10 Common Reasons Your Smoke Detectors Go Off

If you’ve never had a smoke detector go off in your home, you may want to check them to make sure that they are functioning properly. The reason I say this, is that it is a common occurrence for smoke detectors to go off without a fire being present in the home. Check the list below and see how many of the ‘false alarms’ you’ve experienced with smoke detectors in your home.

  1. Burning food on the stove. If you’re not paying close enough attention to the dinner you have cooking on the stove, and it begins to burn, it may set off your smoke detector. There doesn’t even have to be actual smoke in the air, just a hint of burnt food can set it off, and let all your dinner guests know that there’s a problem.
  2. Fireplace smoke. If your chimney is clean and dampers are properly set, this shouldn’t be a problem. But, occasionally, people do have troubles with a fireplace sending smoke into the house and their smoke alarms will go off. After all, that is what they are there for, to detect smoke. They’re just doing their job.
  3. Humidity. High humidity in the air can set off smoke alarms. The density of the moisture particles in the air, trigger the alarm. The device has no way of distinguishing between light smoke particles and heavy moisture content.
  4. Insects. Small insects can crawl into the smoke detector itself and set off the alarm. If you can identify any external cause for an alarm to be sounding, you may want to open up the device and check for six legged critters.
  5. Burnt toast. Ever have your toaster keep your white bread down a little too long and turn it into charcoal? This will send some very heavy particles into the air, and your smoke detector will generally pick up on them pretty fast.
  6. Low batteries. If your smoke detector is making little chirping noises instead of a full born alarm, then it may be trying to tell you that its batteries are running low. If one of them is beeping, it is a good idea to change the batteries in all your alarms, so you don’t go through a series of chirping incidents.
  7. Chemical odors. Strong chemical odors like ammonia or paint fumes can set off a smoke detector. They don’t like those heavy smells any more than we do, and they aren’t afraid to complain about it.
  8. Dust. If you’re doing some remodeling or your smoke detector is located in an area that has a lot of dust in the air for any reason, this can set off your smoke detectors. Opening up your alarm and carefully cleaning the insides can help eliminate these problems.
  9. Steam. Just like humidity, steam from a shower or water boiling on the stove can set off those smoke detectors as well.
  10. There’s a fire in the house! Be careful not to assume that just because you don’t see or smell a fire, that your smoke detector is giving a false alarm. Smoke detectors often will sense electrical fires or other hidden fires before you do. If none of the other items on this list are present and the alarm continues to sound, assume that there is a fire starting somewhere in the house. Don’t unplug it and go to bed!

As you can see, smoke detectors detective plenty of other things besides smoke. Don’t let those false alarms cause you to unplug your alarms or ignore those sirens though. Smoke detectors have saved many lives. They are part of the safe building codes for a reason.

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