What Causes a Smoke Detector False Alarm?

Whenever your fire alarm system goes off, your first instinct tells you to find the source of a possible fire, right? And when you realize it is just a false alarm, the feeling of relief immediately kicks in. Once false alarms become constant, though, they turn out to be a huge inconvenience. To avoid these, learn what causes a smoke detector false alarm and ensure that your fire alarm system is working correctly.

What causes a false alarm?

Different aspects can trigger a smoke detector false alarm. From dust and insects to strong chemicals, the reason your fire alarm keeps going off might vary. If you want to be sure to avoid this situation, you can start checking the features below.

Dirt, dust, and insects

As surprising as it might seem, insects can cause smoke detectors’ false alarms. Some are so small that they can get inside the device and interfere with the detector’s sensors. Besides, acumulated dust and dirt can also make the detector overly sensitive, increasing the chances of a false alarm.

Wrong place installation

Before choosing the place to install your smoke detector, be sure that the device is not too close to the oven, stove, or even the shower. Smoke detectors should not be placed closer than 10 feet from the nearest cooking equipment, because the proximity can trigger a false alarm. To ensure your safety and avoid problems, the installation needs to take place between 10 feet and 20 feet from the nearest cooking equipment. 

When positioning your smoke detector in proximity to the bathroom, there is another point to consider. Steam, in large quantities, can also deceive the smoke detector into a false alarm.

Additionally, particles from outside can also trigger a false alarm, such as heavy pollen and smoke from barbecues. When positioning smoke detectors near a window, be sure that the device will not receive interference from outside.

Low-quality products or poor-quality installation

When choosing your fire alarm system, opting for reliable brands and quality products might save you time and money. Since most false alarms are caused by low-quality smoke detectors, poor installation, and incorrect placement, you have to choose your supplier carefully

The best you can do is to research the best brands and hire a qualified technician to install the devices for you.

Strong chemicals

If you are renovating your home, it might be a good idea to temporarily turn off your smoke detector devices. Strong components present in wall paint, for example, can trigger a false fire alarm. 

The same happens with microparticles originated from walls going down or wood being cut. In this case, you should temporarily disable your fire alarm system, not forgetting to activate it again once you are finished.

How can you avoid a false alarm?

Now that you already know what causes a false alarm, it will get easier to avoid one. Even so, we selected a few tips that might help you to save time, effort, and money.

Regular cleanup

Smoke detectors can accumulate dirt, dust, insects, mold, and other particles directly related to false alarms. To avoid these, you have a simple task: clean regularly. You can vacuum the vents and surroundings of the smoke detector or open it up to remove any dirt on the inside. Once you finish, don’t forget to reset your device.

Smoke detector sensitivity

The National Fire Protection Association recommends testing the sensibility of your smoke detector every other year. You can also ensure the correct calibration of your devices during your fire alarm system annual test.

Check your batteries

Instead of going off, some smoke detectors have a constant beep, which can indicate a low battery. In this case, verify if you have the recommended type of battery securely installed and check if the battery use-by date is still valid. 

It is also possible that the battery connections are not working correctly. You can check if the battery is well fixed, but if the problem doesn’t go away, the best recommendation is to call a certified fire alarm installation company

Preventive maintenance

Every year you must conduct a full inspection in your fire alarm system, by contacting a certified company to do so. This way, you’ll be able to ensure that all devices are working properly and the chances of a false fire will be lower.

What should you do when you notice a false alarm?

Like mentioned before, once your alarm goes off, the first thing you have to do is to identify what triggered the alarm. If you don’t notice any fire or smoke, you know that is must be a false alarm and can stop the loud noise coming off the device. 

If you have a battery-powered smoke detector, all you have to do is to hold the reset button until the alarm stops. The button is usually located in front of the device or in the center.

If you have hardwired smoke detectors, turning it off might be a bit more tricky, but not impossible. As the detectors are connected, you’ll need to try resetting every single one of them to find out which one is causing the alarm to go off. If the alarm doesn’t stop, you will have to turn your circuit breaker off and back on. 

The next time you hear your smoke detectors going off on a false alarm, now you will know what to do. To avoid being caught by surprise, simple routine actions, such as cleaning and regular maintenance, will definitely help.