FAQ: Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detectors
You’re living in your new home, enjoying the lifestyle that comes with participating in a retirement community. Maybe you’ve even spent a whole day playing with your grandkids or neighbors.
Now, it’s the middle of the night, you’re sleeping off the day’s adventures, and your fire alarm just started chirping.
Any chance at a good night’s rest is now gone.
We’ve all been there. Maybe you can just replace the batteries, but wait, these things are on vaulted ceilings. All you can do is layer the pillows over your ears and try to ignore it.
This scenario can be avoided. Today, we’re talking about how to best maintain your smoke alarms.
Living with smoke alarms
Nobody likes messing with smoke alarms. The fact that we have to put them at the top of our vaulted ceilings is even worse. But that’s where smoke goes, so that’s where the sensors go.
Part of being a homeowner, is maintaining the inside of your homes. While the HOA might maintain all the exterior, the light bulbs and smoke alarms still remain part of your responsibility.
Often there will be a donated ladder in the clubhouse that is long enough to reach that high, but even if you have the ladder, you might not feel comfortable getting up that high. I’d recommend that you enlist the help of a kid, grandkid, or local boy scout to help with this.
How often do I need to replace my batteries?
This is a hard question. It depends on a couple factors.
First, how good are your batteries?
Second, how often does the power go out?
Each of the smoke detectors is wired to the main house power. Ideally, they should use most of their battery power when the house power goes out. Thus, more blackouts, means shorter battery life.
Since the manufacturer can’t predict these two factors, they give a broad estimate, saying that you need to replace your batteries every 6 months to 2 years.
I personally find that once every year is sufficient for most cases.
A word of caution.
Whenever you replace any of the batteries in your smoke detectors, you must replace the batteries in all of the detectors, even if you only hear one of them chirping.
These smoke alarms are smart little buggers. They’re wired together, and they know if you gave any of their partners a new battery, so they’ll keep your house chirping until you give them all a fresh battery.
So make sure you buy enough to feed them all. I know it’s annoying, but that’s the world we live in.
Carbon Monoxide detectors
One other thing you might not think about, is carbon monoxide detectors. We are required to make at least one of our smoke detectors a combination carbon monoxide detector as well. You can usually tell which detectors will sense carbon monoxide.
Most of our alarms are pure white. The ones with black lettering on them are the combination smoke/CO detectors.
These things are even more annoying, because not only do the batteries go bad in them, but the sensors also expire quickly. The whole mechanism needs to be replaced every 4 years.
On top of this, carbon monoxide sinks. Smoke detectors are placed on ceilings. Thus, they aren’t the most effective things to have anyways. It never hurts to have a plug-in carbon monoxide detector somewhere lower if you’re worried about this.
If you do place one lower, please remember where you put it, and that it too needs batteries. I can’t tell you how many times I come into a home, where they’ve replaced all the batteries in their smoke detectors, but they still hear chirping.
After hours of troubleshooting and trying to find where the chirp is coming from, we find their supplemental CO detector, under their couch, and out of batteries.
That’s it for smoke detectors. Keep the batteries fresh and they’ll keep you safe, without annoying the snot out of you.