What You Need to Know About Your (Sometimes Annoying) Smoke Alarms

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One day this fall, Daisy Mountain Fire & Medical responded to 16 calls for smoke alarms that were going off. Every single one was caused by low batteries or unserviced equipment — false alarms. DMFM took the opportunity to remind people to change the batteries periodically, and to clean and test the alarms, not just for their own sakes, but so crews can remain available for real emergencies.

Also, you don’t want to become a statistic. Three out of five fire-related deaths happen in houses without working smoke alarms, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

The 9-volt batteries in smoke alarms should be replaced every year, according to the agency. But, you say, batteries last longer than that! Maybe. So here’s a suggestion from Consumer Reports: If you think the battery has life left, use it in some other device on which your life doesn’t depend.

Also, smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years, the Fire Administration says. The City of Phoenix actually has an ordinance requiring alarms be replaced after 10 years (you’ll find the manufacture date on the back of the device), and the city advises they be vacuumed monthly.

Likewise, the batteries in carbon monoxide detectors should be changed at least annually. Carbon monoxide, a deadly, colorless, odorless gas, is produced by autos and gas-burning stoves, fireplaces and water heaters. If your alarm goes off, open a window or two and take the family outside immediately and call 911.

Seasonal Problem

False smoke alarms have a seasonal component.

“In the Anthem area, early morning winds are common, especially in the fall and winter times,” said DMFM spokesperson Brent Fenton. “This wind causes dust particles within a home attic space to become airborne and blown into the living space, often times fooling the smoke detector into thinking it sees smoke and alarming.”

Gas furnaces can be a problem, too. They build up dust during the summer, then the first time you turn them on, the dust burns off, creating “a burning smell throughout the home” that will “sometimes trigger the smoke alarms,” Fenton told In&Out.


Resolve to change alarm batteries each year on New Year’s Day (and if you expect to be a little foggy, maybe put a reminder on your calendar).

Kyle Goveia