Nothing is more frustrating than a smoke alarm going off for no reason (especially at 2am in the morning!). But why is your smoke alarm beeping when there is no smoke? There can be several causes of nuisance alarms. The good news is that you don’t have to go on living this way – our wireless interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms provide reliable protection for you and your family!
The basic operating principal of an interconnected photoelectric smoke alarm is that it activates when the light beam inside the smoke alarm chamber is broken or disrupted – typically by tiny smoke particles. However these foreign particles can come from sources other than real smoke too – below are some of the most common examples and how to resolve them.
High humidity may occur naturally as the air carries dense moisture particles that your smoke alarm confuses for smoke particles. Although brands can differ, smoke alarms should be designed to work up to 93% relative humidity – anything over this range and the air could become dense enough to scatter the light beam of a photelectric sensor. Extreme tropical weather conditions in far north Queensland and the Northern Territory can sometimes produce high humidity above 85% which may begin to affect an alarm.
High humidity may also be created artificially due to steam vapour from a bathroom shower, or a clothes dryer operating in a laundry room for example. If your smoke alarm is positioned outside a bathroom entrance or in a laundry consider moving it further away or relocating it completely so that escaping shower steam and dense air vapour doesn’t trigger nuisance alarms and start the smoke alarm beeping unnecessarily.
Section 4.17 of Australian Standard 3786:2014 requires all smoke alarms to have protection against foreign bodies, so that a sphere of diameter larger than 1.3mm cannot pass into the sensor chamber – this protection is provided by way of an internal mesh screen. Despite this requirement it is still possible that very tiny insects (smaller than 1.3mm) could enter the smoke alarm and by doing so interfere with the photoelectric sensor. One tip to reduce this likelihood is to wipe the ceiling perimeter around your smoke alarm with surface insect spray (being very careful not to allow the insect spray itself to touch the alarm as this may affect the internal sensors).
A build-up of dust in the air may also affect your smoke alarm. If dust particles enter the internal chamber they will interfere with the photoelectric light beam and trigger nuisance alarms. We recommend cleaning your smoke alarms regularly by gently vacuuming around them with a soft brush attachment from your vacuum cleaner. Cleaning your smoke alarms in this way may remove any cobwebs which could also prevent pests from entering the alarm. Be cognisant of any activities in the home which may create excess dust – for example renovations, or shaking out old dusty blankets or doonas in a room which has a smoke alarm installed.
It is true that whilst many house fires start in the kitchen, installing an alarm in the kitchen may also elicit many nuisance alarms and start the smoke alarm beeping unnecessarily. It doesn’t matter what brand of smoke detector you have, if you install it too close to the kitchen stovetop or oven it will activate when smoke particles are emitted from the cooking food (after all, the smoke alarm is just doing what it is designed to do). When cooking, be sure to use the oven exhaust fan or rangehood to draw smoky air particles away from the vicinity of your smoke alarm. If the problem persists, consider repositioning the alarm further away from the cooking appliance.
Beeping smoke alarms without an obvious apparent reason can be both frustrating and stressful. Worse, repeated false alarms may induce a ‘boy who cried wolf’ syndrome and reduce home occupants reaction to a real life fire event.
Fortunately, our wireless interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms undergo strict quality control measures and are manufactured in adherence to Australian Standard 3786:2014, independently tested and verified by the CSIRO which help reduce the likelihood of nuisance smoke alarms. Using the tips outlined above and below, your smoke alarms will provide many years of stress free and reliable fire protection.
For more information about why your smoke alarm is going off no reason, please refer to the handy Red smoke alarms diagnostic checklist below!