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Troubleshooting a Smoke Detector

Category Miscellaneous
Troubleshooting a Smoke Detector
Smoke detectors are a common part of our home safety system. However, if they are not working properly your family can be put at risk. This is a guide about troubleshooting a smoke detector.
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August 15, 20122 found this helpful

It can drive you to distraction, the constant unexplainable beeping of an electric smoke detector. Often it just needs the battery replaced but it may be a signal that it needs greater attention. This is a guide about troubleshooting ideas when an electric smoke detector won't stop beeping.

Electric Smoke Detector

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June 26, 20170 found this helpful

There are a number of factors that can cause that annoying beeping of your smoke detector. This is a guide about smoke detectors beep when the temperature drops.

Smoke Detector

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 1 found this helpful
December 31, 2010

I have a hard-wired smoke detector that chirps between midnight and 6:30 AM. The heater goes on at that time and the chirping stops. The house temperature is set at 60 degrees during the chirping times. This just started. Any ideas as to why this occurring?

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By Ken from Entiat, WA

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Answers

December 31, 20100 found this helpful

You might try changing all batteries if you haven't already. Also check the breaker for the smoke detectors, make sure it isn't tripped if not turn breaker off and check all wires to that circuit be sure they are tight. We have the same type of system when we change the batteries when turn the breaker off and than change the batteries and then turn it back on it resets the system. If it is only one detector chirping the problem with be with that detector and not the whole system. Hope this helps!

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January 1, 20110 found this helpful

All smoke/carbon alarms are designed to only last for 10 years, after 10 years or after a fire, they need to be replaced with new ones. If you burn a fireplace, they need to be changed out more often.

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Sounds like the sensor is going out, and when the HVAC system comes on, it creates enough air current to remove dust or debris on it.

I am a fire fighter, and one of our biggest issues is people think they are good for a lifetime. They aren't.

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February 2, 20110 found this helpful

It's 4: 30am. I've been up since 2am with my smoke alarm going off constantly! We tried everything and my frustrated hubby went back to bed and covered his head to block out the sound! Even the dog wanted out and continued her blissful sleep outside!

Unfortunately, I couldn't sleep with that loud noise for the next hour or so, climbed up on a kitchen stool every 20mins to press the button to shut it off. It would stay quiet for about 20mins and then back on again. In the meantime, I decided to see if I could get some online help and found this site.

Thanks for all the tips. I was surprised but gratified to find others have experienced this too and what would you know? Most of the problems were at night. Murphy's Law! Then to annoy me further, the TV started an alarm test!

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Anyway, I didn't have a can of air handy, (which I will now get) so I opened the windows for a bit and tried some of the other suggestions until on one of my trips back from the detector to bed, I noticed the thermostat battery in the living room was low so the heat was not on in that part of the house. I changed the battery and voila! silence!! I've waited 30 minutes and no more alarm so I guess I can sleep now, for all of 2 hours before have to be up.

Thanks everyone for all the helpful tips when my 'support system' here bailed out on me!

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February 12, 20110 found this helpful

When smoke alarm batteries die they start chirping in the middle of the night when the temp in the house drops. I googled smoke alarms to find out why mine has space for two 9v batteries. I think it may be because it has a lite in it, but not sure. Anyway that's how I found out about the middle of the night chirping!

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July 10, 20110 found this helpful

Oh dear... I tried to check the circuit breaker and did a test on it. Well, I now have disconnected ALL the alarms in the house. Prior to this only two were chirping. They are still chirping but there is no green light on. I will try to remove and replace those new batteries. (The old were still good.) It seems I have made matters worse. I have had my system about 4 years. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

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November 1, 20140 found this helpful

I recently spent two nights of miserable insanity dealing with the malfunctioning/unreasonable/unstoppable shrieking fire/carbon monoxide detector issue, and even if your problem ceased after replacing the battery you should know a few important things about these supposedly life-saving devices.

First of all, if you take a sledgehammer to the device in question, it may or may not cease its infernal noise and you will have to pay for the inevitable damage to the wall or ceiling in addition to replacing the device. Living in subsidized housing has come to mean numerous rules and regulations of varying stupidity from a safety standpoint, since many "safety"measures are merely a matter of removing access or control from the tenant-locking the water heater closet and denying the tenants a key, a prohibition on giving the operation/care manuals to the appliances and devices installed in the residence are just two that have caused more problems than they prevent - and as offensive as these measures are to a person of reasonable intelligence like myself, many of my neighbors are perfect examples of the stupidity that has made such measures attractive to landlords from a financial point of view. It caused me great anger and outrage to find out that the apt manager could easily have stopped the insanity after the first night, but was prohibited from doing so by either CA regulations or ConAm Management Co policy, and at this point I don't care which.

