Written by: Randy Walker
Your home's smoke detectors are critical pieces of safety equipment. However, a smoke detector is only helpful if it has been placed and maintained properly. Failing to perform proper maintenance on your smoke detectors, alarms and Batteryminder can present a safety hazard to everyone in your home. Keep them in good working order by following these simple tips.
Part of regular alarm and Batteryminder maintenance includes clearing away dust, cobwebs and other debris that collects on the unit's housing. Your smoke detector ought to be cleaned at least monthly, especially if you have forced-air heating and air conditioning. Dust is a particularly big problem with these systems, and it could accumulate enough to coat the sensors, preventing smoke from triggering the alarm if there is a fire. To clean it off, use a soft brush, small vacuum cleaner or canned air. If there is paint or tape on the device, that should also be removed as it can interfere with smoke detection. A greasy patina, which can be caused by cooking, should be cleaned off with isopropyl alcohol or soapy water.
A Word of Caution
If your home is outfitted with a full security and alarm system, both carbon monoxide and smoke detection is likely part of the package. This means that performing a test on the smoke detector could cause the fire department and security company to be falsely alerted. Besides being an embarrassing accident, this may also result in fines. If you're unsure of your security system's features, you should call your provider and find out before performing maintenance. Similarly, if your smoke detector is wired into your house's electrical system, you should make sure to shut off the power to it before you clean or service it.
Most smoke detector manufacturers recommend changing the batteries at least once per year. However, only use alkaline batteries. Rechargeables should never be used in smoke detectors. To remove the old battery, locate the compartment on the unit and carefully remove the battery from its socket. On most models, this compartment is on the back of the unit. When the new battery is in place, make sure the compartment is fully closed. Some units won't operate unless it is. Make sure it works by pressing its test button.
When the alarm chirps periodically, this means that it's time to change the battery again, a task that you should always perform as quickly as possible. Even for hard-wired smoke detectors, changing the battery immediately is essential. Although the battery's purpose in this case is for backup, if it gets too weak, it can't alert you to a fire of the power goes out. Furthermore, it's never advisable to simply remove the battery when the chirping sound becomes irritating, especially if you don't intend to replace the battery right away. This can seriously hurt your odds of surviving a house fire.
Like most electronics, smoke detectors eventually stop working as well as they used to. When they wear out, they might fail to sound if your home catches fire, or they might produce a false alarm. For your safety, professionals recommend replacing your smoke detectors every ten years.