What is with our smoke detector?

We have lived in our particular apartment/townhome building for a year and a half now. The building was newly constructed not too long before we moved in, and as far as I can tell, all of the smoke detectors are wired together through the building’s power. (I base that last part on the fact that the one time we had a minor, localized smoke incident in the kitchen that should have impacted only one of the detectors, ALL of the detectors in the house went off at the same time.) All of the detectors also take standard 9V batteries, as well.

At any rate, as you might expect, one of the smoke detectors in the house is in our bedroom. And for some reason, no matter what brand of battery I choose, about every three to four weeks, that particular detector begins to chirp as if the battery has run low. Except the chirping is incredibly intermittent, rather than consistent. Typically, per Murphy’s Law, it will chirp at 3am, waking us up, and it’ll chirp four or five times in a row (I think they’re about a minute apart, although I’ve never actually timed it), and then it’ll stop. We might not hear it again until the next day. It might chirp like that 10 times in a row, or it might only do it once. Once the battery is replaced, it doesn’t chirp at all anymore, but again, this peace only lasts a short number of weeks.

One other odd note. All of the apartments in our small building have wood flooring on the first floor, so the sound from within tends to be echo-y. When walking down the building’s internal hallway, it is really common to hear that familiar chirp coming from other people’s apartments, so it seems likely that we are not the only unit experiencing this particular issue. Either that, or our co-tenants are just extremely lazy about changing out batteries (which would not be shocking, given some of the other laziness we’ve seen exhibited by our gentle neighbors).

So what gives? Is there a problem with the building’s wiring that might be causing this? Is it just that we have a defective detector, and the chirping in other units is a red herring? How do we end our suffering???

does the detector indicator light show a a difference if it is running on the AC or battery?

a detector that isn’t getting AC power and running on the backup battery could last about a week to about a month.

if it isn’t getting AC power then replace the battery and unplug the AC and replug the AC, if it shows AC power then you are good. if not then check it is getting AC power to the socket (the interconnect of the alarms could still work with the AC out). if still not good then replace that alarm.

I haven’t observed a difference in the indicator light, but I can’t say I’ve been looking, either. I’ll make it a point to check.

How old are the detectors? They only have a certain life. New ones only cost a few bucks.

Well, again, the building was new when we moved in, so they shouldn’t be unreasonably old. But I guess there’s no guarantee that the detectors were new just because the building was. There are definitely other examples of shoddy construction present.

This happens to me, too, in my house.

Is it related to the heater or A/C turning on? Are the windows open and maybe some dirty air blowing in?

John Mace makes a point - if the connection with the AC is intermittent it may be running on battery more than the others, so draining it faster.

How about you physically swap the unit with another one and so see if the problem moves, stays, or goes away.

The a/c is an interesting theory. I’ll look into it. It should be mostly a non-factor at the moment because it’s been far too cold for the a/c to kick on most days (despite the fact that I keep the thermostat at a much lower temperature than most people would consider reasonable). But there was a time a couple of months ago where it actually seemed like the detector chirp coincided with the a/c coming on.

ETA: The windows are never open, and we don’t use the heater. So it would have to be the a/c.

It could well be a quality issue. All the detectors in my house run on batteries. The batteries last for many years (so I doubt Asimovian’s problem is that the detector is running on battery and the battery is going flat).

When we moved in here and installed about ten detectors, about three had this problem. They would just randomly chirp, and while changing the battery helped for a short while the random chirping would soon start again. Took those detectors back and got replacements, then found that one of the replacements had the problem, took that back, problem (eventually) sorted.

I think QA is just shitful on these things and you will have to keep swapping them till you get a full working set.

This is the first place I’ve ever lived where I’ve had a need to replace a battery any sooner than after two years, so that makes sense.

It will be worth it in order to make the issue go away. Of course, we’ll probably end up moving as soon as we solve it.

battery powered detectors will last a year on a battery (could run longer but with this lifesaving device it is best to change yearly). AC powered detectors will go a week to a month on battery in my experience.

my detectors have a green LED staying on with AC, the green LED will flash on about once a minute when running on battery.

Oops, by AC I meant Alternating Current, ie 110v, not Air Conditioning.

We had this exact same problem a few months ago. One detector continued to chirp even after a fresh battery was installed. We looked up the model number on Amazon and had a new one at the front door in a couple of days. We did have to disconnect the unit in the interim. So far, no more chirping.

The SDs in our apartment units “talk” to each other. I’ve had to change the batteries in both units on occasion to stop the chirping.

likely you had to change the one(s) with the low battery to stop the chirping.

having a low battery warning sound through the network might be a good feature where some alarms are in less frequented areas of a home like attic or basement.

Only if there’s an easy way to determine which one is actually causing the problem.

Yeah, I see that now – poor reading comprehension on my part. :smack:

the unit sending the warning may flash its LED differently when the battery is low.

a voltmeter or battery tester also works.

knowing of a problem in a lifesaving network of alarms is important.

Have you looked up the manual for the detector, or looked on the detector itself for information on exactly what the chirps mean? The timing of the chirps usually describes the nature of the problem.

I recently changed the batteries in my battery-powered-only detectors. In the one in the basement, I put the batteries in, hit the test button, and when the test was over I went upstairs. But it still chirped! So I thought my battery was bad. I went downstairs with another battery and swapped them out and did the test and it chirped again. Finally I brought the whole unit upstairs and read the sticker on the back. The sticker said something about pressing the test button and having it chirp until you press it again.

I think I’ve thrown out like $20 worth of good batteries over the years by not having read the directions on that stupid detector :frowning: (happens the same way every year - put in new battery, test, chirp, throw out new battery, put in new battery, test, chirp, get frustrated, press test again, no chirp, storm off upstairs)

also some units will chirp where there is dust or bugs inside making the detector not function or function as well, requiring a cleaning. reading the manual and keeping it handy is a good thing for those life saving devices.