The alarm system that is directly connected to and sends a signal to both the fire dept and Bay Alarm Co functions perfectly and is inspected and maintained on a bi-yearly basis and conscientious care.

The piece-of-**** secondary system consists of three smoke/CO detectors that have periodically malfunctioned since they were installed less than three years ago, when the complex was built, but never to the extent of this past week.

The offending devices have now been removed pending replacement, which I am going to be charged for. And I didn't even get the pleasure of smashing them with a sledgehammer as I oh so very much desired.

If you are a smoker, the nicotine residue causes dirt and sand (I live in the desert) to stick to the sensors. I understand this concept, yet wonder how it is that in the four decades that I have been a smoker, far heavier than currently, this has never happened. But that's a personal issue I will battle out with the landlord.

The important thing is to be aware that the devices manufactured since 2011 (I'm going by the date on the devices) are susceptible to things like dust, nicotine, grease from cooking, animal dander, and anything that can float through the air and collect on a surface anywhere, and that no consideration was given this inevitable process of life when making them. For some forms of dust, etc, canned air will blow the residue away or a vacuum will suck it out. That's if you are aware that more is necessary than simply using the vacuum attachment while doing spring or fall cleaning-you have to take it down and clean it somehow, not easy if you are handicapped and cannot steady yourself on a ladder or if you simply don't have a way to reach it safely. But if you don't do it twice a year, don't expect it to work when you need it to, according to the gentleman who maintains the REAL alarm system, and he won't touch the devices not part of his system, and the look of derision he gave them spoke volumes.

So I have read and researched and gotten opinions from professionals, including firefighters. Ionization type detectors should be replaced with photoelectronic ones, as the ionization ones tend to ignore the thick deadly smoke most commonly the cause of death in house fires until far too late. Use a vacuum or preferably compressed air to clean your devices at least twice each year. Replace the batteries, even in hardwired versions, once a year on a specific date-the fall when clocks are set back is best and easiest, you have that extra hour, after all, and with Christmas and lights made of cheap wiring around the corner, it's a good idea to know your batteries are fresh.

DO NOT simply unplug it or remove the battery if it's driving you nuts, then put off reconnecting or replacing it-follow through! Clean it, replace it, or whatever is necessary, and give the old one a good whack with a hammer for me before you throw it out. And the reason it goes off at night, I have been informed, is due to condensation that naturally occurs during that time of day. Be safe!

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November 1, 20140 found this helpful

Thanks Elaine, for your wonderful sense of humor and good advice!

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By 1 found this helpful
September 22, 2016

My smoke detectors (hardwired) have decided to start chirping (the sound when battery is low) at around 1:45 am every night. Then they go into full alarm mode. I have figured out which one of the 4 is the 'master' one so I can push the reset button to stop the alarm. However, it goes through the same cycle repeatedly. I've had to shut the circuit breaker and remove the batteries.

I have changed the batteries -- same thing happens. I have replaced all 4 of the smoke detectors w/new batteries -- and same thing happening. Always around 1:45 am.

Any ideas as to what to do next? I don't want to leave my condo unprotected. Nor have all the outlets connected with that circuit breaker not working in my home either.

Thanks!

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By 1 found this helpful
July 15, 2016

Today in the morning I had my alarms go off around 7 am. I woke up checked, but didn't see any fire. I live in townhouse that has 3 floors and it worked on every floor for about 3-5 min and stopped. What should I do?

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By 0 found this helpful
March 1, 2016

I heard a beeping that I thought was from my smoke detector. I unplugged it, removed the battery, and moved it to another room. The beeping is still coming from the ceiling where the smoke detector was plugged in before. There is nothing there but wires and a housing. There is no attic above - just another floor with a smoke detector that is not beeping. How can I diagnose this and stop it without tearing out the ceiling? Anyone have this issue?

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By 0 found this helpful
May 30, 2015

I have a chirping coming from random smoke detectors. They are hard wired with batteries. I have changed all batteries and reset all of them. They are only a year old. Why do they still chirp? It's not always the same one, e.g. my son's room will chirp for an hour, then my daughter's room, then my room, then the hall, but never at the same time. I just built this house a year ago so it's not old or dusty. I am very clean so I'm confused on what it could be. Please help, my kids and I cannot sleep at night.

