How often should you replace smoke detectors?

How often should you replace smoke detectors?
Handyman construction worker installing smoke detector on the ceiling

Smoke detectors are the first indication in case of fire that can destroy your home office or the life of your loved one/ones. Therefore, you must make sure that the smoke detectors installed and working at top condition and must be replaced when they stop working. However, how would you know how often to replace smoke detectors?

According to the recommendation by the National Fire Protection Association, a smoke detector alarm must get replaced every ten years. If your home is over the age of 10 years and you have not replaced the smoke alarms, you must replace them. One of the ways to identify if the smoke detector needs to be replaced is to check the tag at the backside. Alternatively, you can check the color of the smoke detector’s outer shell. If the color has turned into a dingy yellow color from white, you know that it is time you should replace it.

In most cases, the homeowners think that if the smoke detector beeps or functions okay on pressing the test button, it means that the smoke detector is still working. However, they do not think that the test buttons only check how well the batteries and electronic components of the smoke detector are working. The test buttons are not responsible for checking whether the sensors are working. The smoke detector sensors will have to be checked using a real fire to know if it is working properly. However, this can be too much of a risk to undertake.

Smoke detector turning yellow

If you have a smoke detector over ten years old, you may notice that the detector is turning yellow. This yellowness of the smoke detector is not due to dust, grease, or cigarette smoke. Smoke detectors turn yellow because of the presence of a fire retardant called Bromine. Bromine is added to the smoke detected by the manufacturer. The function of Bromine is to protect the alarm in the case of a fire breakout. It also works as a visual signal that the smoke alarm has lived its life and now needs to be replaced.

Expiry of smoke detectors

Smoke detectors never really had an expiration date from their manufacturers. This is because electronics most often do not have many moving parts which will expire. Electronic items keep working as long as the batteries are working. However, the case with smoke detectors is slightly different. Smoke detectors do not expire because their parts malfunction. They expire because their effectiveness reduces. Over time, as smoke, dust, grime, and other small particles enter the detector, they tend to accumulate and desensitize the smoke sensors. Eventually, the smoke sensors cannot detect the smoke as effectively as they used to in the past.

Therefore, even if the smoke detector may seem like it is working, it may not be able to detect the smoke very well if it is beyond the ten years limit. Your manufacturer may not let you know about the tenure limit. Still, it is best to change the detector once it celebrates its 10th birthday as a cautionary measure. 

Most people think that if they keep their house free of dirt and dust and clean the smoke detector from time to time, it won’t stop functioning. However, better be safe than sorry. Thus, being thrifty regarding smoke detectors is putting your whole house at risk.

Is the smoke detector going bad?

If you’re planning to change the smoke detector because you think it is too old, make sure that it has passed the ten-year installation.

  • Remove the detector from the ceiling slowly. 
  • Check the back part of the smoke detector for the manufacturing date.
  • Check if the detector has passed the tenure limit from the manufacturing date.
  • If the smoke detector has not passed the ten-year limit yet, put it back in place. If the smoke detector is beyond ten years, immediately get a replacement.

How to identify if the smoke detector is not working?

There are chances that your smoke detector is within the ten-year period from the date of manufacture, but it has already stopped working. Here are a few signs that you should check to know that it is time to replace the smoke detector.

  • The detector goes on and off even if there is no smoke
  • The detector beeps from time to time despite replacing its batteries with fresh ones.
  • When the test button is pushed, it does not sound the alarm.
  • The detector responds to cooking or even elevated humidity levels.
  • You replaced the batteries but did not do not even last one whole year.

Smoke alarms are the first line of protection from house and office fires. Therefore, you must be very diligent and keep replacing them as and when needed.


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