Fire Alarm Keeps Going Off? Here’s What To Do - AlfredCamera Blog (2023)

Picture the scene: you’re totally knocked out in bed after a long day. Suddenly, a loud beeping shocks you out of your sleep. It’s the hideous tones of a fire alarm going off at 3am.

Your immediate thought is to get out of the house, but, bleary-eyed and buzzed on adrenaline, you notice that there is no fire.

A phantom fire alarm going off randomly at night is a pain we’ve all experienced. Worse still, when they start, they don’t seem to want to stop.

Thankfully for you, it’s a nightmare you won’t be experiencing much more of anytime soon. Find out all you need to know about fire alarms, including how to turn off smoke alarms, how to check and replace a fire alarm battery, and what to do when a carbon monoxide detector is going off.

Table of Contents

How To Turn Off Fire Alarm

If there’s clearly no smoke, a smoke detector chirping or flashing red is a sign of a false alarm. How you turn it off depends on the model.

The vast majority, however, will feature a single button on the front panel, regardless of whether it is a standalone (battery powered) model or a hardwired model.

Step 1

Press and hold the hush button on the front panel of the alarm for at least 10 seconds. For most models on the market, it will be the only visible button on the system and may be labeled ‘test’ or ‘silencer’.

Holding this single button for different time periods can have different functions depending on the model, so consult the instruction manual of your model if you still have it. But, generally, this is how to reset a smoke alarm.

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Step 2

The alarm should silence unless there is smoke. If it continues to beep, quickly investigate the surrounding area and evacuate your home safely should you notice a fire.

The only object you should consider bringing with you is a phone, so that you can call the fire brigade from a safe space, but do not hunt for it; if it isn’t on your person at the time, it’s better to have a neighbor call emergency services.

Step 3

The alarm will reset itself after a period of five to ten minutes depending on the model. During the hush period, check the area for smoke, debris, or other compounds nearby that might be causing a false alarm.

Opening nearby windows and blowing out any candles can help to ventilate the area.

Under no circumstances should you ever remove the fire alarm battery or cut the power source to it. Even if you suspect false alarms or a faulty model, having smoke detectors in your home is vital—even a faulty model is better than none at all.

If your fire alarm keeps going off, consider some of the possible reasons for false alarms below.

5 Most Common Reasons for False Alarms

1. Dead fire alarm battery

Contrary to what you might imagine, fire alarms function by emitting a constant electric current to a sensor. When smoke obscures that current, the alarm will sound. Given how they function, the most common reason for a false alarm is a dead or almost-dead smoke detector battery.

Without holding it, press the button on the front of the panel to test the battery; if the alarm sounds loudly and clearly, it’s good to go. If there is no sound, or the alarm is quiet, slurred, or bending in pitch, it’s time to replace the battery. Every 6 months is a logical replacement period to make a habit of.

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2. Too close to the kitchen

A conundrum that continues to plague fire safety in the home is that the kitchen is by far the most likely place for a fire to break out, yet it isn’t advisable to have a smoke detector in there because cooking will regularly set off false alarms.

Don’t fit them in kitchens or bathrooms,’ says Mark Hazelton, Group Manager for Community Safety with the London Fire Bridge. ‘Do fit a heat detector in your kitchen.’

Whether you’re prone to burning your toast or not, it’s not wise to have a smoke detector in the kitchen. A heat detector can be a great way to get around the issue.

Rather than sounding when smoke cuts the electrical current, heat alarms sound when the temperature they detect goes beyond a set threshold. Likewise, carbon monoxide detectors should also be installed in kitchens. Heat detectors, however, must only be used as part of a system rather than standalone. They will not suffice without smoke alarms elsewhere.

3. Too close to the bathroom

Having a smoke detector installed either in the bathroom or right outside isn’t a wise idea either, especially if you enjoy a long shower. Rising steam from hot water will easily trigger the alarm, regardless of how well ventilated the bathroom is.

Not to mention, fire alarms aren’t generally waterproofed, and moisture from steam can damage the circuitry. Thankfully, bathrooms aren’t exactly known for having fires break out in them, but if you are the type that likes a romantic candle-lit bath, make sure to never leave a flame unattended.

