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How Often Should You Replace Smoke Detectors? Lifespan, Signs & FAQs

a smoke detector in the ceiling

Smoke detectors play a crucial role in keeping a home and all its occupants safe. A good smoke detector can last for quite a while, helping to detect smoke and sound the alarm. However, over time, such a unit gets worn out and needs a replacement.

It is recommended that you change a smoke detector after 10 years. However, you should also do checkups to see if there’s any need for early replacement or not. Wear and tear coupled with dust and electrical corrosion lead to smoke detectors breaking down and needing earlier replacement.

Read on to learn why it’s essential to change smoke detectors and when to change the batteries and perform checkups for these units.

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Smoke Detector Lifespan

A home needs to have functional smoke detectors. The work of these devices is to detect smoke and sound the alarm to alert anyone in the house that they need to get out. The minute you hear the alarm, it’s important to act fast and get to safety.

Unfortunately, smoke detectors don’t last forever. A good smoke detector can be a life-saver, but after 10 years, it’s time to get a new one for that part of the house.

The longer the smoke detector functions after the expiration date, the more at risk you and your family become. The manufacturers always indicate how long you can use the unit and when it’s time to replace it with a new one.

a smoke detector
Image By: PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay

Routine Inspection of Smoke Detectors

It is important to check or test the smoke detector regularly.  Remember, this is an electrical device and it’s not immune to malfunctioning and dead batteries.

Some smoke detectors rely on a lithium battery. Once there’s little energy left in the battery, most detectors will alert you by playing a short chirping sound. Changing the battery not only stops the noise but keeps you safe by forcing you to inspect it.

Test your smoke detectors once or twice a month. Regular checkups also help you note issues like false alarms and irregular chirping. Follow the steps below when performing a routine smoke detector inspection.

Alert House Occupants

Before you start testing the smoke detector, let those around you know what is happening. Smoke detectors alert people of imminent danger by emitting a high-pitched noise. This can cause people to panic. Therefore, let them in on the test before you go ahead and do it.

Let Someone Stand at the Farthest Corner of the House

If you have multiple smoke detectors, it is advisable to inspect one at a time. As you do so, have someone stand at the furthest part of the house. This is a chance to gauge how far the sound of each smoke detector alarm travels. If some areas don’t receive ample sound, install extra detectors to improve the overall alert system.

finger pressed the smoke detector test button
Image By: r.classen, Shutterstock

Use the Test Button

Smoke detectors come with a test button. Press it and allow the smoke detector several seconds to sound the alarm. Be ready for a high-pitched noise that travels all over the house. If this doesn’t happen, know that something is wrong with that specific smoke detector.

Also, note if the sound from the smoke detector is weak. This can be an indicator of worn-out batteries or the end of the life of the smoke detector. Fetch some new batteries and replace the old ones in each unit before repeating the test.

Check the Date and Clean the Unit

Testing also provides a chance to check the date on the back of the smoke detector. As you detach it from where it is mounted, note when the expiration date is set. If it is past that date, replace the smoke detector with a new one. If not, you can clean it and then return it to the ceiling or wall. Just remember that 10 years is the maximum lifespan of a functioning smoke detector.

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Signs Indicating It’s Time to Change a Smoke Detector

While it’s better to change a smoke detector older than 10 years, there are other signs to note. These signs alert you that there are problems with the smoke detector that warrant immediate action.

1. Frequent Chirping

The short chirping noise that the smoke detector makes is to alert you that something is wrong. It may mean the smoke detector is out of batteries or the entire unit is worn out. If the chirping continues after a change of batteries, you may have to change the entire unit altogether.

fixing Smoke Detector
Image Credit: SpeedKingz, Shutterstock

2. There’s No Response During Testing

Testing smoke detectors is essential and must take place once or twice a month. However, old and worn-out smoke detectors don’t always respond to testing. Sometimes, when you press the test button, nothing happens. Even when you replace the batteries and try again, the unit still won’t go off. This is something you should never ignore.

3. Dirt and Dust Accumulation

Smoke detectors are high on the walls or ceiling of a home. Imagine how much dust and dirt the unit can accumulate in 10 years. The dust and dirt lead to desensitization, meaning the smoke detector stops detecting smoke in the house.

The longer this happens, the riskier it is for you and your entire family. Even if you do regular cleaning to remove the dirt and dust, after a decade, replacement is the best option.

4. Yellowing

Do you want another sign that it’s time to buy new smoke detectors for your home? Check the color of the units for any changes. Old smoke detectors start to turn yellow as they near the end of their life.

There are many reasons for the smoke detectors to turn yellow, including contaminants and pollutants. The air in your home undergoes many changes each year that cause this to happen.

5. It Keeps Going Off for No Reason

Be sure to notice if your smoke detector turns on and off randomly. For instance, the smoke alarm goes off in the living room when there’s no sign of smoke anywhere. That indicates the unit is malfunctioning because of old age.

Such instances can cause havoc, No one wants to wake up in the middle of the night because of a faulty smoke detector. If you don’t solve this matter, you leave your home vulnerable to fires when it seems like the unit is simply malfunctioning.

smoke detector on the ceiling
Image By: Rigby40, Pixabay

How Often Should You Replace Smoke Detector Batteries?

In the US, it’s highly recommended to inspect and change smoke detector batteries every 6 months.

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A home needs several smoke detectors as a safety measure against fires. However, like many other units, time means wear and tear over time. This is why you have to replace your smoke detectors after 10 years of use.

Good quality smoke detectors require battery replacement every 6 months, even the hard-wired ones. However, after a decade of use, it’s time to replace the entire smoke detector altogether.

Featured Image Credit: Zerbor, Shutterstock


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