Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works

Can I Just Cut the Wires?

By Douglas Krantz | Residential

Some apartments, condos, and even hotel rooms have two different detectors on the ceiling. One is for the residential unit, and one of them is for the building-wide fire alarm system.
Photo by VJ

Can I Just Cut the Wires?

Can I Just Cut the Wires?

Greetings Douglas,

Hi there Doug, I've got a question for you! I live in a condo apartment, with a hardwired heat detector and a smoke alarm stationed near to each other (see photos!). I got home the other day to hear a chirping every minute or so coming from what I thought was the smoke alarm.

To make it stop, I disconnected it, believing I had to buy/replace a backup battery for it. Turns out the smoke alarm doesn't have a back-up battery and the chirping persisted when I detached it from its base, so it appears the heat detector chirps.

No one seems to believe me when I say It chirps but it's not possible that the smoke detector (that lays on my kitchen counter now) can continue to throw the chirp sound from across the room!

Am I missing another possibility here? I cut the breaker and received a pleasant silence but, alas, I now have to shower in the dark as the w/c is on that same breaker.

Here is my question: Am I crazy in thinking this devise chirps? (I've looked up Chemetronics 601 on line and I cant find anything that says the devise would start to chirp when it needs to be replaced)

Note that this device is an original install in my building, built about 20 years ago. I want to replace the device, and more so I want my power back on in the washroom, but folks are saying I should not touch these black and red wires!

If my cutting the power to the device hasn't prompted a visit from the fire department, should I be worried about detaching this devise and installing another myself (while the power is cut, of course)? If you think this is a sensible idea, could you tell me what a good replacement model might be?

Lots of questions. I'm sorry for being so long winded! Any help would be greatly appreciated as our property management person is utterly useless and impossible to get a hold of.

Thank You, VJ

Warning: Under no circumstance should the wires to the heat detector be cut. Inside the heat detector is a spring and some contacts. When heat melts some low temperature solder, the spring pulls the contacts together.

The heat detector is incapable of chirping.

The smoke alarm makes noise only inside your condo unit; the heat detector is connected to the building-wide fire alarm system. The building-wide fire alarm system monitors the wires to make sure they don't break or come loose from anything.

If the wires are cut, the building-wide fire alarm system will automatically show that something's wrong with the fire alarm system - and whatever's wrong needs to be fixed.

Cutting these wires will cost you lots of money. Don't cut these wires.
Photo by VJ

Sequence of Events:
  1. The management or association will see a trouble light and hear a beeping from the building's fire alarm system

  2. They'll call a fire alarm service company

  3. Someone from the service company will spend several hours looking for the damaged wire, and finally find your condo

  4. You'll receive a bill for the entire troubleshooting

Another problem is that while you're cutting or removing wires, if the cut wires accidently touch each other, the entire building will have a fire alarm, and the fire department will come.

I personally fear to touch heat detectors without taking proper precautions, so should you.

Nuff of the warning.

Finding the Unknown Beeping

I assume that you have good hearing, but good hearing won't help when trying to locate the source of beeping.

As a professional, I have on several occasions troubleshoot beeping sounds coming from something, somewhere in a condo or apartment. I have learned that if I am standing in the center of a room and listening, room acoustics make it impossible to locate the source of a beeping sound, anywhere in a room.

To find out which device is really beeping, this is what I do.

Walk up to the device I think may be making the beep. Place my ear within a foot (or half of a meter) from the device, and listen. If, when I am that close to the device making the sound, the beep sounds much louder, and I have found the device.

If, on the other hand, the beep sounds about as loud as it sounded before, I have not found the device. In other words, I move to listen to another device.

Common devices that beep when a battery is bad, or when the device itself is bad, or when the device is out-of-date are:
  • Smoke alarms

  • Wired in or plugged in carbon monoxide (CO) detectors

  • Furnace alarms

  • Water heater alarms

  • Uninterruptable power supplies (UPS)

  • Etc.

Keep in mind, some devices (like carbon monoxide detectors) go bad after a few years and have to be replaced.

Before replacing batteries or cutting wires, find the device that's beeping by close-by listening. Then deal with the device.

Douglas Krantz

Greetings Douglas,

Thank you for taking the time to respond, and for the good advice. I will keep it with me, and share it the next time I hear of someone else with a chirping problem!

I am still quite amazed at how difficult is was the locate the sound; I would have bet good money it was coming from the heat sensor on the ceiling - and was prepared to disconnect those red and black wires to make it stop! (yikes, what a problem I would have created for myself had that happened!)

Thank you again for your assistance, VJ
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