Is it possible to reduce false alarms from smoke detectors

A very common theme in fatal fires is that the smoke detectors were disconnected. How could they be designed to stop having false alarms? People disconnect them because they keep going off for no apparent reason.

Get a better smoke detector. Most people have very old ones and the technology has improved a lot. The one by Nest is excellent.

Mine are hardwired, so that stops the issue with dead batteries causing them to chirp*. The next biggest thing would be to just ignore them for 2 minutes after you burn something instead of swatting them off the ceiling and taking the batteries out. Some of them have a ‘mute’ button for silencing them in that case, but when they’re 9 feet off the ground and people aren’t aware of it they just knock them off the ceiling out of frustration, take them apart and forget about them.

A suggestion would be to make the silence/mute button better known and maybe mount them a bit lower on the wall. Yes, I know, smoke rises, but if you have smoke on the ceiling, you probably have smoke 7 feet up the wall as well. This would make it more likely that someone would just push the button rather than take the entire unit down and forget about it.
*Of course, mine don’t have a battery backup, so if the fire took out the electricity first, that could be a problem.

They can, and do, advise people to NOT install them in kitchens.

The Nest has a very large button. You can easily shut it off with a broom handle. People should check it out. They’ve made a fantastic product that eliminates virtually all of the issues that most have with smoke detectors.

I’ll check out the Nest one. I hate smoke detectors, especially the ones that are wired together. Our old house (which was only 2 years old when we owned it, the smoke detectors were new) had 11(!) smoke alarms, as required by code. There were 5 within 10 feet of our bedroom (one mounted on a 10’ ceiling, which loved to go off when someone took a shower.) So at 3 am when one of them would go off for NO REASON AT ALL it was deafening. And if you pushed the button on one, the rest continued to screech until you found which one was malfunctioning. Which they did all the freaking time. We eventually took them all down. We don’t do things that put us at much risk for fire. Calculated risk.

Smoke alarms are designed to fail-safe, meaning when they are failing, they will alarm without apparent cause. So there is a reason they went off at 2 am, that being they need replacing.

They are there to save your life … twenty or thirty dollars is a lot cheaper than monthly health insurance premiums … so keep that price in perspective … vacuum and test once a month … one in each bedroom and one per floor just outside the bedroom areas.

The Nest also starts a little quieter and then gets loud so you have time to shut it off before your ears pop. It’s also internet enabled. You get a text if it’s ringing and you’re not home. It has a CO2 detector in it as well. When you also have a Nest Thermostat, it will automatically turn off the heater if it detects CO2.

Presumably you mean CO.

Lol. Yes, of course. :smack:

This. I have six, all are hard wired together. So, if one malfunctions, they all go off. Nice awakening at four in the morning! Just try to find the one causing the trouble. :confused:

I called the manufacturer’s 800 help line. They said the malfunctions were caused by dust on the sensor. They recommended using a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment on each one. It seemed to help, for a while, but soon enough, when you least expect it…

I soon disconnected the hard wiring so that (hopefully) each unit would act independently of the others. One particular unit seemed to be falsing on a regular basis, so I put that one to sleep permanently. :smiley:

I can confirm that if your smoke alarm is going off for no particular reason, it is most likely because the unit is failing. I’ve had this happen multiple times. Cleaning out the units (dust or spiders being suspected initially) did not help. A new unit fixed things right up.

Based on comments in this thread, I’ll be checking out the NEST units.

I have no financial interest in NEST but I will mention a couple of other things:

-You can also shut it off with a smart phone ap.
-It’s a wifi device so it gets updated when there are improvements to the detection algorithm
-It’s a battery device, not hard wired. The internal battery lasts for ten years.
-When it is near to failing, it indicates that with bright LED light, not a chirp.
-It has a night light function which can be disabled. When you walk by it at night, it detects that and turns on. It’s great for house guests trying to find the bathroom in the middle of the night.

My smoke alarm is in my bedroom, not my kitchen, but the two rooms are still close enough together than I have to close the bedroom door whenever I’m making toast, or Ol’ Smokey will get upset.

I’ve been thinking about the Nest smoke detector for a while but between this thread and now that I have the Nest t-stat I finally took the plunge and just ordered two wired ones to replace my two regular wired ones. They’re probably due to be replaced anyways.

My first thought was to get to battery ones and put them else where in the house (bringing me up to four), but the ones I have are pretty well located so I’ll just start with those. In time I can add more if I want to.

I like that it can shut down my furnace if the CO starts going up, that’s a nice feature. A night light in the hallway will probably come in handy as well.

We have hard-wired detectors with battery backup. For the five years we have owned our house (which was new when we bought it) they have behaved perfectly; no false alarms. What a surprise to find out that the expected life of them is 5 years. We have 8 in our house. They cost about $35 each. Good to know that in another 5 years we can look forward to again balancing on a tall stepladder (if we are still mobile enough to do that; og knows what it would cost to hire someone to change them). I am glad to know we are safe from fire and smoke but I wish the life of the damned things was a little more than 5 years. If yours are malfunctioning you might take a look at the date on them (which of course requires disconnecting them). You might be surprised to find out how long ago they “expired”.

Kayt, they should last ten years (nfpa guidelines) , so I’d expand your horizons when you look for new ones to make sure you’re getting a good product

You could write or label the expiration date on the cover so you can see it from the floor. That way you’re not climbing up every few years just to check them. In fact, if you replace them all at once, you’d really only have to label one.

We looked at a variety of brands and all were 5 years.

I don’t really object to replacing the things so much, and we bought a case of them so the price was less per unit, but I do just find it amazing that they expire. What expires, I wonder. Does the sensor just stop sensing or what?

And anyway, in answer to the OP, there have never been false alarms from ours so I guess they have been reduced.

Probably a combination of internal parts (that you can’t get to) getting dirty and the entire thing just getting too old to be reliable.
While I’m sure it’ll continue to work well after the 5/10 year mark, they just don’t want to be held responsible after the expiration date.