Why do my smoke alarms keep going off?

Updated April 17, 2017

If your smoke alarms keep going off, there are some simple things you can do to fix the problem. Performing some routine maintenance can help your smoke alarm work properly. Sometimes changing its location or getting a different type of smoke detector can solve your problem.

Clean Your Smoke Detector

Dusty and dirty smoke detectors can become hypersensitive. They can also become less sensitive because of the dust. If your smoke detector is dirty, it could be set off easily.

You should vacuum your smoke detector once or twice a year. This will help get rid of the dust and dirt so that the detector continues to function at the proper sensitivity.

Types of Smoke Detectors

If cleaning your smoke detectors doesn't help keep them from going off frequently you have a couple of options. Most smoke detectors are ionisation detectors. This means that they detect small particles and can be set off by other things. You can move the smoke detector away from things that trigger the alarms, such as cooking vapours. But make sure it is still close enough to the kitchen to detect a fire quickly.

You could also consider getting photoelectric detectors, which aren't as sensitive to smaller particles as ionisation detectors. These may be more appropriate in kitchen areas, near heaters or in smaller places (i.e. apartments) where you don't have enough room to move the detector away from the sources that keep setting it off.


You should test your smoke detector monthly. To test your smoke detector, press the red button to make sure that your battery is still working. You should also test your smoke detector using a candle. To do this, hold a lit candle about six inches below the smoke detector. Your smoke alarm should go off in less than 30 seconds. If it doesn't, blow out the candle and allow the smoke to go up to the detector. If the alarm still doesn't go off you need to do some investigating.

Check to make sure that all the wires in the smoke detector are properly attached and you can also vacuum out the detector. Do this maintenance and repeat the candle test. If your smoke detector still doesn't work, it's time to replace it.

Batteries and Replacing Your Unit

You should replace the batteries in your smoke detector annually.

You should replace your smoke detector every ten years. If you move into a new home or apartment, replace the smoke detector right away since you have no way of knowing how old the detector is.

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About the Author

MichelleN attended James Madison University and obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance. She is also a Certified Public Accountant. She has been a freelance writer for two years and her work has appeared on various sites such as, and She has also created a website