4. Chemical compounds, insects, and dust

Although less common (and therefore much harder to deal with), there are certain airborne chemical compounds that could trigger a false alarm. Fire alarms have come a long way in terms of functionality, so this is highly unlikely to be the case. But if you have recently painted, there’s a chance the compounds used to keep the paint wet could be causing the electrical current to break.

Similarly, if the opening to the chamber is wide enough for bugs to crawl inside, they probably will. Insects and accumulations of dust can interfere with both photoelectric and ionization detectors, so consider opening the cover to take a look inside—it may just need a little cleaning!

5. Faulty product

If even after replacing the battery and moving the alarm your fire alarm keeps going off, it may be time to buy a new one.

While fire alarms should, in theory, undergo rigorous testing before being released to the market, there’s a chance you could have bought a faulty one with a weak electrical current, thus making it impossible to turn the alarm off.

If your alarm is more than ten years old, its sensitivity is likely indicative of its age.

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Now that you know why there might be false alarms, it’s time to know how these products work.

How Do Smoke Alarms Work?

There are two main types of smoke alarm: ionization detectors and photoelectric detectors. What are the differences, and how do they work?

Ionization Detectors

Ionization detectors, the older and more common alarm, use a small piece of radioactive material that ionizes (charges) the air between two plates. This creates a current that constantly flows. Particles entering the alarm will cause the current to weaken; the presence of smoke will reduce it below a threshold, essentially breaking the current and causing the alarm to sound.

Photoelectric Detectors

Photoelectric technology is newer and growing in popularity. Though it doesn’t use radioactive material, the premise is similar. A light beam is shone inside the sensing chamber, which won’t strike the detector should the chamber be free of particles. If smoke is present, the amount of light reflected onto the detector will pass a threshold, causing the alarm to sound.

Which Should I Use?

The NFPA actually recommends installing both types of alarm for maximum protection because, thanks to their different technologies, they have different strengths.

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Ionization Detectors are more responsive to flaming fires (i.e. fires with lots of black soot, which will quickly disrupt the current), while Photoelectric Detectors are more responsive to smoldering fires, which produce larger, lighter colored (i.e. more reflective) particles than flaming fires.

Both will work just fine in both circumstances, but since there is evidence to suggest they have these different strengths, a combination of alarms would be ideal if possible.

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Kidde Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detector

Fire Alarm Keeps Going Off? Here’s What To Do - AlfredCamera Blog (1)

A battery-powered smoke and CO detector, this failsafe option from well-regarded alarm experts Kidde is affordable and robust. Its alarm is a little unusual, with a voice stating either ‘Fire! Fire’, ‘Warning! Carbon Monoxide!’, or ‘Low Battery!’. Well, at least there won’t be any confusion as to what it’s trying to communicate!

Ecoey Smoke Alarm

Fire Alarm Keeps Going Off? Here’s What To Do - AlfredCamera Blog (2)

This simple to use photoelectric smoke alarm comes with up to 8 alarms, allowing for maximum coverage of even the largest of properties. Batteries means you don’t need to worry about a power outage in the event of a fire. Alarms are smaller than the average alarm on the market, making them a little less unsightly, and the alarm sounds loudly, clocking in at 85db.

X-Sense Wireless Interconnected Smoke Detector

Fire Alarm Keeps Going Off? Here’s What To Do - AlfredCamera Blog (3)

Though it’s a little pricier than the average fire alarm, the modern features that this model has make it easy to see why. Available in packs with up to 12 alarms, X-Sense’s palm-sized wireless smoke alarms are linked out of the box, so that when one alarm detects smoke, all of them will sound. They feature a modern design that’s insect proof.

BRK Heat Alarm

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Since a fire is more likely to start in the kitchen than any other room in the house, a heat alarm is the only way to monitor it without experiencing constant false alarms.

BRK’s will sound an 85db siren if it detects either a temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit or a temperature increase of more than 15 degrees Fahrenheit in under a minute—both of which strongly indicate the presence of a fire. It markets itself as hardwired, but will function solely on its battery backup.