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May 31, 20150 found this helpful

My husband said that when the battery-operated ones chirp like that and wont stop after replacing batteries it means they need to be replaced. He doesn't know about the hard-wired ones.

Have you contacted the manufacturer about this problem? That's where I'd start, and soon! They should be able to give you some help or get you started in the right direction.

If their product doesn't last longer than a year, or if they wont stand behind their product, then perhaps you should invest in better smoke detectors.

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June 8, 20150 found this helpful

My smoke detectors have a reset button!

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June 23, 20150 found this helpful

Have you looked inside for spiders?

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February 4, 20150 found this helpful

My smoke detector (2 years old) goes off on about an 8hr interval. I changed the batteries 3 times (2 different brand batteries) and it still keeps beeping. The alarm goes off about every 8 hrs, so I open the battery cover, take the battery out, put the battery back in, twist smoke detector to on and off a few times and I leave it be as soon as it stops. Then, 8 hrs later it starts again. Anyone know what the issue may be? Thank you.

By Alex

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Answers

February 5, 20150 found this helpful

Could be many reasons why your smoke detector is not working correctly. Probably the best you can do to relieve your frustration and improve your safety is to buy a new smoke detector ASAP.

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August 6, 20070 found this helpful

Our house is 4 1/2 years old. Built new.We have 8 smoke detectors in the house electrically powered. Also we have in house security system, where in the panel lights "Fire" button. When I turn the system on, it starts beeping very loudly, continuously until I manually turn the system off by key given.

We had a same problem about 1 1/2 years ago. I call Hart Alarm Systems, original installer ,who tested all smoke detectors, replaced one at the basement level, everything worked fine since until the same problem now.

Do you think it is again smoke detector problem ? How do you test detectors? Where would I find test button? Do flashing lights mean the detector is working and considered good? Does an electric smoke detector carry also back up battery and where would it be installed? As I open the cover, only thing I see is few wires from the ceiling to the detector cover. Please advise ASAP. Thanks.

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August 7, 20070 found this helpful

Impossible to tell from far away, not sensible to mess with electrical and security systems without a professional or knowlegeable person physically present. Can't blame you for wondering if there would be advice out there, but someone actually there would be best.

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By guest (Guest Post)
August 7, 20070 found this helpful

Does your smoke detectors have a backup battery? I have electric smoke detectors and if the backup battery needs to be replaced it beeps.

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By guest (Guest Post)
August 7, 20070 found this helpful

Most states require that the smoke detectors now be tied together so that it one goes off they all go off. It is quite possible that you have one or more defective smoke detectors. These things do fail. If you are not familiar with the wiring or electrical circuits I would recommend that you get a qualified electrician to check it out.

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By guest (Guest Post)
August 7, 20070 found this helpful

If you have an alarm company, you should have a main backup battery for your system. Probably the battery has gone dead and is affecting your whole system. You shoud have a panel with wires running into it and a battery should be in there.

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By 0 found this helpful
October 3, 2010

After small fire in my house (dishwasher caught on fire) my hard wired smoke detector (no battery in this head) has the permanent red light on. I have 4 electronic smoke detectors with battery backup on the same line. There is no beeping, just a red light on. Is this normal?

By Paul from IL

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October 3, 20100 found this helpful

All the hard wired smoke detectors in our apartment have a red light that stays on all the time.

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Anonymous
October 4, 20100 found this helpful

Just to be sure I would call the fire department and/or an electrician to ask to be safe rather than sorry.

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By 0 found this helpful
July 8, 2010

I am having difficulty in putting smoke detectors back into position after replacing the batteries.

By iolite from Boynton Beach, FL

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July 10, 20100 found this helpful

Did it originally pull off or twist off? Check to see that nothing broke.I had that problem and just bought a new one. They're not that expensive.

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July 10, 20100 found this helpful

Did it originally pull off or twist off? Check to see that nothing broke.I had that problem and just bought a new one. They're not that expensive.

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By 0 found this helpful
March 22, 2015

My smoke detector works, but not properly because of dust. Please suggest some solutions to me.

By shaheenahmed01722

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March 23, 20150 found this helpful

use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment

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March 12, 20150 found this helpful

I have an electrical smoke alarm with back up battery. How do I stop it from beeping? I have already replaced the battery. It still kept on beeping. Then I removed the battery and it is still beeping.

