Fire alarms emit a loud sound when triggered by smoke to warn you that there is a fire in your home. These alarms also make intermittent beeps under certain circumstances. A beeping fire alarm does not mean your home is burning. The sound indicates that your smoke detector needs some attention.
Smoke detectors that sound an alarm when you have a fire come in two standard types. Ion models respond more quickly to flaming fires while photoelectric units are quickly triggered by smouldering fires according to the U.S. Fire Administration. You can buy both models in battery-operated versions that are powered by a 9-volt battery. Some smoke detectors are wired into home electrical systems and use batteries as a backup in case of power failure.
Both ion and photoelectric fire alarms beep when their battery power is low. The beep sounds at regular intervals, most commonly every 20 to 60 seconds. Never remove the battery from your smoke detector without replacing it immediately even if the beeping starts at an inconvenience time, like overnight. You place yourself in danger if you forget to put in a new battery later and your home catches on fire. The smoke detector itself needs replacing if the beeping continues even with a new battery, according to the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board. Detectors have a limited lifespan of about 10 years, although some might need replacing sooner.
Prevent your fire alarm from beeping with a low battery warning by replacing its power source once per year on an easily remembered date. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends doing an annual battery change on the day you change your clocks to Daylight Saving Time. People in states without time changes can use another significant date, like a holiday or anniversary.
Your fire alarm may continue beeping when you put in a new battery, even if it is a newer, properly functioning model, if the battery has been sitting around for too long. Batteries have a limited life and lose their power if you store them for long periods. Try another battery before deciding that your smoke detector is the problem. Test your alarm monthly to ensure that it is functioning properly. the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission advises.
Never remove the battery from a smoke detector if it gets triggered by humidity, cooking smoke or another non-dangerous cause. This action stops the false alarm, but you may forget to replace the battery. A non-powered smoke detector leaves you vulnerable in case of a fire. Move alarms that give frequent false alarms, and use exhaust fans when cooking and showering.
- U.S. Fire Administration: Smoke Alarms
- Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board: Only Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; CPSC Urges Consumers to Change Smoke Alarm Batteries When Changing Clocks for Daylight Saving Time; April 2003
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: Test All Smoke Alarms (Detectors) and Annually Replace Batteries Develop and Rehearse an Escape Plan