Do Smoke Detectors Go Bad?

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

Hi folks. It’s Luke here from Smoke Alarmed. We’re a small team of licensed electricians
who service, test and install smoke alarms, and in this video, I wanted to answer the
question, ‘Do smoke detectors go bad?’ Now, how often have you heard a news report
which stated “There were no working smoke alarms” following a house fire where lives
were lost? So sad, but also avoidable! Even if your smoke alarms are cheap and pretty
basic, they can definitely be life savers. Smoke alarms are not all alike. Some work better than others and many options
are available today to make them safer and easier to use. However, there might be some things you don’t
know about smoke alarms that could make you rethink the ones you have now. The fact is, all smoke detectors need to be
replaced when they reach 10 years of age, and in many instances, smoke detectors can
fail or become problematic well before this time. Nonetheless, there is much more compelling
information I’d like to share with you. You can never be too well informed when it
comes down to the safety of you and your family. Now, were you aware that most smoke alarms
self test for smoke every 40-60 seconds as it constantly monitors the air 24 hours a
day! This means that during the 10-year lifespan
of an alarm, the electronics in a smoke detector have carried out over a staggering 7,884,000
tests! After so much use, components may become less
reliable. This means that as the alarm gets older, the
potential for failure increases, as the sensitivity, and therefore the effectiveness of the smoke
detector continues to reduce over time. This is the reason why it is recommended you
replace your smoke detector every 10 years for optimum performance and safety. Smoke detectors are subjected to 10 years
worth of dust, insects and debris accumulating in the device, not to mention possibly being
neglected with lack of maintenance over this period. A buildup of dust and particle matter can
also affect the performance of the smoke detector. Here are some signs which indicate your smoke
detector may be failing (or has failed!). Possibly your smoke detector is intermittently
going off for no reason. Maybe you hear random chirping, even after
replacing the battery. Or perhaps the test button fails to operate
the siren on the smoke detector. Maybe the last battery you replaced in your
smoke detector has lasted less than 1 year. Or, your smoke detector is more sensitive
than it used to be to cooking smoke, burning toast, humidity and that sort of thing. So, here’s how to check your smoke detector
today! Firstly, check the expiry date to see if it
is still serviceable. As discussed above, all smoke alarms have
an operative service life of 10 years, after which they need to be replaced. This date will usually be written on a sticker
on the side or on the back of the alarm. You want to give it a service whilst you’re
at it: Firstly, vacuum the alarm on the outside,
and also around any openings. This is to clean the inside of any dust, debris,
cobwebs and insects. Alternatively, use an aerosol air blaster
or a small electric blower if you have one. Next, insert a new battery (that is of course,
if it’s a smoke detector model with a removable 9-volt battery). Now, clean the outside of the alarm with a
damp cloth and general purpose cleaner just to clean off any external cobwebs or debris
on the external surfaces. Then, apply a small amount of insect surface
spray to another cloth, then gently wipe over the face of the alarm and around the surrounding
ceiling. This tip will limit the chance of insect ingress
which may cause those pesky false alarms. And lastly, press the test button on the alarm
to ensure it works. So, if you’ve checked everything and you’re
confident your smoke detectors are still in date, plus you’ve serviced the alarms as
well, you can feel confident in your alarms doing their job if the worst should happen. Let’s quickly talk about how many smoke detectors
fail earlier than 10 years as well. This is a fact, so don’t fall into the trap
of thinking a smoke detector is made to last for 10 years, so therefore it will. While undertaking the services we carry out
on smoke detectors daily in Queensland, Australia, we see a high number of faulty smoke alarms
each week, most of them having failed in well under 10 years! Remember, smoke alarms can only save lives
if they are well maintained and working properly, so the message here is that you remember your
monthly smoke detector maintenance which should alert you to any potential issues. If your smoke detector is chirping or behaving
erratically, it often doesn’t necessarily mean the alarm is faulty or going bad. Quite frequently, there is a simple explanation,
and it’s fixable. If your alarm is chirping once every 30-60
seconds, it is just telling you that the battery is running low and requires replacement. If your alarm is randomly false alarming (meaning,
it’s going off for no reason), it’s usually because there are some small insects, dust
or debris stuck inside the sensing chamber. You can often fix this yourself by vacuuming
out the alarm to clean the internal sensing chamber. But importantly of course, as we discussed
earlier, check the expiry date of your smoke alarms while looking at them, and if anything
is 10 years or older, simply organise to have them replaced. Please don’t be the type of person who expects
their household smoke detectors are going to last as long as the house itself. They don’t, and are not meant to. The great thing is that smoke detector technology
is evolving, and if you upgrade your smoke detectors now, you’ll likely acquire a state
of the art device with advanced in-built features to let you know quicker in the event of a
fire, plus a swathe of internal improvements to limit the chances of false alarms. You’ll be pleased to hear that modern smoke
detectors are far more reliable than those of old, and many of the shortcomings of those
former ones are now a thing of the past. The biggest takeaway is this – if you have
ANY reason to believe your smoke detectors are going bad, don’t hesitate to replace
them immediately. A working smoke alarm is critical for the
early detection of a fire in your home, giving you and your family time to escape. A working smoke alarm stands guard around
the clock! The majority of fatal fires happen when families
are asleep because occupants are unaware of the fire until there is not adequate time
to escape. Smoke and deadly gases tend to spread farther
and faster than heat. That’s one reason why most fire victims die
from inhalation of smoke and toxic gases, and not from burns. It can take as little as three minutes for
a fire to take hold, and it takes just two quick breaths of thick, black smoke to render
a person unconscious! I’m sure you’d agree these are very frightening
facts! So, do you really want to risk your life with
a device that you have some niggling doubts about? The safety of you and your family is far too
important to risk on the chance that your old smoke detector may not work when you need
it most! So, I hope this video has increased your awareness
of the importance of working smoke alarms and helped answer the question, ‘do smoke
detectors go bad?’. For more information on smoke alarms and fire
safety, head over to our website Thanks so much for watching!

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