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