Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works

Are False Alarms Going to Keep Happening?

Once is a fluke; twice is a coincidence; three times is a trend. If false alarms keep happening with the smoke alarms, replace all of them with a different brand.

Are False Alarms Going to Keep Happening?

Greetings Douglas,

In the middle of the night my detector beeped a few times the it said fire, fire. I checked the entire house and found nothing except my visibly alarmed self.

All the alarms in the house were replaced two years ago. Is this going to keep happening?

Thank you, JM

A couple of things can happen where, in just a few years, the smoke alarms start having problems.

Type of Smoke Alarms

Ion Sensor or Photo Sensor

Ion Smoke Alarms use a very small electrical current to measure the resistance of air. Photo Smoke Alarms use light beams to detect smoke particles in the air.

Ion Smoke Alarms are usually less costly than Photo Smoke Alarms. But then, Ion Smoke Alarms are also more prone to false alarms than Photo Smoke Alarms.

The type of smoke alarm does affect the number of false alarms.

One-Year Battery versus Ten-Year Battery

Batteries are annoying to have to replace every year. But if the smoke alarm uses a battery that lasts for the ten-year lifetime of a smoke alarm, it has to be designed to use far less electrical current than a smoke alarm whose battery has to be replaced annually.

Because it uses less electrical current than a one-year battery smoke alarm, the ten-year battery smoke alarm is more prone to false alarms.

Utility Powered

A smoke alarm connected into the house electrical system can be designed to operate more stably than a smoke alarm that uses only a battery.

A utility powered smoke alarm is less prone to false alarms than a battery powered smoke alarm.

Purchased From Retailer or From Fire Alarm Installation Company

Retailers usually sell products based on price, and have the lowest price products on their shelf; fire alarm installation companies have to stand behind their product so they have to supply higher quality (and therefor more expensive) products.

How much you pay for the smoke alarms and who you get the smoke alarms from can sometimes affect their quality.

Testing for False Alarm

The test button on the smoke alarm only tests to make sure it makes noise. There is no test on any smoke alarm that can show if the smoke alarm goes into false alarms. The test button won't be of any help.

Will False Alarms Keep Happening?

I use a rule for things like false alarms. Once is a fluke; twice is a coincidence; three times is a trend. If the false alarms keep happening, replace all of the smoke detectors with another brand.

You don't want false alarms. If you replace the smoke alarms, at least the ones you removed won't give you problems again. Just make sure all of them are of the same brand.

Douglas Krantz
Life Safety
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