After three sleepless nights, two trips to Home Depot, and a $200 labor bill, I can promise you this: There are few things as mind-numbingly irritating as a chirping smoke detector. For me, the incessant noise started at 3 a.m.: a quick but mighty chirp from the guest bedroom that signaled its battery was low—or so I thought. Of course, I’m not tall enough to reach the ceiling even with my ladder and my partner was traveling for work, so I had to wait it out until morning.
The next morning, I changed the battery with the help of my tallest neighbor—which did the trick for about 20 hours. Like clockwork, the next morning at 3 a.m. brought on more chirping and I promptly lost my sanity. In a sleepy stupor, I dangerously stacked a step stool on top of a bed (which I don’t recommend) to get it down, then threw it in the freezer until the noise stopped. It’s a good solution for a smoke detector without a hush button—not only is it hard to hear from inside, but it eventually freezes and quits making noise altogether.
As it turns out, there are myriad reasons your smoke detector might be chirping—and new batteries don’t always solve it. Ahead, find out how to stop your smoke detectors from chirping once and for all.
First, change the battery. Because most households don’t have a failsafe way to check the life left on most dry-cell batteries, your best bet is to get new ones. Once they’re in, make sure they’re securely installed and snapped in completely so they can’t be shaken loose. On units with a front-load battery, be sure that the battery compartment door is closed completely as well.
If the chirping continues and your smoke detectors are all connected—this is what’s called a hardwired AC connection, which guarantees that if one alarm in the house goes off, they all go off—replace the batteries in the other units, too. It’s also important to note that a backup battery is typically included with hardwired smoke alarm sets, which is why your detector continues to chirp even when the batteries are out. These types of detectors usually require a reset to stop chirping.
Second, check for any temperature changes. When my alarms went off three nights in a row at the same time, I should have known: Dramatic changes in temperature or excess humidity can trigger your alarms to chirp. (Instead, I had to let a handyman who charges $200 per house call to tell me this.) Most smoke alarms operate at 40 degrees to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, so if your room drops below that, it could be cause for alarm—literally. If you can, move your alarm away from a ceiling fan, cooling vent, or another direct source of airflow.
Third, your smoke alarms just might be old. Smoke and heat alarms should be replaced every 10 years, and carbon monoxide and combination alarms should be replaced every 7 years. That said, most alarms have a five-year warranty from the date of purchase, so if it’s after that date, it’s best to get a new one.
I had my handyman replace all four of mine if only because I didn’t want to spend $200 on nothing—and it worked. It’s been four months without a single chirp! (Can we all collectively knock on wood for me?)
Here’s to hoping you resolve your chirping alarms quicker than three days in :)