How to Fix Beeping Smoke Detectors?

Posted July 13, 2020 by Koorsen Fire & Security

checking smoke detector

Is your smoke detector beeping?

Whether it’s the single, periodic chirp that pierces the quiet while you’re trying to sleep or the heart-stopping, ear-drum-splitting beep of the alarm, if there is no actual fire emergency, it quickly becomes obnoxious.

But, since smoke detectors play a significant role in keeping your family and home safe, it’s important to properly correct, rather than ignore or disable, a beeping smoke detector.

Why is the Smoke Detector Beeping?

There are numerous reasons why your smoke detector may be beeping:

  • Smoke from cooking is especially common when cooking fatty or greasy foods
  • The battery and/or power source could be low or cut off
  • There could be debris interfering with the detector’s sensor
  • The smoke detector could be faulty or at the end of its lifespan

Though it may be difficult to tell what the specific cause of your nuisance smoke detector beeping is, there is a series of relatively simple steps you can take to identify and correct the problem.

Fixing the Beeping Smoke Detector

Correcting beeping or alarming detectors depends on two things: first, the reason it’s beeping; second, the type of smoke detectors you have – hardwired or standalone.

False Alarms

If your smoke detector is not just beeping periodically, but sounding an actual alarm, and you have made sure there is no real fire, then you are experiencing false, or nuisance, alarms.

There are a few potential causes for false alarms, and the way you correct your detector depends on the cause:

  • Smoke from cooking: if your smoke alarm activates due to an activity like cooking, all that you should need to do is silence the alarm while you wait for the air to clear.

    Many alarms have a “Test” or “Hush” button on the cover. Hitting this will silence the alarm for 8 minutes before it reactivates. If the smoke has been cleared by that time, the alarm should not sound again. If there is still smoke in the air, be prepared to hit the “Test/Hush” button again until the air can be cleared.

  • Atmospheric interference: if your alarm continues to activate, or activates even when smoke is not present, there may be other elements triggering it. What many people do not know is that even things like humidity from steamy showers or close proximity to a fireplace or furnace may cause false alarms.

    If you believe the alarm’s close proximity to a steamy bathroom, a fireplace, furnace, or a stove may be causing frequent false alarms, do not disable or remove the detector. Simply relocate it to a location that is a bit further from the items mentioned above so that it has less interference.

  • Debris interfering with the sensors: a common cause for false alarms is debris that interferes with the sensors. If the two above situations have been corrected or do not apply and your detector is still activating, try cleaning it.

    To clean it, disconnect the detector, remove the battery, and use a vacuum to clean out the gap between the cover and backplate. You could also use compressed air to blow out the potential debris.

    Once cleaned, put the batteries back in and reconnect the detector.

  • Unexplained false alarms: if none of the above seems to explain or correct your false alarms, your detector or its batteries may be faulty and in need of replacement.

Please note that if you have interconnected smoke detectors, you will have to find the initiating detector to silence all of them and to correct the issue. In some systems, the initiating detector will have a blinking light while they are sounding, but you may have to go to each unit and utilize the “Test/Hush” button on each before finding the one that initiated it. If the alarm stops before you can find the initiator, you will need to use the owners’ manual to help locate it.

For standalone detectors, you will only have one detector activating at a time.

Single Beep Every Few Minutes

If your detectors are emitting a single beeping or chirping sound every minute or so, this is most often an indicator that they either need new batteries or have lost power or diminished power.

  • Change the batteries: whether you have standalone smoke detectors or an interconnected hardwired system, both have batteries that will need to be changed periodically. When a unit or system is beeping, it is most often an indication that the batteries are at the end of their life.

    Change the batteries in the detector and reconnect it. If it merely needed fresh batteries, the chirping should stop. If you have smoke detectors with inaccessible batteries (such as the ones required in California), then you will have to replace the entire detector.
  • Check for a tripped circuit breaker: if you have a hardwired system and changing the batteries did not stop the beeping, a circuit breaker may have tripped, or the power may have momentarily gone out. Try flipping your breaker switch to see if that stops the beeping.

If you have changed the batteries and tried the circuit breaker, but the beeping persists, you may need to try resetting the detector(s):

  • Use the reset button: most smoke detectors have a red reset button. Hold the reset button down for approximately 15-20 seconds. Be prepared for it to chirp once more when it restarts, but that should be it – the beeping should not continue after that.

  • Try a manual reset: if the above still does not work, you may have to perform a full manual reset.

    For battery-only detectors, you will need to remove the detector’s batteries, then hold the reset button down for 15-20 seconds. Replace the batteries and reconnect the detector. It will probably beep one time to show that it is connected, but it should not continue to beep after that.

    If you have a hardwired system, you will need first to turn off the breaker that controls the alarm system and/or disconnect the detector system from the circuit. Remove the battery, then press the reset button and hold it for 15-20 seconds. Reinstall the battery and reconnect that detector to the circuit and turn the breaker on if you turned it off.

If changing the batteries, checking the power, and resetting the detectors STILL does not resolve the beeping, there may be dirt and debris interfering with the detector’s sensors.

  • Clean the detector: as was suggested above in some instances of unexplained false alarms, you may need to clean your detector if you have seemingly unexplained persistent beeping as well.

    Pull the detector from the wall and use the crevice tool from your vacuum to remove any cobwebs, dust, or debris that may be interfering with the detector. You can also use compressed air instead.

What NOT to Do with a Beeping Smoke Detector

The above are all of the proper ways to handle nuisance alarms and incessant beeping from your life-saving smoke detectors.

However, far too frequently, people are tempted to mishandle the alarms, putting their home and family at risk. The following are things NOT TO DO with a beeping smoke detector:

  • Do NOT take the battery out and neglect to replace it
  • Do NOT remove the detector and put it in a closet or some other un-helpful location
  • Do NOT obstruct the detector by covering it with tape, paper, cloth, or any other item
  • Do NOT ignore the detector until it stops beeping (which likely would mean the batteries have died)
  • Do NOT unplug or disconnect your hardwired smoke detector from its circuit

While all of the above will stop the beeping, it will only treat the symptom (the beeping), not the problem, and will leave you and your loved ones at risk.

What About Commercial Smoke Detectors?

Perhaps the smoke detector beeping you are concerned about is in your workplace. If that is the case, be aware that most commercial smoke detectors and fire alarm systems have an alarm panel that should be notifying the owner of a faulty smoke detector in need of attention.

As commercial systems are much more complex than the average home system, it is best to call Koorsen Fire & Security to get professionals out to service the faulty smoke detector and ensure the system is in proper working order.

Still, have questions? The team at Koorsen Fire & Security would be happy to assist you. Give them a call today.

Contact Us Now!

Topics: Fire Protection, Fire Safety, Fire Alarm Systems

Disclaimer: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is believed to be reliable, but Koorsen Fire & Security assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this article. It does not constitute professional advice. The user of this article or the product(s) is responsible for verifying the information's accuracy from all available sources, including the product manufacturer. The authority having jurisdiction should be contacted for code interpretations.