How To Turn Off a Smoke Alarm

For when that silencer button just won’t do.

By
&
Aliza Vigderman
Gabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Sep 14, 2021
By Aliza Vigderman & Gabe Turner on Sep 14, 2021

There are few things more alarming (no pun intended) than your smoke alarm going off. It’s especially annoying, however, when it’s a false alarm. How do you turn off your smoke alarm, and how do you decrease the number of false alerts you get? Using data from top smoke alarm companies and organizations, we’ve got the answers.

How To Turn Off a Smoke Alarm

Want to stop your smoke alarm from chirping? We’ll tell you how to turn it off without sacrificing your overall fire safety.

Alder Security Fire Alarm
Alder Security Fire Alarm

How To Temporarily Silence Alarm

Exactly how you’ll stop your smoke alarm from going off will depend on the model and the manufacturer of your device. For Kidde devices, a popular smoke alarm brand, take the following steps:

Silence the Alarm in 3 Steps

  1. Press the hush/silencing button. It will silence the entire interconnected system. The button may also say “test.” It should silence all the alarms immediately unless there’s still smoke and debris.
  2. It will reset in eight minutes, given that the smoke and debris have dissipated. You can press the hush button repeatedly until the air is clean.
  3. To end the hush period, push the test/hush button again.1

Why Smoke Alarm Is Going Off

These are some reasons your smoke alarm might be going off aside from actual smoke or a fire:

  • Low battery
  • Insects or dust in alarm
  • Silence button pushed by accident
  • Incorrect wiring on AC or AC/DC smoke detectors
  • Power interruptions (on hardwired alarms)2

TIP: To clean your smoke alarm, use a compressed air canister (like one you might use to clean your keyboard). Dust and debris can cause false alarms.

How Often To Change Batteries on Smoke Alarm

How often to change your smoke alarm’s batteries will again depend on the manufacturer and model of your alarm. However, most companies recommend that you replace batteries once a year; many people sync this up with daylight saving time as an easy way to remember.

How To Reset and Clean Smoke Alarms

Are red and green lights flashing on your smoke alarm? If there are no obvious signs of smoke or fire, then you should reset it and clean it to prevent future false alarms.

Hardwired

  1. Disconnect the alarm and remove its battery.
  2. Holding the alarm by its edge, use a keyboard cleaner to remove debris on the side of the device.
  3. Press and hold the test button for five seconds.
  4. Reconnect the device to power and its backup battery. It will chirp once it connects to power.

Battery

  1. Remove the battery.
  2. Press and hold the test button.
  3. Reinstall the battery. It will chirp once when it reconnects to power.
ADT Smoke Alarm
ADT Smoke Alarm

How To Get Rid of False Alarms

We’ve all had smoke alarms that go off when there’s not even smoke, let alone fire. To fix the issue, you have to get to the root of the problem (after you silence the annoying alarm, of course).

Possible Causes of False Alarms

These are some situations and conditions that can cause false alarms in smoke detectors:

  • The alarm is too old. If your alarm is 7 to 10 years old (or more), it’s time to remove and replace it.
  • The alarm is dirty. Bugs, dust, or debris in your smoke alarm’s sensing chamber could be triggering it falsely.
  • The alarm is close to steam, sunlight, etc. If your alarm is near HVAC vents, fluorescent lights, steam, moving air, or sunlight, move it away from the fireplace, bathroom, kitchen, or furnace.
  • You’ve had recent power issues. If you have a hardwired smoke alarm, a power outage could trigger the alarm; typically, it will sound briefly when the power is interrupted.
  • The alarm is installed over a junction box. You shouldn’t install wireless smoke alarms over junction boxes, as this could trigger false alarms.
  • The alarm is exposed to humidity. Humidity can cause false alarms, so move your detector away from bathrooms or other high-humidity areas in your home.
  • An interconnected alarm went off. If your smoke alarm is part of a larger AC or AC/DC alarm system (and no, we’re not talking about the band), another unit triggering may cause your alarm to sound off as well.
  • Large appliances are on the same circuit. Another issue could be an appliance on the same circuit, like a vacuum cleaner.
  • The heating was turned on. When you turn your heat on for the first time of the season, dirt, construction debris, drywall dust, oil, and residue in your furnace and ductwork can cause smoke, triggering your alarm.
  • The alarm malfunctioned. If you’ve gone through all of the above causes and none of them apply, you could have a malfunctioning device.3

