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Smoke Detector Life – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Everywhere you look there are devices on ceilings. So it’s only natural for most people not to really pay close attention to their smoke detectors. Most of the time, we forget that we even have them until we burn something on the stove—or if your detector starts chirping, crying for a new battery. The truth is, smoke alarms are real life savers. Every home should have one, and chances are that you do since they are required by law in most states. But, do you know your smoke detector life span? When was the last time you tested it? Read on and learn some important steps you need to take to make sure your smoke alarms rings when you really need it.

If You Didn’t Buy It Yourself, You Better Inspect It

It’s safe to say that most people couldn’t tell you how long their anticipated smoke detector life is. Especially if you’ve just moved in to a new apartment that already has them installed. One may think to oneself “my landlord is required by law to make sure they are in working order, why should I worry about it”. And yes that is true however, we here at take a proactive approach to safety. Do you really want to put the lives of you and your family, in your landlords hands?

There are various kinds of smoke detectors you can buy with different lifespans. However most have a maximum life of 10 years. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to inspect it. Follow the steps below and learn how to find information about your smoke detector:

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Figure 1 – January of 2014 is the date this unit was manufactured so the end of this smoke detector’s life is on or before January 2024.

Step 1:
Take your existing detector off of the ceiling and look on the back of the unit for a date. The smoke detector should be replaced 10 years from that date. If it’s close to 10 years old, it may be a good idea to simply replace it. See figure 1.

Testing button on smoke alarm

Figure 2 – Pressing the test button.

Step 2:
Each smoke detector features a test button. Note that this button only verifies that the batteries are working. Pressing the test button does not guarantee that the sensors will detect smoke. You should press the test button once a month to make sure the alarm sounds. Normally a detector will chirp when it needs a new battery however if chirping is ignored it will eventually stop making noise all together. This is dangerous because it’s easy to forget about your smoke detector, and it won’t ring when you need it to. So if you want to know how to stop a smoke alarm from chirping, get up and check it out right away. If it’s still within 10 years from the date imprinted on the back—and your unit has replaceable batteries, you can install fresh batteries and press the test button again. Also note that some models have built in batteries. You’ll be able to tell especially if it lacks an accessible battery compartment. In this case, you must replace the unit. See Figure 2.

Figure 3 - Smoke check smoke detector testing aerosol.

Figure 3 – Smoke check smoke detector testing aerosol.

Step 3:
Once you’ve confirmed that the battery is operating, the next step is to test that the smoke sensor is working. Even the best smoke detectors stop sensing smoke. Dust and particles can hinder the effectiveness of the sensor. Along with testing the battery, it is also advised that you vacuum your smoke detector monthly. To test the sensor, purchase a can of smoke detector tester.
See Figure 3.


Like any device, regular maintenance will ensure proper functionality as well as getting the most out of your smoke detectors life. First upon moving in to a new place, ensure that your smoke detectors are within the 10 year lifespan by checking the date imprinted on the back. Secondly, test to make sure the batteries work every month. Lastly, make sure the sensors are actually detecting smoke by using a can of smoke detector tester.