Kidde Carbon Monoxide Detector

Fire Alarm Keeps Going Off? Here’s What To Do - AlfredCamera Blog (5)

Having a carbon monoxide detector in your home is just as important as having a smoke or heat alarm. Having all three makes for a much safer home. CO is a silent killer: you can’t see it, smell it, or hear it, so the only way to accurately detect dangerous levels of it is through a detector. This one plugs into the wall, but also features battery-backup for power failures.

FAQ

Why does my fire alarm keep going off?

False alarms can be caused by dead or dying batteries, poor placement (in or next to kitchens and bathrooms), or airborne chemical compounds, like those that are released from wet paint.

What to do if your fire alarm keeps going off?

Holding down the main button on the fire alarm for at least ten seconds should silence it, but this is only a temporary fix. It will reset after a few minutes. In that time, replace batteries or move the alarm to a new location, away from steam. Never remove the batteries for the purpose of silencing it.

Who to call if fire alarm keeps going off?

If your fire alarm is going off, there is, obviously, a chance of a fire–in which case, the fire brigade should be called immediately from a safe location outside the property. If false alarms are continuing to no avail, you can also call the fire brigade directly and arrange an assessment, or have a professional come round to take a look at the alarm. If it continuously goes off, it may be time to replace it.

Why is my smoke detector beeping?

The majority of smoke detectors function by sending a constant electrical current that prevents the alarm from sounding. As soon as that current is broken (presumably by smoke), the alarm will sound. Hence, dying batteries can cause a smoke alarm to beep, as well as objects like candles, steam from a bathroom, and other airborne chemical compounds.

Conclusion

With more than a quarter of reported fires occurring in the home, fire safety in the home is of utmost importance when it comes to improving your overall home safety and security. Combining smoke, heat, and carbon monoxide alarms covers all your bases, so that you can feel more at ease in your home.

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A fire alarm that keeps going off is a nuisance, but removing the battery outright is extremely ill-advised. Check for other causes of false alarms, which in most cases will be a dying battery; otherwise, replace the alarm itself. Never go without a fire alarm.

Recommended reading: Spotting Gas Leak Symptoms and Staying Safe

FAQs

What to do if your fire alarms keep going off? ›

First, try the reset button on each smoke alarm. If that doesn't work, flipping the circuit breaker off and back on might stop the noise. If all of that fails, your ultimate solution may be to disconnect the smoke alarms and remove their batteries one by one.

Why is my fire alarm going off constantly? ›

The most likely reason smoke detectors go off unexpectedly is that people aren't changing the batteries in them often enough. In most sensors you might think of, the strength of the signal goes up when they detect what they're supposed to. Common causes of smoke detector false positives around the house.

Why did my fire alarm randomly go off in the middle of the night? ›

This battery characteristic can cause a smoke alarm to enter the low battery chirp mode when air temperatures drop. Most homes are the coolest between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. That's why the alarm may sound a low-battery chirp in the middle of the night, and then stop when the home warms up a few degrees.

Why would hard wired smoke detector randomly go off? ›

A hardwired smoke alarm could go off because of a dead backup battery, power surges, improper installation, dust in the air, or humidity.

How do you silence a fire alarm? ›

Take the smoke detector off its mounting bracket on the ceiling and disconnect the power cable plugged to the smoke detector. Take out its battery, then press the “Test” button holding it down for 15 seconds. An alarm will sound for a short time, then the alarm will silence.

What can trigger a smoke detector into creating a false alarm? ›

When you take a shower or boil water on the stove, smoke detectors can sense the steam and sound the alarm. Make sure you ventilate your bathroom and kitchen properly to prevent this. Small bugs love dark crevices in your home, so they may crawl into your smoke detectors, triggering a false alarm.

Why is my smoke alarm going off without battery? ›

If your hardwired machines continue to beep in the absence of a battery, it's most likely because the backup battery has become active. As told that a backup battery unit is available with a hardwired device, so if your smoke alarm is battery-only, the chirping is coming from somewhere else.