How To Get a New Smoke Alarm

If your smoke alarm is old or malfunctioning, it might be time to replace it. Here’s what to look out for.

Types of Fire Alarms

First, get a dual alarm with sensors for both fast-moving (ionization) and slow-moving (photoelectric) fires. Fast-moving fires include a candle setting a curtain ablaze, while slow-moving fires include electric fires that start in walls.

Type of smoke alarm Ionization Photoelectric Dual
Fast-moving fires Yes No Yes
Slow-moving fires No Yes Yes

Cost

Of the smoke detectors that we’ve tested out, the average cost is around $44, varying by make, manufacturer, and capabilities.

Power

You can either get a battery-powered or a hardwired smoke detector, the latter of which will most likely have a backup battery. If it’s the former, take battery life into consideration.

Noise Level

It’s best to get a smoke alarm of at least 85 decibels so you can hear it even when you’re sleeping. Better yet, all of your smoke alarms should be interconnected so that if one goes off, they all go off. It’s best to get either an electrician or the fire department to install hardwired alarms, though.4

NOTE: 85 decibels is louder than a garbage disposal but not as loud as a blender.5

Operating Temperature

You’ll need to keep your home at a certain temperature range to suit your smoke alarm, typically about 32 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Below or above those temperatures, the alarm will stop functioning.

CO Detection

These days, most smoke alarms are bundled with CO alarms, which detect deadly carbon monoxide. If you don’t already have one, we recommend buying a combination smoke/CO alarm like the Nest Protect, one of the best smart home devices available. Learn more about how to install CO alarms.

Extra Sensing

Speaking of the Nest Protect, this device senses temperature, humidity, occupancy, and ambient light in addition to smoke and CO. While these features aren’t typical of smoke alarms, they’re cool extras to look out for if you’re willing to spend considerably more.

Self-Testing

Many smart smoke detectors test themselves periodically and automatically, ensuring that they’re good on power and are connected to professional monitoring, if applicable.

Smart Platform Integrations

It’s no secret that we love living in smart homes, where our smart lights turn on automatically, our smart garage door opens for us at the end of the day, and our smart locks make sure we’re always safe when working from home. So why wouldn’t our smoke alarm be smart as well? We prefer alarms that work with our voice assistants, allowing for voice commands as well as home automation. For us, that meant that our doors unlocked when our smoke alarm went off, allowing an easy exit.

Alert

The average smoke alarm has sound alerts, but others have voice alerts, color-coded light alerts, and even low-battery alerts.

Silencing

Since false alerts are the name of the game, it’s important for smoke alarms to have silencing features.

Certification

The smoke alarm should be certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or a state’s fire marshal.

App

If the smoke alarm is an IoT device, it should have a mobile app free of bugs. Check out the ratings and reviews on your mobile device’s official app store before purchasing a smoke detector.

Monitoring

The most protection means signing up for a smoke alarm with 24/7 professional monitoring. That means that if your alarm goes off and you’re not home and/or miss your mobile notification, someone can contact the fire department for you, no matter the time or day. Vivint is one company that offers professionally monitored smoke alarms. For more information, read our page on Vivint’s pricing.

What Fire Alarms Sounds Mean

Depending on the make and model of your fire alarm, different sounds can mean different things. The companies First Alert and Kidde make many smoke alarms in the U.S., so we broke it down by those brands.

