5 years ago

Watch the Redskin practice?  Watch the Redskin post practice press conference?  Watch the Redskins pretend Robert isn't tier 5?

I don't know - what?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

;> )

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

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