How To Test A Smoke Detector

Monday August 31, 2020

Installing a smoke detector is an inexpensive way to protect you and your loved ones from getting caught in a dangerous situation.

It is important to remember, though, that smoke detectors can only help you if they are functioning properly. If not maintained properly, your smoke detector could fail you when you need it most.
 
 
Performing a Safety Test
 
Step 1
Warn family members.
Unless you are trying to conduct a fire drill, you should let everyone in the home know that you will be testing the smoke detector so that they will not feel frightened when the detector goes off.
If your smoke detector is hardwired to a monitored security system, be sure to notify the security system's company that you are performing a test before you test the alarm. 

Step 2
Ask someone to help you.
When testing an alarm, it will sound loud to you because you are going to be standing directly underneath it. However, you may also want to be sure that your detector is loud enough that anyone in any room in the home can hear it. Remember, it has to be loud enough to awaken the deepest sleeper in the household.
 
Step 3
Test the power.
Many smoke detectors are equipped with a light that indicates the unit is receiving power. However, you should still use the test button to ensure that the alarm will sound properly. You can do this by pushing and holding the test button for a few seconds.
When you push the test button, the alarm should sound. If it doesn’t, you know that your detector is not receiving power. You may need to replace the batteries, or call an electrician to check the wiring if your detector is hardwired.
 
Step 4
Check the smoke sensor using an aerosol spray.
In addition to making sure that the unit is receiving power properly, you will want to make sure that the detector’s smoke sensor is working correctly, too. You can purchase an inexpensive aerosol spray, which is designed specifically for testing smoke detectors. If your alarm does not sound when you use this product as directed by the manufacturer, the sensor in your detector may be worn out. If this is the case, replace your detector immediately.
To turn off the alarm after testing, you can use a small hand-held vacuum to suck the test material away from the detector. Some detectors may also have a “silence” button that you can push to stop the alarm. Avoid waiting for the detector turn off on its own, as this may drain the battery.

Step 5
Test the smoke sensor using real smoke.
You can also use real smoke to test the smoke sensor. To do this, light two or three matches, and hold them together a few feet underneath the detector. The smoke from the matches should cause the alarm to sound if the detector is functioning properly. If it doesn’t sound, replace the detector immediately.
Be sure to keep the matches a few feet away from the detector, otherwise you risk melting or damaging it.
 
Step 6
Test your detector at least once each month.
Some recommend testing your detectors each week. Obviously it is better to check them more frequently, so do it each week if you can. If you can’t, then be sure to plan a time each month to check each smoke detector.
Checking your alarm often means you are likely to catch a malfunctioning detector quickly; thus, you are more likely to have a properly functioning detector when you need it.
 
Maintaining Your Smoke Detector

Step 7
Replace the smoke detector.
Smoke detectors can last about ten years before they may become unreliable. The sensors in the detector may wear out or become contaminated by dust and other air pollutants. Therefore, after ten years of use, it is important to replace your smoke detectors.
If you aren’t sure how old your smoke detector is, you can usually find out by removing the unit from the ceiling, and looking on the back. The date of manufacture is typically printed on it.
If you can’t find the date on the unit, then replace it.
If your smoke detectors are hardwired, be sure to shut off the electricity in your home before installing a new one. Alternatively, have a professional electrician install the unit for your own safety.
 
Step 8
Clean the detector.
When you are testing the detector each month, it is a good idea to use a vacuum cleaner attachment, a cleaning brush, or a soft cloth to clean any dust, dirt, or other debris that may have accumulated. In the event of a fire, buildup on the detector could cause it to malfunction.
Don’t use cleaners on the unit as these may contaminate the sensors. Vacuuming or wiping away dust should be sufficient.
 
Step 9
Insert new batteries twice each year.
If you have a battery powered detector and even if it is functioning properly, it is a good idea to replace the batteries two times per year in order to make sure your detector is ready to go if and when you need it.
 
Practicing Fire Safety
 
Step 10
Make a fire exit plan with everyone who lives in the household.
It is important that everyone knows what to do in the event of a fire. Take the time to have everyone sit down together with a floor plan of your home, and create a fire exit plan that everyone will be able to use in the event of a fire. Make sure that all members of the household have memorized the emergency number for the fire department.