First Alert

  • Three loud beeps: Alarm detects smoke.
  • Four loud beeps: Alarm detects dangerous levels of CO.6

Kidde

  • Loud, continuous alarms: Alarm detects smoke.
  • Chirping after 30 to 60 seconds: Battery may need replacement.
  • Chirping without a regular pattern: Battery is low.7

Where To Install Smoke Alarms in Your Home

As important as it is to know where to install smoke alarms in your home, it’s equally important to know where not to install them.

Alder Smoke Detector
Alder Smoke Detector

Where to Install

  • Inside and outside of each bedroom or sleeping area
  • On every level of your home, including the basement
  • Either on the ceiling or high on the wall (within a foot of the ceiling)
  • Near your living room, family room, or den (if the level doesn’t already include bedrooms)
  • Near the stairway to the upper level
  • In the basement, on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs
  • At least 10 feet away from cooking appliances
  • If ceilings are pitched, within 3 feet of the peak (but not within the peak’s apex)

Where Not to Install

  • Less than 10 feet away from cooking appliances
  • Less than 12 inches from the ceiling
  • Near doors, windows, or ducts, as drafts could cause false alarms8
  • Near a kitchen, fireplace, furnace, or bathroom

How To Maintain Smoke Alarms

According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), here’s how to maintain different types of smoke alarms by how they’re powered:

Type of power 9-volt battery 10-year lithium battery Hardwired
Test monthly Yes Yes Yes
Replace battery At least once a year N/A At least once a year
Replace smoke alarm Every 10 years According to manufacturer’s instructions Every 10 years

What if My Smoke Alarm Beeps When I Cook?

You’re in the middle of roasting some delicious butternut squash, and then your smoke alarm goes off, even though there’s very little smoke involved. We’ve all been there. Here’s what to do, according to the USFA:

  1. Don’t take the battery out.
  2. Open a window or door.
  3. Wave a towel at the detector.
  4. Press the silence button.
  5. Move the alarm away from the bathroom or kitchen by several feet.

Recap

A beeping smoke alarm is loud, annoying, and obtrusive, but ultimately, it’s better to have a smoke alarm with false alerts than a smoke alarm with no alerts at all. We hope we answered all of your questions about turning off your smoke alarm, and if we didn’t, continue reading below.

FAQs

Given the barrage of questions we’ve gotten about how to stop your smoke alarm from chirping, here is some additional information.

Citations
  1. Kidde. (2021). What to Do If You Have a Nuisance or False Alarm.
    kidde.com/home-safety/en/us/support/help-center/browse-articles/articles/what_to_do_if_you_have_a_nuisance_or_false_alarm.html

  2. First Alert. (2021). Smoke Alarms FAQ.
    firstalertstore.com/store/categories/Smoke_alarms_faq.htm

  3. First Alert. (2021). How to Stop False or Nuisance Smoke Alarms.
    support.firstalert.com/s/article/How-to-prevent-false-smoke-alarms

  4. U.S. Fire Administration. (2021). Smoke alarm outreach materials.
    usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/smoke_alarms.html

  5. iac acoustics. (2021). Comparative Examples of Noise Levels.
    iacacoustics.com/blog-full/comparative-examples-of-noise-levels.html

  6. First Alert. (2021). What do First Alert smoke or CO alarms sound like?.
    support.firstalert.com/s/article/difference-between-smoke-and-CO-alarm-sounds

  7. Kidde. (2021). What is Causing My Smoke Alarm to Sound, Beep, or Chirp?.
    kidde.com/home-safety/en/us/support/help-center/browse-articles/articles/what_is_causing_my_smoke_alarm_to_sound__beep__or_chirp_.html

  8. National Fire Protection Association. (2021). Installing and maintaining smoke alarms.
    nfpa.org/Public-Education/Staying-safe/Safety-equipment/Smoke-alarms/Installing-and-maintaining-smoke-alarms