Smoke with NO Mirrors
In our office we receive calls weekly from clients about their alarm system smoke detectors. Several questions arise during these calls.
Is it still working?
Do I need to replace it yet?
It’s beeping, how do I turn that off?
If it goes off while I'm burning my toast, what should I do?
So let us take a few moments to share some very important information about the smoke detectors on your alarm system. Let's start with what to do when it goes off.
Imagine that you've just spent the last few hours baking up a storm. Flour, eggs, cloves and ginger all over your counters as you prepare some festive treats. You've cleaned up and the last batch is in the oven for another few minutes and you sit down for a break. Slowly you doze off. You wake up to the sound of the smoke detector going off and smoke coming out of your oven. Nothing you can't handle. You enter your code on the keypad to stop the alarm system horn from going off. You pop open a window to help clear the air and the phone rings. Here's where picking up the phone will save you some money.
That phone call is coming from the alarm monitoring station. They are checking to make sure that the smoke detector going off is not a false alarm. Pick it up and let the monitoring station know that everything is alright and you're just having a baking episode. They will ask if you want the fire department dispatched. If you skip that call, they will assume that nobody is home and call in your local fire department to handle the situation. If its a false alarm, you'll be stuck with the bill so pick up that call.
Smoke and/or heat detectors are life safety devices. Regardless of whether the system is armed or not, your smoke/heat detector is always connected to the monitoring station.
Your smoke detector has a recommended life span by the manufacturer of 10 years under normal conditions of use. It’s important to know this because a smoke detector past its life span will either begin to cause false alarms or fail to detect an alarm condition. Both are very costly in different ways. So if you have an alarm or purchased a home with an alarm and the smoke detectors are a part of it, it’s best to find out just how old those smoke detectors are.
During regular operation (non-alarm status), the detector will flash the LED light once every 50 seconds and remain silent. Once an alarm is initiated to the device by smoke or heat, the alarm in the smoke detector will sound as well as sounding the alarm for the rest of the system. The LED will flash once a second during the alarm status. If the smoke or heat reduces below a certain point, the system will restore to regular operation.
Smoke detectors also come with 2 features to avoid false alarms. The first is Automatic Drift Compensation. As a device ages on your ceiling, invariably dust will begin to collect inside it. Automatic Drift compensation is adjusting the sensitivity of the device based on the long term changes of its environment. So as dust collects over time, the device recognizes the constant state of slow change and ensures that the sensitivity is accounting for that change while keeping constant to the factory sensitivity setting.
The second is a smoke warning status. If the smoke around the detector reaches 75% of the amount required to trigger an alarm status for longer than 2 minutes, the smoke detector begins to chirp once every 50 seconds while it is in warning status. This allows for somebody to either correct the issue by eliminating the cause of the smoke as well as the smoke itself, or evacuate if eliminating the cause is not possible. If the smoke level drops below the 75% before the 2 minutes, the system returns to regular operation.
One of the more common things that occurs with a smoke detector pertains to the ones installed wirelessly. The wireless smoke detector uses two 3V DC Lithium batteries and over the course of time, these batteries will begin to fail. Usually life span of a battery in a wireless device is 3-5 years, however if the device is opened and closed regularly, like a door, or set off regularly by excessive dust due to renovations or smoke from a chef in training, the battery will have a shorter life span.
A low battery signal is transmitted to the panel when the battery has no less than 14 days of power remaining. The signal is silent and shown to the end user through a trouble light on the keypad. This signal changes to an audible chirp that happens every 48 seconds until the battery fails when the system tests or goes into an alarm. If neither of those things happen during the first 7 days since the original signal, the system will switch into the chirp until the battery fails mode. Once the battery fails the system will not arm, so it’s best to get the battery replaced as soon as you notice the trouble signal on your keypad if you don’t want to fall asleep to chirping smoke detectors.
Cleaning your smoke detector is quite easy. Attach the small brush extension to your vacuum and simply go over the face of the device as part of your regular cleaning. If the device has accumulated some grease, use a damp soapy cloth to wipe down the detector.
If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please let us know in the comments section below and we can share answers to your questions! We’re here to help you by working together for a safer community.