That darn Smoke Detector is CHIRPING again!

So, it happened to me recently. My 2 AM unplanned wake-up call. You know, that annoying “Chirp “Chirp from you smoke detector that you know from experience will continue until you sell the house. But wait, why does it have to happen in the middle of the night? Seriously, WHY!

I know it could be by design, but I always felt there was more to it than that. So, I set out on a mission to discover WHY it always happens in the wee hours of the night.

Here’s what I found:

Almost all smoke detectors operate on batteries or at least have a battery for backup in case of a power outage. As with all batteries, the power level will eventually fall below a certain voltage level. When that happens, the detector emits a warning of low voltage by chirping. The electricity in a battery is produced by a chemical reaction going on inside the battery. In those wee hours of the night, we usually experience lower temperatures. The colder temp will cause that chemical reactions to occur at a slower rate. That, in turn, will reduced the electrical output from the battery to the smoke detector. That same battery that was OK at noon is now setting off the low battery “Chirp which indicates that your battery is nearly dead.

To sum it up, it’s colder in the middle of the night so a marginal battery will appear nearly dead and of course, the “Chirp will start.

We all know temperatures drop during the night. When your battery has lived a long life, and possibly past its prime, its ability to produce voltages may be enough in the warmth of an average day to power that smoke detector, but when the nighttime temperatures drop even a bit, they will slow down the chemical reaction that occurs inside the battery. That, in turn, reduces the electrical output. The smoke detector has no other option than to warn you that its battery is now too weak to function properly. And now we know the reason they seem to always wake us in the middle of the night.

WOW, who would have thought?

More Helpful Hints:
It’s NOT just low batteries that will set off your Smoke Detector. We all know that burning food and fireplace smoke will set off the smoke alarm, but here are a few other issues that will trigger that alarm.

1. Strong chemicals obviously produce odors, but did you know that ammonia and paint fumes can set off your smoke detector too?

2. Do you live with high humidity? That can be more than annoying for you, it can also set off smoke alarms. Many times, the density of the moisture particles in your area will trigger your alarm.

3. Steam can do it too. Just like humidity sets off your smoke alarm, steam coming from a shower or a pot of water boiling on your stove could also set off your smoke detectors.

4. And if that weren’t enough, Dust could also give you a false smoke alarm. If your detector is in an area where you are remodeling or for another reason has a lot of airborne dust, your alarms could be ringing. If that happens, you will need to clean the insides of your smoke detector. Compressed air is the best way to accomplish this task. Tools and fingers, could make the detector unusable.

5. Best idea we can offer is to change your Smoke Detector batteries every year like clockwork. A good way to remember it is a Holiday that will remind you such as Daylight Savings Time. BE SURE to use the highest quality batteries you can buy. I’m sure the extra dollar you spend will prove to be worth it at 3 am on a cold night in the not too distant future.

If nothing suggested stops that annoying “Chirping”, seek the help of a professional. That chirp gets old after a few minutes.

Brought to you by the electrical pros at:

The Tradesman Electric, Inc.
Orange County, California