By Pam B.

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March 13, 20150 found this helpful

Vacuum out the inside of the detector with a brush attachment, dust and cobwebs can make it beep. It's important also to note that smoke detectors do wear out. How old is yours?

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September 27, 20120 found this helpful

We live in a basement apartment. We've lived here for over a year. Recently our smoke alarm has been going off randomly all hours of the night. It's hardwired to the building.

When we first moved in it was not connected and in a closet (we're thinking that's why it was in there). We've cleaned it over 4 times with the vacuum and even a damp cloth. We've told the landlords and they claim it's humidity!

We are so tired of hearing that. So we had the windows open all day and night and still it's going off! We don't smoke and haven't been using the oven. Oh, and we also bought a second smoke alarm (which is in our baby's room, the warmest of all and the window is never open) and it never goes off as it's working properly. Others above us on the third and second floor also have their alarms go off at crazy hours.

Please help. I hate the sound, it drives me nuts and we can't unplug it as we could get fined. So far we're freezing and it's still going off.

By Katelyne

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Anonymous
September 28, 20120 found this helpful

Since you mention that you live in an apartment then you need to notify your landlord and insist that it be repaired/replaced. If the landlord won't co-operate then report him/her to your city/county code enforcement department because it is against the law everywhere that there must be a working smoke detector for residential rental property.

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August 17, 20110 found this helpful

Our only smoke detector is hard-wired into the ceiling. We have had 2 different smoke/CO detectors with battery backup. When a new battery is placed, it is fine for a few hours and then dies, causing the detector to chirp.

Is the electrical wiring somehow drawing power from the battery? Two completely different detectors have done the same thing, so I don't think it is a defective detector. I think there used to be another detector in the basement. I don't know if it was hard-wired or not, but we replaced it with a plug-in type. Any information would be great!

By Sarah

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November 5, 20110 found this helpful

Its probably wiring. Make sure the hot and the neutral wire are not swapped or on the battery wiring check for bare spot that might be going to ground or grounding.

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February 28, 20150 found this helpful

I have realized that if one battery in the set of 4 electric detectors is not functional the whole system goes off. This happened last night at 3:30 in the morning. It's really awful to try and change these when the alarm is screaming in your ear. How can I tell which one is the faulty one? I also would like to know how to turn them all off so I can at least change them in peace. The main electrical box does not list them, so I've not idea which breaker to flip off.

By Margaret

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February 3, 20150 found this helpful

My wired in smoke alarm does not beep when I press it to test it. There is a green light on it that I can see when it is dark. Does this mean it is working OK?

By Peggy A.

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November 21, 20140 found this helpful

The smoke alarm goes off when the central air is on, if you close all windows it will not go off. But if you open any window an inch the alarm goes off. It's a new house, no appliances in yet, no one living there yet. It will not go off at all during heat cycle. It is not near vents or lights. It is located in the Los Angeles area. It is hard wired in, a Kidde combo smoke/CO2 alarm, model kn-cosm1b.

By Gabe from Los Angeles, CA

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July 28, 20140 found this helpful

I have five hardwired smoke detectors with battery backup. I changed the batteries today, four of them show a green light and one has a flashing red light; it's not beeping.

By Dean F.

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Archives

ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

December 31, 20100 found this helpful

My hard wired smoke alarm went off last night. What is considered chirping when the battery is low? The alarm went off as though there was an actual fire and kept on for almost a minute and then stopped on its own. Is this chirping?

By Becky

Answers:

Smoke Detector Problem

Some suggestions:

One: The battery may be dying so it might be time to change it. You may need to ask a hardware store what kind of batteries are recommended for a smoke alarm (alkaline, etc). Not all smoke alarms are made alike.

Two: Smoke detectors do die eventually so it may be time for a new smoke detector.

Three: It also could be carbon monoxide. If you have it, leave the house and call a professional to come over to fix the problem. My family went through this when I was younger and the smoke alarm would go off, then chirp periodically throughout the night. We asked a professional to come over and he said that the chimney was the culprit (carbon monoxide). He cleaned it out, the smoke alarm stopped chirping and going off after wards.

Four: Your smoke detector may need to be cleaned out with a dust buster.

Also, the archives may have the answer to your problem.

