How To – Test Maintain And Replace Your Fire Alarm System

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    Like any other device in your home your Fire or Smoke Alarm System need proper maintenance and testing to work at its best. The fact is most of us never think of our fire alarms unless the little light goes off or it starts beeping to tell us we have forgot to change the batteries.

    In this howto we will look at some of the things you should do to maintain your fire alarm system and test it properly.

    We will also look at some options for upgrading your individual non connected system to one that will sound an alarm on all your units if any individual one is triggered.

    Testing Your Fire Alarm System

    Each unit on your smoke detector alarm system must be tested independently. This will take a little bit of time and may cause some headaches but interconnected systems must be tested so that each unit is able to trigger the system and each unit is able to respond to a signal from the other alarms.

    Go to each unit one at a time and press the test button. Depending on your unit it will sound the alarm for only as long as you hold the button in the depressed test setting or for about 5 seconds.

    Have a helper go to all of the other units in the house and listen for each alarm sounding and then report back to you.

    When you use the test button you will be bypassing the sensor and connecting the circuit that triggers the alarm. A bad sensor could still cause a problem and your manufacturer should provide you with information on how to check the sensor for an error.

    Most manufacturers suggest that you do not use smoke to test the alarm. This is because the smoke that enters the system can block and disable the sensor making it not work when you need it to.

    What is that Chirping Noise?

    Normally a chirping sound is heard when the battery on your unit is low. However chirping could mean other events have occurred such as a system error or even a smoke or fire detection.

    It is very important you read your manual for all codes and event diagnoses information.

    Smoke Detector Green and Red LED Diagnostic Lights

    Each unit may have different setting and response codes for your LED indicators. It is important that you read the directions for your specific unit to determine exactly what each event means.

    Normally you will have a Solid Green light meaning the Unit is operating correctly.

    You can also have a blinking green or red light and a solid red light. These indicators mean there is some type of problem or that you should inspect your system. It could be as simple as your battery needs replacing or it could mean that there has been an alarm triggered in a different part of the house and the unit is malfunctioning and not sounding the alarm.

    Read your directions and if you no longer have them visit your manufacturer’s website and they should be downloadable.

    How Often Should You Test Your Smoke Alarms?

    You should test each unit at least once a year when you replace the batteries. Many people have a specific date that they always change the batteries on.

    I would suggest that you pick a date prior to any holiday where you may have family and friends over and do a lot of cooking. Also testing before the cold weather is a good idea if you have a fireplace or wood stove or if you use any type of portable supplemental heater in your home.

    Can you make repairs to a Smoke Alarm?

    If you find that any of your units are not working correctly you should remove and replace them. You should never try to service your smoke, fire or carbon monoxide testers if they are not performing correctly when you test them.

    The only appropriate servicing is to  replace batteries and keep the unit free of dust.

    What Upgrades Can You Make?

    There are a variety of different upgrades that you can make to extend the usefulness of your smoke detector / fire alarm system.

    Wireless Interconnected Smoke Detectors are a great upgrade if you now have individual units that are not connected. The wireless controller in each of the systems will listen for signals in the system. If one unit senses a smoke or fire condition it will sound the alarm on all the other units.

    Wireless and Wired interconnected systems are recommended in all homes.

    If you can not install three wire smoke alarm circuits in your home for one reason or another then wireless interconnected systems can provide a similar solution.

    You can also connect your system to your home alarm to call for emergency help when you are away. This type of service can be installed by the home owner but it requires that you purchase products that function as a single unit.


    Check out our other HowTos for more information on Fire Alarm Systems and other home safety devices .

    The YouRepair Store carries a full line of home safety products. Look for free shipping on most orders over $25.

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