How to Test a Smoke Alarm and When to Change One

how to test a smoke alarm

Your home is your safe place and there’s no doubt that you do all you can to keep it protected, from installing fire alarms to adding a security system. Making sure you have smoke alarms in place on every level just as you should is a must. However, even though having a smoke alarm is important, many homeowners rarely if ever test them, and many fail to replace them as needed.

Check out what you should know about how to test a smoke alarm and when these necessary fixtures should be replaced.

How to Test a Smoke Alarm the Correct Way

According to the National Fire Protection Association, simply making sure your smoke alarms are functioning properly can reduce your chances of dying in a fire by half. This being said, learning how to test your fire alarm is important. Most battery smoke detectors have a test button that you can push to ensure the alarm sounds off as it should. However, this really only tells you that the battery is up and the alarm is functional. It does not tell you that the alarm detects smoke.

The test button on your smoke detector is convenient, but you can get a better idea of if the unit is functioning with actual smoke. Simply grab a few wooden matches, light them, and then blow them out while standing near the smoke alarm. Hold the still-smoking matches close to the detector about 12 and 18 inches below your smoke detector. You can also use incense for the test or invest in a UL-rated can of smoke.

A few other things to remember include:

  • Even hard-wired smoke detectors should be tested regularly.
  • It is a good idea to do a button-push test on your home’s smoke alarms once a month.
  • An test with actual smoke is a good to do annually.
  • Batteries should be changed in your smoke detectors once or twice per year.
  • Some smoke detectors “chirp” or let out a repeated alarm noises when the battery is dying.

When Should You Change Your Smoke Alarms?

Even though bad batteries are the most common reason why a smoke detector will fail, they also fail because they are old and haven’t been replaced for years. If you’re like many homeowners, you don’t know when the smoke alarms you’re using were installed. It’s best to replace smoke alarms every 10 years. It is also a good idea to replace those in your home that you’re not sure about. However, you can usually find a manufacture date on the device itself. Check along the side or bottom of the detector for this information. Even hard-wired smoke alarms will need to be replaced after 10 years of use. So don’t make the mistake of assuming your smoke detectors are different because they are not battery operated.