Do fire alarms go off for carbon monoxide? ›

Some smoke alarms also double as carbon monoxide detectors. When it gets cold outside, it's normal for people to crank up the heat. Furnaces, space heaters, fireplaces — these are some solutions to warming up a home.

How long does a fire alarm go off for? ›

If the smoke is not too dense, the alarm will silence immediately. If the smoke or debris is interfering with the sensor, the alarm will override the Hush. The smoke alarm will automatically reset after approximately 8 minutes unless particles of combustion are still present.

How do you stop a hardwired smoke detector from beeping? ›

Wired Alarms
  1. Shut off your home's main power breaker.
  2. Disconnect the alarm unit's power cable.
  3. Take the alarm down.
  4. Take out the backup battery.
  5. Hold the test button for 15 seconds to drain any residual charge.
  6. Re-install or replace the backup battery.
  7. Reconnect the alarm to the power cable.
  8. Replace the alarm.
2 May 2022

Will taking the battery out of a smoke detector stop the beeping? ›

Once you replace the battery or otherwise successfully address the reason for the chirping, the smoke detector should immediately stop making noise. However, if you cannot figure out the problem, don't disable the unit by taking out the battery.

What is the most common cause of false alarms? ›

Top 5 causes of false alarms and how to prevent them
  • 1) Human error. The number one cause of false home security alarms is simply human error. ...
  • 2) Poorly-designed security systems. ...
  • 3) Lack of maintenance/upkeep. ...
  • 4) Outdated or old security equipment. ...
  • 5) Malfunctioning security system equipment.

Can high humidity cause fire alarms to go off? ›

High humidity levels, steam and condensation may cause false alarms.

Can mice set off smoke alarms? ›

No one likes sharing their home with bugs and vermin, but aside from the aesthetics and overall creepiness, they can wreak havoc with your smoke alarms and security systems.

How do you detect carbon monoxide? ›

How to find carbon monoxide leaks
  1. Brownish or yellowish stains around appliances.
  2. A pilot light that frequently goes out.
  3. Burner flame appears yellow instead of clear blue (exception: natural gas fireplaces)
  4. No upward draft in chimney flue.
  5. Stale-smelling air.
  6. Soot, smoke or back-draft inside the home.
19 Mar 2021

Where is reset button on smoke detector? ›

How to reset smoke detector & make it stop beeping & chirping ... - YouTube

Where is the hush button on a smoke detector? ›

How to temporarily silence your smoke alarm - YouTube

What are two warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning? ›

The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like.” If you breathe in a lot of CO it can make you pass out or kill you.

How do you tell if it's a fire alarm or carbon monoxide? ›

Here's a simple guide: Smoke alarms alert you with three beeps in a row. Carbon monoxide alarms alert you with four beeps. A single chirp means the battery is low or the detector should be replaced.

What can falsely set off a carbon monoxide detector? ›

Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors can false alarm for several reasons.
...
Maintenance and Installation Tips to Reduce False Alarms
  • In extremely dusty, dirty or greasy areas like garages, furnace rooms, crawl spaces and unfinished attics.
  • In direct sunlight.

Can dust cause smoke detector to go off? ›

Many smoke detectors will go off because of substances that act like smoke. Dust can set off a smoke detector, and is actually a common cause of accidental smoke detector activations. It all comes down to the way that airborne particles trigger the sensors on these devices.

How long will a smoke detector chirp before it dies? ›

Smoke detectors are an essential safety installation for every home. As important as they are, they can sometimes chirp for longer than necessary. This continuous sound can be so discomforting you can't help but wonder when it will end. A smoke detector chirps for at least 30 days before dying.

What does 4 chirps mean on a smoke detector? ›

What Does an Emergency Alarm Chirp Mean? This meaning is probably the most self-explanatory. When your carbon monoxide detector chirps 4 times in a row and pauses, this means it has detected unsafe levels of carbon monoxide. This means your entire household should evacuate immediately and seek fresh air.

Why is my smoke alarm going off without battery? ›

If your hardwired machines continue to beep in the absence of a battery, it's most likely because the backup battery has become active. As told that a backup battery unit is available with a hardwired device, so if your smoke alarm is battery-only, the chirping is coming from somewhere else.

