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Do you know how to test your smoke alarm?

Testing your alarms

You should refer to your manufacturer’s requirements for testing your smoke alarms, but in general, you should test your smoke alarms weekly using the following steps:

  1. Visually inspect the smoke alarm to make sure it is not damaged and that dust or other substances aren’t blocking the device’s air entry ports, which could possibly prevent the alarm form working.
  2. Press and hold the test button on the smoke alarm. This can take a few seconds, but you should hear a very loud siren while you hold the button down. If you do not hear the alarm, or if the sound of the alarm is too low, replace your batteries. If you replace the batteries, make sure to go ahead and test the alarm again to ensure proper functioning. If your alarm still isn’t working, you should replace the entire unit.
  3. If you can, while holding the test button to make the smoke alarm sound, have a friend or family member walk to different parts of the home to be sure the alarm can be clearly heard in all areas.  Install additional smoke alarms if necessary to provide effective coverage throughout your home.
  4. Finally, check with real smoke by lighting a match and blowing it out directly under the smoke alarm (be sure to dispose of the match properly by placing it in a glass of water to ensure the flame is out). The alarm may take a moment to sense the smoke. If it doesn’t react, replace the batteries and test again. If the device still does not react, or it’s a hardwired unit, you may need to replace the unit. Note – if your smoke alarm is out of reach, you can purchase UL-rated aerosol smoke cans at your local hardware store. Following the directions on the package, aim the spray at the detector to test your alarm.

Private rented properties

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations of 2015 state that all rental properties should be fitted with a working smoke alarm on each floor of the property. They also state that it’s the landlord’s responsibility to check the alarm is in working order at the start of the tenancy. Failure to provide a property with working smoke alarms carries a £5,000 fine. But once you’ve fitted and checked the alarm to ensure it’s functioning, it’s the tenant’s responsibility to keep it in working order. So, from the point of view of protecting your property, how can you make sure the alarm is doing its job properly?

Positioning

To maximise your alarm’s capabilities, make sure that your alarm is fixed to the ceiling at least 30cms away from any walls (or other dead air spaces) and make sure it’s not placed directly above a furnace or stove to avoid false readings. Make sure that each alarm is audible from the bedrooms of the property for obvious reasons.

Smoke alarm is false alarming

The most common source of false alarms in smoke detectors is contamination (such as dust and small insects) within the sensor chamber. Cleaning the unit by either vacuuming around the central detection chamber or blowing it out with the cold setting on a hair dryer normally resolves this issue.

Another reason for false alarms could be down to the age of the unit. Smoke and heat alarms are designed to last for around ten years, after which it is recommended that they are replaced as the sensors start to deteriorate and are no longer as effective. There should be a ‘replace by’ sticker on the side or reverse of the alarm.

Alarm starts to beep in the middle of the night

Beeping or chirping is normally due to low battery power in the alarm. This beeping most commonly starts at night due to the drop in temperature causing a decrease in battery power.

If the unit has a replaceable battery, this problem is normally resolved by replacing it. We always recommend using a decent branded battery for your alarms.