7 Reasons Why Your Smoke Detector is Chirping

smoke detector chriping

When the battery needs changing, your smoke alarm will let you know by making a chirping noise. However, newer models might encounter errors and even after the battery has been changed, you can still hear the smoke detector chirping. Usually, this tends to happen in electrical powered smoke alarms which have a battery backup. To stop the smoke alarm chirping, you need to reset the alarm, thus manually clearing the error from the processor. 

The cause for the smoke detector chirping is usually either a battery-related issue or miss-wiring, but there could be other reasons. According to the National Fire Protection Association, dead batteries cause one-quarter (25%) of the smoke alarm failures.

However, don’t confuse the chirping sound with intermittent alarms. The chirping comes once every minute, in equal intervals and a higher-pitched tone. The alarm comes in a lower-pitched tone, for several seconds. 

Reason #1: Battery

smoke detector chirping because of battery

A loud, continuous alarm with a persistent chirping is usually caused by the battery. There can be several reasons:

  • The battery pull-tab is still in the device: when AC power is provided to the smoke detector, the battery pull-tab should be removed. 
  • The battery drawer is not closed: for the battery to make complete contact with the terminals, the drawer should be closed. 
  • The battery is low: the smoke detector will inform you when the battery needs changing by making a chirping sound, once a minute. However, only the device that’s running on low battery will be chirping, and the interconnected alarms will remain silent. 
  • A part of the smoke alarm terminal is obstructed: in this case, the battery and the terminals in the device might not be making contact. So, you need to ensure that the pull-tab or other obstructions are removed.  
  • The back-up battery is dead: hard wired smoke alarms include a  9-volt backup battery which kicks in when power is turned off. And when that battery is dead, the chirping noise appears. 

What’s the solution? 

The solution is simple: replace the battery. Here’s how you do it: 

  1. Make sure the power to your wired smoke alarm, at the circuit box, is turned off.
  2. Locate the battery cover panel. 
  3. Use a screwdriver to remove the panel. 
  4. Remove the old battery and put in a new one. 

Reason #2: Dirty Sensor

The chirping sound may be caused by a dirty sensor. Dust can easily find its way into the smoke detector, entering the sensing room. You should also know that dust can be responsible for false alarms, causing the device to go off randomly.

What’s the solution?

Clean up your smoke alarm. Here’s how you do it: 

  1. Turn the power off at the circuit box. 
  2. Remove the face of the detector. 
  3. Clean the dust using a small brush or vacuum hose. 
  4. Eliminate dust buildup using a mild detergent. 
  5. Replace the face of the detector and check for the chirping noise. 

Reason #3: Malfunction

smoke detector chirping because of malfunction

Your smoke alarm might be malfunctioning. Usually, when this happens, the noise will appear between flashes of red LED light. After some time, detectors wear down and stop functioning properly. An NFPA report states that 17% of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes where smoke alarms were not working.

What’s the solution? 

When this happens, you need to call a specialist to take a look at your device. Usually, smoke alarms have a lifespan of 5 years, so if you know your device is older than that, you might have to replace it. If the smoke detector continues to chirp after vacuuming the sensor area, it is wise to just replace it, as they’re quite affordable in comparison to the amount of nuisance they can cause.

If it’s a new addition to your home, the specialist should be able to tell what’s wrong with it and fix it if possible. If the error cannot be fixed, you’ll have to install a new one. 

Reason #4: It Needs Replacing

Smoke detectors have a lifespan of eight to ten years. When it reaches the end of its life, it may stop functioning properly. A properly working smoke detector is crucial for the safety of your home against fires.

What’s the solution? 

If the smoke detector has reached the end of its life, you need to replace it. To make sure that this is the case, you need to take the alarm off and verify the manufacturing date. This should tell how old the device is. 

Reason #5: Interference

smoke detector chirping because of interference

In areas where wiring is not appropriate, wireless alarms are the popular choice. These devices communicate through radio frequencies. And while this is highly effective, these devices are also prone to interference. 

If your smoke alarm starts making a nuisance sound, without any smoke signs being present, you may be dealing with interference from a similar system. 

What’s the solution? 

When installing the device, the specialist needs to ensure the risk of interference is minimal. To deal with interference after installation, you need to check the user manual and select a different DIP switch pattern. 

Reason #6: Environmental Factors

smoke detector chirping because of environmental factors

Another reason for which your smoke alarm might be acting out could be the temperature fluctuations in your home. When the thermostat is set at an unusual low or high temperature, the smoke alarm may perceive this as a problem and start chirping. The same thing happens when the device senses hot air coming from either the kitchen or the bathroom. 

What’s the solution? 

To avoid this kind of situation, you might want to think about moving the smoke alarm away from the kitchen or bathroom door to ensure that hot air doesn’t reach the alarm vents. 

Reason #7: False Alarm

Thankfully, false smoke alarms are more common than real ones. And you can recognize them by the following signs: 

  • Cooking smoke can trigger the detector. The solution is to install the smoke detector more than 10 feet away from your cooking areas. 
  • Impurities from outside, such as smoke from barbecues, unusually heavy pollen or even dust can trigger the smoke alarm. The solution is to move the device away from doors or windows through which such particulates could enter. 
  • Smoke alarms can be set off by heavy steam. Avoid installing them close to kitchens and bathrooms. 
  • Smoke detectors can become homes to dust, mold, spider webs or other insect activity. These can also trigger false alarms. Clean the device or replace it entirely if cleaning is much too complicated. 

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