Why smoke detectors go off for no reason: What you can do about it

Why smoke detectors go off for no reason: What you can do about it

Tired of a smoke detector that seems to go off for no reason?

It's more than just annoying. Like in The Boy Who Cried Wolf, a false alarm leaves you vulnerable in a real emergency.

So let's take a look at the most 3 common reasons a smoke detector goes off for no apparent reason and what you can do about them.

1) Dust on the sensor

Older models of smoke detectors use ionization to detect smoke. However, these models also often mistake dust for smoke.

You can tell what kind of smoke detector you currently have by looking at the model number. If the letter "I" is in the model number or there's any mention of radioactive material, like Americum-241, on your detector, then it's an ionization type.

How to fix: If your detector is an ionization model, you should replace it. This is an old, unreliable technology.

2) Bad placement

If placed incorrectly, false alarms are common. Smoke detectors should be placed at least:

  • 20 feet from heat-producing appliances like a stove, oven, furnace or fireplace
  • 3 feet from your air conditioning and heating vents
  • 10 feet from rooms with high humidity like bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc.

How to fix: Move your smoke detectors, if possible. You should also make sure you are using proper ventilation for all fuel-burning appliances to prevent false alarms.

3) Malfunction

Your smoke detector may simply be old and malfunctioning. Although most homeowners don't know it, you should replace your smoke detectors every 10 years.

How to fix: Buy new smoke detectors. We recommend photoelectric smoke detectors as they're more reliable than models that use ionization.

The best kind of smoke detectors

Ackerman Security suggests installing a photoelectric smoke+heat detector combo.

The photoelectric smoke detector side will detect smoldering fires and the heat detector side will quickly react to quick flame fires that ionization detectors are designed to detect—but without the false alarms caused by dust.

To learn more about the smoke detectors we carry, contact us. We provide professional home security systems and alarm monitoring services to Atlanta, Washington DC and Philadelphia area residents.