Interconnected smoke alarms are a crucial component in any home or building, as they provide an early warning of fire and smoke, giving occupants valuable time to escape to safety. However, simply installing smoke alarms is not enough; it is essential to regularly test and maintain them to ensure they are functioning correctly and achieve their full 10-year lifetime expectancy. Just as a car is serviced to keep it running smoothly, smoke alarms occasionally need some TLC too!
Here are some little known tips on how to test and maintain your interconnected smoke alarms to keep you and your family safe.
Testing your interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms
It is recommended to test our Queensland Premier Range and Red smoke alarms at least once a month to ensure they are functioning correctly – this is aligned with the manufacturer’s recommendations (of course there is nothing stopping you from testing your alarms more frequently if you wish to do so). To test your smoke alarm, follow these simple steps below:
- Notify everyone in the vicinity (including neighbours) that you will be testing the alarm to avoid causing unnecessary panic – and any unexpected visits by the Fire Brigade! It is generally better to test the alarms during the day as opposed to night time.
- Press the test button once on the smoke alarm (or on the optional remote control device) – the smoke alarm should sound almost immediately.
- If the alarm sounds loud and clear and is accompanied by a red flashing light this means your smoke alarm is working correctly.
- If the alarm sounds weak, does not sound at all, or the red light does not flash, you may need to replace the entire smoke alarm as soon as possible. Note the battery inside the alarm cannot be replaced as it is non-removable and is sealed inside the device (this is a requirement of Australian Standard 3786:2014).
- If your smoke alarm is interconnected with other alarms in the building, ensure that they all sound and activate their red flashing light when the test button is pressed.
It is not recommended to use real smoke or any other means to test your alarms – doing so can degrade the internal photoelectric sensors, which may induce random nuisance alarming or could even reduce the smoke alarm’s overall life expectancy.
Maintaining your smoke alarms
In addition to testing your smoke alarms regularly, it is also essential to clean and maintain them properly to ensure they are functioning correctly. Here are some little known tips on how to maintain your smoke alarms:
- Dust and debris can accumulate on the sensors of your smoke alarm, reducing its effectiveness. Clean the smoke alarm regularly by vacuuming gently with the soft brush attachment from a vacuum cleaner, or dusting it with a soft brush. Do not apply solvents or other chemical cleaning agents on or near the smoke alarm itself, as this may confuse the sensor and induce nuisance alarms.
- Smoke alarms have a limited finite lifespan and should be replaced every ten years. The low battery beep occurs once every 60 seconds and means it is time to replace the alarm.
- Smoke alarms can also be affected by humidity and temperature changes. Avoid installing smoke alarms in areas such as kitchens, bathrooms or laundry rooms, where high humidity or temperature changes can alter their effectiveness. For example, a clothes dryer running in the laundry may increase the humidity in this room, and subsequently trigger a false alarm.
- Do not install smoke alarms in outdoor areas, non-enclosed areas, or rooms subject to dust i.e. the garage. Heat alarms are more suitable for dusty locations such as garages.
It is also important that your interconnected smoke alarms are installed correctly. Smoke alarms should be installed on the ceiling or high on the wall – the homepage on our website gives further guidance on recommended smoke alarm placement, and exactly where they should (and should not) be installed on the ceiling.
Read the instruction manual! – you would be surprised by the number of people that switch on and attach their smoke alarms to the ceiling without even reading the supplied instruction manual – the manual contains helpful troubleshooting tips, outlines best practice for maintaining the alarms, and should definitely be read from cover to cover!
Interconnected smoke alarms are a crucial component in any home, providing an early warning of fire and smoke. However, to ensure they are functioning correctly and last their full 10-year life expectancy, it is essential to test and maintain them regularly. By following the tips outlined in this article, you can help keep your loved ones and household possessions safe from the dangers of fire and smoke. Remember, interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms save lives – look after them and they will look after you!