Guides and Tips

When to Replace Smoke Detectors: A Comprehensive Guide

November 4, 2023
When to Replace Smoke Detectors A Comprehensive Guide

Smoke detectors are designed to give you an early warning in case of fire to help you safely escape. But when these detectors decide to act up and take a nap time during an emergency, the consequences could be catastrophic.

For your family’s safety, it’s crucial to ensure your smoke detectors are working in optimum condition. To do this, you’ll have to know when to replace it with a new and more reliable one.

In this guide, we’ll break down how often to replace your smoke detectors and the signs that can indicate a need for a new detector. 

How often should smoke detectors be replaced?

How often should smoke detectors be replaced

The National Fire Protection Association requires residents and businesses to replace their smoke detectors every 10 years. Manufacturers also recommend replacing the unit after 10 years, even if it seems to be functioning properly.

The NFPA also recommends replacing your smoke detector’s battery every 6 months to ensure that the detector is working properly. Some manufacturers, though, offer smoke alarms with built-in 10-year batteries, so you won’t have to replace them as often.

The alarm sensors wear out over time, so it’s not safe to use a significantly old smoke detector. Old detectors are no longer reliable, and continuing on them puts you and your family in danger.

How long do hard-wired smoke detectors last?

How long do hard-wired smoke detectors last

Hard-wired smoke detectors are detectors that are directly connected to a building’s electrical system. They usually have a backup battery, but these are only used during power outages, so they won’t need to be replaced as much.

Hard-wired smoke detectors can typically last for at least 10 years, but monthly testing is still recommended to make sure they’re functioning properly. Their backup battery will usually need to be replaced every one to two years.

How long do battery-operated smoke detectors last?

How long do battery-operated smoke detectors last

Battery-operated detectors use batteries as their primary source of electricity and are not directly wired into a building’s electrical system. Hence, if the battery dies down, the smoke detector won’t function properly.

The smoke detector itself can last for 5 to 10 years, but the battery will usually need to be replaced every six months. The chirping sound from the smoke detectors can indicate that the battery is low and needs replacement.

What are the signs that smoke detectors need replacement?

Over 10 Years of Use

As we’ve said earlier, most common detectors are recommended to be replaced every 10 years to ensure safety. Some states even make it mandatory to replace the detectors every 10 years, even if the manufacturer recommends a longer time.

This is to reduce the risk of relying on a potentially unreliable detector during a fire emergency and putting your entire family in danger. Over time, the internal components will degrade, leading to reduced sensitivity.

Chirping Sound

A constant chirping or beeping sound from your smoke detector is a clear indication of a problem. This could be a case of low battery, which will only require changing the battery instead of the whole unit.

The worst-case scenario, though, is it reaches the end of its recommended lifespan or the unit is malfunctioning. Both of these scenarios will require you to replace the whole smoke detector.

Typically, the detector will chirp once it reaches 10 years since some manufacturers set a timer for it. If it’s relatively new and the battery is not low, the detector probably has a faulty sensor or some electrical issues that will force you to replace it. 

Beeping Every Minute

It’s common for smoke detectors to make noise. After all, its primary purpose is to set off an alarm that will alert you of a possible fire.

However, a loud, high-pitched sound coming from a smoke detector is not normal. If there’s smoke, the detector will usually make a continuous, long beeping sound, not a loud, beeping noise per minute.

This can be a sign of a sensor defect, dusty detector, or low battery. In the three cases, you’ll only need to replace your detector if the cause of the sound is a faulty sensor.

No Alarm During Testing

No Alarm During Testing

If the smoke detector doesn’t make an alarm during initial testing, there’s probably a faulty component inside of it. Don’t risk your safety and replace it with a reliable one.

Delayed Response to Smoke or Fire

Delayed Response to Smoke or Fire

The primary reason we install smoke detectors is to detect smoke or fire as early as possible to give us enough time to escape safely. If the detector can’t detect smoke until the fire has grown significantly, then it’s practically useless.

Test your alarm once a month to check its effectiveness. If during these tests you notice a significant delay in the detector’s response, replace it with a newer model.

Don’t compromise your family’s safety just to save a few bucks. A few seconds of delay can cause a significant danger during fire emergencies.

Frequent False Alarm

Frequent False Alarm

While delayed and no response are both bad, frequent false alarms are just as bad. They can make you and your family desensitized to the alarms, and you may start thinking each alarm is just a minor issue and not a real emergency.

It’s safer to invest in a new and more reliable smoke detector than try repairing your current detector’s malfunctioning sensor. The repair may fix frequent false alarms, but it may also stop the detector from sending out a signal altogether.

Painted Smoke Detectors

Almost all smoke detectors have a “Do Not Paint” label on the box and the actual product, as paint can reduce the detector’s sensitivity. However, some homeowners still paint the detector just to match the color of the home’s interior.

If your house comes with a painted smoke detector, it’s better to just replace it with a new one. Even if it worked just fine during testing, you never know what may happen during actual fire emergencies.

Insect Activity

Insect Activity

Seeing a spider or some webs near a smoke detector doesn’t always mean you have to change the detector. If that’s the case, you may need to change the detector far more than you change your light bulb.

However, if there’s a significant amount of web or dead insects in the detector, then some parts of it may already be compromised. The sensors may have become blocked or, worse, damaged because of the constant insect activity in the detector.

To prevent having to change your smoke detector because of insects, always check and clean your detector. Testing it regularly can also ensure it’s not damaged.

How much does it cost to replace a smoke detector?

How much does it cost to replace a smoke detector

Replacing a smoke detector can cost anywhere between $10 and $75 if you do it yourself. The final cost will depend on the type, model, and brand of the detector.

Battery-operated smoke detectors can cost you $10 to $35, while hard-wired detectors cost around $30 to $75.

If you’re not confident with your skills, you can hire a local home security company or an electrician to install a new smoke detector for $50 to $100 on top of the cost of the smoke detector.

FAQs About Smoke Detectors

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