The incessant chirping of a smoke alarm that keeps beeping after you remove the battery is maddening. Under normal circumstances, a smoke alarm is silenced after changing the battery. However, there may be other issues that must be resolved before your smoke detector returns to its normal state of quiet vigilance. Still, whatever you do, don't take out the battery and leave the unit disabled because your family's life may depend on a functioning smoke alarm.
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Locate the Beeping Unit
Modern homes often have several smoke alarms plus carbon monoxide detectors and a security system. Any of these units may be beeping. A slow, intermittent chirp usually indicates a low battery, while continuous rapid beeping indicates smoke, heat, steam, carbon monoxide or other safety or security issues that must be resolved before the unit stops sounding the alarm. In some cases, not even removing or changing the battery will stop the noise.
Fix Beeping Wired Smoke Detectors
Hardwired smoke alarms are connected directly to the electrical system of the house. Often, there is a backup battery in case the power goes out. When the battery is low, only that unit will chirp. If the unit is still beeping intermittently after replacing the battery, double-check to ensure that the battery is making full contact with the terminals in the unit and that the cover or drawer is completely closed. If the unit beeps for up to 10 seconds after installing a new backup battery and then stops, this is normal.
Some hardwired smoke alarms have a microprocessor that may not clear the error after changing the battery. To reset the smoke detector, first try holding down the "test" button until it goes off. If the chirping stops, you've cleared the error.
You may have to manually clear the error by disconnecting and reconnecting the smoke alarm. Turn off the power at the breaker box before removing the smoke detector from the ceiling and disconnecting the power cable. Remove the battery and hold down the "test" button until the alarm sounds and goes silent. Reinstall the battery, reconnect the power cable and attach the unit to the mounting bracket before turning the power back on.
Stop Chirping in Battery-Operated Units
Generally, replacing the battery in a battery-operated smoke alarm resolves the issue. If the smoke alarm continues chirping, try a different battery. Even new batteries can lose their charge over time, especially if they are kept in a cold location.
Look for Other Issues
Other factors can affect your smoke alarm and cause beeping. If you've been working on a home improvement project or conducting a massive spring cleaning, dust may have gotten into the smoke detector. Take out the battery and clean the unit thoroughly, wiping the inside of the battery compartment and vacuuming the intake vents.
While cleaning the smoke alarm, check for corrosion and errant bugs. A fried earwig, ant or spider stuck in the terminals can cause chirping. In addition, if the terminals are corroded, replace the unit.
Smoke alarms installed too close to the stove or bathroom door may go off due to smoke and heat or steam from the shower. Consider moving the smoke alarm a little further away from the offending appliance or bathroom door.
Replace the Smoke Alarm
In addition to the other issues that may affect your smoke detector, check the installation date. Smoke alarms are only good for eight to 10 years. If the unit beeps rapidly several times, stops for a minute and then repeats the beeping, the odds are good that it has reached the end of its functional life. Replace the smoke alarm.
When replacing a hardwired unit, be sure to turn off the power before removing the old unit from the power cable and mounting bracket. Take out the battery pull tab in the new smoke detector or the new unit will also beep.
Whether hardwired or battery operated, put a new battery in the smoke alarm. Test it by holding down the "test" button until the alarm goes off. Pick a date, such as when the time changes in spring or fall, and replace all of the smoke alarm batteries every year.
Ruth de Jauregui is the author of 50 Fabulous Tomatoes for Your Garden. She writes numerous home and garden articles for a variety of online publications. She got her start as a book and cover designer in San Francisco for William (Bill) Yenne at American Graphic Systems. In addition to designing books, she wrote her first book, Ghost Towns. With several nonfiction books under her belt, de Jauregui recently published her first novel, Bitter.