GREENSBORO, N.C. — It’s happened to all of us: That annoying low-battery chirp that seems to go off only in the middle of the night, or the smoky dinner dish that trips the sensors. We’re talking about those annoying smoke detector false alarms. As Consumer Reports explains, there are some easy ways to keep your alarms connected properly so they only go off when they’re supposed to.
"Always assume there’s a fire when you hear an alarm. When you determine that you’re safe, then you can get to the root cause. Some of the things that will cause an alarm to go off are dying batteries, steam from a shower, dust, or even spiders inside," said Bernie Deitrick, Consumer Reports Tester.
Let’s start the fixes with an easy one: the battery. Replace it every six months. If it’s sealed in the unit, replace the unit every 10 years. That's right, your smoke alarm needs to be replaced.
To reduce other alarm triggers, it helps to understand how detectors work. There are two main types: photoelectric and ionization.
Photoelectric alarms respond to particles in the air created by smoldering fires or steamy showers. They’re less prone to false alarms caused by cooking, so consider them for areas near kitchens.
Ionization alarms, on the other hand, are triggered by the small particles given off by an open flame, so an active kitchen will often produce false alarms. They’re better installed near steamy bathrooms.
For the best protection, Consumer Reports recommends dual sensor alarms, which use both types of technology, or a combination of photoelectric and ionization alarms throughout your home.
Consumer Reports recommends the First Alert 3120B and the Kidde P12010.
Consumer Reports says don’t install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation. And don’t forget about your basement. Place a smoke detector on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs leading to the next level.