Good luck and I hope I helped you. (11/23/2010)

By Mgoldsmith54914

Smoke Detector Problem

On my regular battery operated smoke alarms, chirping is a "chirp" like a small bird or a cricket, every so often. Others may work differently, however. (11/24/2010)

By louel53

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April 16, 20100 found this helpful

My smoke alarm started going off recently for no apparent reason. When I fan it with a towel, it stops. Any ideas?

By Jim from Kansas City MO

Answers:

Smoke Detector Problem

I believe, if I remember correctly, that you need to replace the batteries. When low, the alarm goes off. Hope this helps (01/05/2010)

By LULUbobo

Smoke Detector Problem

I have had problems with a detector that went off and I found spider webs inside. I cleaned them out and problem solved. You might check for that.

Donna (01/09/2010)

By flying-brush

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January 5, 20100 found this helpful

My husband bought a new smoke alarm about a year or two ago. I can't find the instructions that came with it. Last night it started 'beeping' and when he pushed on the button to silence it the noise stopped. But now the little green light is on all the time and I don't think it was on all the time before.

I do remember at different times a little red light would flash off and on for a minute or so, but that was to let us know it was working or something. I can't see what kind it is so that's not much help. Is there anyone who has one similar and knows what to do?

Gelene from FL

Answers:

Smoke Detector Problem

Turn off the power to the smoke alarm at the circuit breaker. Remove the smoke alarm from the mounting bracket and disconnect the power. Remove the battery, and press and hold the test button for at least 15 seconds. The unit may chirp or alarm for a few seconds before going silent. Reconnect the power and reinstall the battery. The unit will chirp once when the power is restored and should not chirp afterward. (09/05/2008)

By boreasrex

Smoke Detector Problem

I followed the advice of boreasrex and it worked perfectly. Thanks! (11/22/2008)

By Ron C

Smoke Detector Problem

Just make sure you don't have the same crazy issue as I did. Woke up at 4am to the sound of a chirp. I had heard this chirping before from the smoke detectors whenever they wanted a new battery. After making a run to the grocery store at 5:20am, paying almost $6 for two Duracell 9volts, going to the manufacturers website, checking this forum and shutting down the power to all detectors to remove the batteries, I finally decided to try the vacuum. When I coincidentally went to plug it in to one of the many power outlets, I noticed the LED on the carbon monoxide detector was blinking; there was the actual problem. (12/17/2008)

By wtw94

Smoke Detector Problem

Followed boreasrex's advice and so far so good. Thanks! (01/15/2009)

By heather

Smoke Detector Problem

Thank you wtw94! We changed the battery in the smoke alarm, and we thought it was that that was continually chirping. I had bought a carbon monoxide detector, had put the battery in it, but never plugged it in. It was laying near the smoke alarm, but when I listened to it, that was what was chirping! I didn't think I had activated it yet, but the battery had, I guess. Anyway, we were about to buy a new smoke detector. I'm so glad I checked the carbon monoxide detector. Thank you! (02/24/2009)

By June

Smoke Detector Problem

Thank you, Boreasrex! My alarm has been going off since 2:30 this morning (it's now 10:30!), it was, needless to say, driving me mad! I found this post, disconnected power etc., and now it's blissful silence! I might go to bed now. Thanks again! (07/13/2009)

By stephknee

Comment Was this helpful? Yes

August 25, 20080 found this helpful

I have 4 electronic smoke detectors with battery backup on the same line. One detector beeps every 50 seconds non stop. I have already done the following: changed batteries, replaced with new detectors.

Even the new detector with new battery beeps every 50 seconds. So, it does not appear to be a problem of dust, battery, or new equipment. Where do I go from here?

Ty from Chico, CA

Answers:

Smoke Detector Problem

Try taking the battery out, then put it back in & press the test button. It should beep back at you two times. If it doesn't, press the test button again. You may have to do this with every one that is hard-wired together. (03/18/2008)

By Boogz

Smoke Detector Problem

Changed batteries and smoke alarm is still chirping? Check to make sure you're using alkaline batteries. This happened with us. We bought the cheaper 9 volt battery, replaced the old battery and the blasted alarm still chirped for hours on end! Then realized it needed alkaline 9-volt. (07/18/2008)

By Mark

Comment Was this helpful? Yes

March 11, 20080 found this helpful

I have a smoke detector problem. It keeps beeping off and on. I changed the batteries and it still will beep off and on.

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August 6, 20070 found this helpful

My smoke alarm is connected to electric supply and has started going off for no reason at all the last few days.

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