When a smoke detector/fire alarm is tested regularly, you can have peace of mind that no one in your family will be at risk without a warning. This guide breaks down the steps you must take to test your fire prevention devices effectively, as well as great installation strategies that benefit testing routines.


When to Perform a Smoke Detector/Fire Alarm Test

It’s best to check the hardware once every month. This maintenance strategy is suggested by the United States Fire Administration. For the batteries, you should replace them once a year. However, you may need to swap the batteries twice a year if they’re not very powerful, or you realize that your devices need new batteries more often.

By following a spring and fall routine, you’ll never forget to test your fire prevention equipment. According to experts, an ideal time to change the batteries is during daylight savings time because you are already setting your clocks to either fall back or spring forward.

In some cases, there will be situations when you’ll have to change the batteries or conduct a test ahead of schedule. These situation examples are as follows:

  • The equipment occasionally emits false alarms.
  • The unit produces brief sounds often when no one touches the button.


Testing Strategies for Battery-Powered Smoke Detectors and Hardwired Detectors

If you have a brand new battery-powered smoke detector, check the batteries to ensure that they’re not defective during your first test routine. During the next tests, ensure that your replacement batteries are in good shape whenever the detector needs fresh ones. You can test the battery strength by pressing the test button if your unit has this feature. Never put old batteries in a smoke detector/fire alarm as they will decrease the unit’s reliability when a fire threatens your house.

A hardwired smoke detector functions differently since it’s wired to the main electrical system in a house. However, it still has batteries that are used as a backup power source during a power outage. To maintain a strong line of defense against a fire, you must test both batteries and every part each month if you own this type of smoke detector.


How to Perform a Basic Smoke Detector Safety Test

Before you begin, grab the instruction manual for your smoke detector/fire alarm as it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for conducting a test. If you don’t have a manual, simply follow the USFA’s guidelines for testing. These are the basic guidelines:

  • Alert the family: Because a smoke detector/fire alarm emits a loud high pitch sound, tell everyone in your house that you’re about to conduct a test. If you skip this step, you may scare small children. Also, if you share your house with pets, take them outdoors as the sharp beeps from the alarm system may hurt their ears or make them uneasy.
  • Involve the family: Direct a few family members to different areas in the home that are far away from the detector that you’re testing. This particular exercise will help you figure out whether or not the alarm’s high pitch sound can effectively reach every corner in your house. If someone can’t hear the alarm, you should consider installing an extra detector/alarm in the location where the existing device’s sounds are low or muffled.
  • Conduct the test: Climb up a stepladder, and press the test button on your alarm. You may have to hold the button for a few seconds before the sound starts. If the beeping sound is very loud or nothing happens, it’s time to replace the batteries. You’ll hear a medium to loud sound when you press the test button if the batteries still have power. In this situation, you don’t have to change the batteries unless they’re over six months old.


Proper Buying and Installation Strategies Lead to Solid Test Results

In order to conduct a thorough and effective test after you buy new equipment, you must follow several vital steps. These strategies are for hardwired and battery-powered fire prevention gadgets.

All smoke/fire alarm systems have a label that indicates different qualities and features. The most important label that you must inspect before you purchase a new detector is the testing label. Ensure that this label was created by a reputable testing lab.

When you conduct a test with your family, strong sound distribution matters, so you must install every new detector in a practical spot. The most important locations include:

  • In every bedroom: Put a detector on the wall or ceiling a short distance from the bed.
  • In the hallways: Install a smoke alarm in each hallway, especially those by the bedrooms or other sleeping areas.
  • In the basement: A smoke detector for a basement should be mounted on the ceiling near the bottom stair.
  • In the kitchen: Install your smoke alarm 10 feet away from all cooking appliances that generate heat to prevent false alarms in the kitchen.


Accidental Triggers

After you’ve installed and tested your fire alarm equipment, some situations may trigger accidental alarms. Unless your equipment has malfunctioned, you won’t need to buy a new device during one of these situations. If you know what can accidentally trigger a smoke detector, you’ll avoid wasting money on unnecessary replacements.

An average smoke detector will emit a false alarm when you burn food while cooking or when smoke vapors from a fireplace are floating high in the air.

Steam is another factor that can trigger the alarm suddenly, usually in the kitchen or bathroom. You may hear the false alarm if you create too much steam from boiling water in a pot or taking a hot shower.

Contaminants in the environment can also trigger accidental alarms, so you should always remove all dust and debris on the sensor. If you’re able to open the device, you may need to clean this area regularly as well because if bugs get in this can also trigger the alarm.

Now that you know how to test a smoke detector, you can implement the procedures to protect your family. If you don’t own a smoke detector, you must seriously consider buying one mainly because it will give you peace of mind in your home as well as a higher level of safety. Also, check with your insurance provider because you may be able to get a homeowners insurance deduction after the safety equipment is installed. If you have any further questions about smoke detectors, fire alarms, or how they relate to your insurance policies, please give one of our representatives at the Webb Insurance Group a call!

*This content was not written by a licensed insurance agent.*