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Do I Need to Replace My Smoke Detector?

Man replacing a smoke detector in his home.
Alexander Raths/Shutterstock

The best way to prevent a devastating house fire is to make sure you have working smoke detectors. More goes into smoke detector maintenance than changing batteries. It might be time for a new device.

Aside from basic preventative measures, like cleaning your dryer vent, you need to pay attention to your smoke detectors. They don’t last forever, and they don’t always give you that annoying beep sound when the battery is dying. You should be changing batteries every six months (use daylight saving time as a reminder).

Check Your Smoke Detectors Monthly

Monthly, check to make sure your smoke detectors are working properly. While you can use the test button for this, that isn’t always the most accurate way to make sure you’re safe. Instead, light a few wood matches below it and see if it goes off. After all, for something as important as smoke detectors, you really want to ensure they work under real-world conditions.

When to Invest in New Smoke Detectors

If your smoke detectors fail your tests, and a new battery isn’t helping, it’s time for a change. That’s not the only time you’ll need to invest in new smoke detectors.

Even if your smoke detectors do pass the tests, there’s one last thing to be aware of. The materials in the detector age and degrade over time. Manufacturers and FEMA recommend that you buy new ones every ten years. If the smoke alarms in your home are older than that, you need to replace them now.

Illustration depicting the steps in removing your fire alarm and checking the date on the back.
FEMA

Not sure how old your smoke detectors are? You can find out by removing your smoke detector from the wall or ceiling and checking the back; it will have a manufacture date on it. If that date is ten or more years ago, your smoke detector needs replacement. If it’s less than 10 years old, you can reinstall it. If the expiration date of the detectors is in the relatively near future, like next year, take a moment to put a reminder in your calendar to buy new smoke detectors a few months before they expire.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »

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