Do smoke alarms detect carbon monoxide? ›

The CO alarm will sound if your sensor detects a high buildup of carbon monoxide in your home. Most people begin to feel the effects of carbon monoxide at 50 ppm, so be sure your detector can sense an amount of 50 ppm or less.

Does a carbon monoxide detector go off continuously? ›

Does a carbon monoxide detector go off continuously? Most carbon monoxide detectors will continue to sound their alarm until the level of carbon monoxide in the air drops back to an undetectable level. Most detectors beep four times followed by a pause and continue to do this while carbon monoxide is present.

Where is the reset button on a smoke detector? ›

How to reset smoke detector & make it stop beeping & chirping ... - YouTube

How do you detect carbon monoxide? ›

How to find carbon monoxide leaks
  1. Brownish or yellowish stains around appliances.
  2. A pilot light that frequently goes out.
  3. Burner flame appears yellow instead of clear blue (exception: natural gas fireplaces)
  4. No upward draft in chimney flue.
  5. Stale-smelling air.
  6. Soot, smoke or back-draft inside the home.
19 Mar 2021

Where is the hush button on a smoke detector? ›

How to temporarily silence your smoke alarm - YouTube

How do you stop a hardwired smoke detector from beeping without battery? ›

Hardwired smoke detectors (which typically include a backup battery) are subject to similar issues as those that operate on a battery only. However, hardwired units often require resetting after problems are addressed. On most, simply hold the reset button for 15 to 20 seconds to silence the noise.

How can you tell if there is carbon monoxide in your house? ›

A carbon monoxide detector is a must for any home and just as important as a smoke detector. CO detectors should be placed near all bedrooms; they're the only way you will know if carbon monoxide is affecting the air quality in your home, and can help prevent serious illness and even death.

How do you tell if it's a fire alarm or carbon monoxide? ›

Here's a simple guide: Smoke alarms alert you with three beeps in a row. Carbon monoxide alarms alert you with four beeps. A single chirp means the battery is low or the detector should be replaced.

How can you tell if there is a carbon monoxide leak? ›

Signs of a carbon monoxide leak in your house or home

Stale, stuffy, or smelly air, like the smell of something burning or overheating. Soot, smoke, fumes, or back-draft in the house from a chimney, fireplace, or other fuel burning equipment. The lack of an upward draft in chimney flue. Fallen soot in fireplaces.

What can falsely set off a carbon monoxide detector? ›

Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors can false alarm for several reasons.
...
Maintenance and Installation Tips to Reduce False Alarms
  • In extremely dusty, dirty or greasy areas like garages, furnace rooms, crawl spaces and unfinished attics.
  • In direct sunlight.

Should I call fire department if carbon monoxide alarm goes off? ›

Call 911 when your CO detector goes off. Emergency responders are trained to identify and treat the symptoms of CO poisoning. Firefighters are also equipped to find the source of Carbon Monoxide leaks and to stop them.

How long does it take to get carbon monoxide poisoning? ›

If the carbon monoxide concentration in the air is much higher, signs of poisoning may occur within 1-2 hours. A very high carbon monoxide concentration can even kill an exposed individual within 5 minutes.

Do I need to reset my fire alarm after it goes off? ›

If your smoke alarm won't stop going off, reset the alarm after first checking that there is no actual fire in your home. If it is only a case of cooking smoke or steam setting off the alarm, most smoke alarms will stop beeping once you open windows and doors to air out the room.

What does the blinking red light on my smoke detector mean? ›

Your alarm manufacturer may have included a blinking red light to let you know it's time to test the alarm again. The Batteries are Low: Usually accompanied by a loud beep, a blinking red light could mean the batteries in the unit are low. Consider adding fresh batteries and running a test to make sure it's working.

How do I reset a hardwired smoke detector? ›

Resetting the Alarm
  1. Turn off the power to the smoke alarm at the circuit breaker.
  2. Remove the smoke alarm from the mounting bracket and disconnect the power.
  3. Remove the battery.
  4. Press and hold the test button for at least 15 seconds. ...
  5. Reconnect the power and reinstall the battery.
24 Feb 2021

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