Smoke detectors, also known as smoke alarms, are often dismissed by homeowners as they blend into the ceilings of our houses and remain mostly silent. But let’s not forget why they are there in the first place. Aberdeen Fire & Rescue Deputy Fire Marshal Max Stoltenberg reminds you that smoke detectors ” warns you of spreading smoke and will help alert you if you’re sleeping or doing your daily duties.”

Make sure your smoke detectors and alarms are working by following the following helpful tips.

Test it Once a Month

Whether you have a monitored home security system or the more common do-it-yourself smoke detectors, they require a quick test once a month to ensure they are protecting your family.  There is no need to take them down. Just use a step ladder to reach the unit while it remains in place on the ceiling or the wall.  Press the test button down for up to 15 seconds.  A person standing in another part of the home should be able to hear the beep.

If it does not emit a clearly audible beep, it may need a new battery or to be replaced.

Hard-wired or Battery Operated?

If you live in an apartment building, you may have hard-wired smoke detectors.  Some large homes with extensive home security systems may have hard-wired units as well. How do you tell the difference?

  • Hard-wired units look very similar to the battery-operated units, but these units cannot be removed from the ceiling.
  • Hard-wired units have a battery for backup purposes in the case of an electrical outage.
  • Hard-wired unit batteries are reached through a panel on the bottom of the unit facing you while still installed.
  • Battery Operated units are easily removed by twisting the whole alarm to unlock it from its mounting tabs.
  • Battery Operated units will work even when removed from their installed position.
  • Battery Operated units have their battery compartment hidden so you have to take it down in order to change the battery.

Battery compartments on either style unit may close with a simple tab that snaps into place or may require that you to use a small screwdriver to remove a tiny screw that holds the battery cover in place.

Buy New Batteries Every Six Months

It is tempting to wait until the smoke detector starts to beep before replacing the battery, but there is no way of knowing if it will keep doing its job until you get to the store for a fresh battery.  Almost every detector on the market runs on 9-volt batteries.

The U.S. Fire Administration recommends that you replace–not just test–the battery on every smoke alarm in your home every six months.

Using Daylight Savings Time as a reminder is a simple way to remember it is time to buy a new batch of batteries. Don’t trust ones that have been hanging out in your junk drawer for an unknown amount of time.

Smoke Alarms Should be Replaced

Finally, your smoke alarms should be wholly replaced every 10 years as they can become clogged with dust and smoke over time. There is no way to open and clean them and are not an expensive investment when you are protecting your home and the lives of your family.

If your smoke alarms are part of your home security system from Protect America, schedule a bi-annual inspection to ensure that your units remain fully functional at all times.