Do You Know Where the Batteries for Your Smoke Detectors Are?

Your smoke detector is of no use to you if the batteries aren’t in. Are your smoke detectors in working order?

Every year when it’s time to turn back the clock and change the batteries in the smoke detectors, I’m reminded of a rental property I bought at an auction a few years ago. The rental property had belonged to a guy who died when the house he lived in caught on fire.

I won the auction, bought the house, and kept his tenants — a mom and five kids. According to my tenant, the former landlord had been a real stickler about the smoke detectors in the rental unit, but ironically didn’t have a working smoke detector in his own home.

So you’d think she’d be pretty careful about the smoke detectors in her home after that. Not so much —  she constantly removed the batteries from the smoke detector in her house, either to power up toys or because her cigarette smoke set them off too frequently.

The moral of this story?

Wishful thinking like, “I’ll just take the batteries out of the detector until I can run to the store and pick up more batteries” can kill you.

I’ll change the batteries in my home’s smoke detectors when I set my clocks back before I go to bed on Saturday night. If I had natural gas-powered HVAC or appliances, I’d change the batteries in my carbon monoxide detector, too.

Pretty much everyone has a smoke detector — only 4% of U.S. homes don’t. But an estimated 20% of homes have non-working smoke detectors. Nearly all of that 20% involved dead or missing batteries, the Public/Private Fire Safety Council estimates.

The group estimates nearly half of the people living in the 21 million U.S. homes with non-working smoke alarms disabled their smoke detector because it was a nuisance or went off too often.

If your smoke detector goes off too much, try these tips:

  • Replace your current smoke detector with one that has a “hush” button you can push to temporarily silence the unit when cooking or smoking sets off a false alarm.
  • Check to make sure you’ve put your alarms in the right places.
  • The cover or sensor chamber can get dirty, dusty, or clogged by insects. To clean, gently vacuum using the soft brush attachment.
  • Move the detector away from fluorescent lighting fixtures, steamy bathrooms, and places exposed to extreme temperatures.
  • When burning food sets off the detector, wave a towel in front of the detector or open a window to clear the air instead of removing the battery. (When I cook, my family knows the smoke detector going off is my way of saying, “Dinner is served.”)

If you need help remembering to change your batteries, set an email reminder for yourself at HouseLogic. A free registration (click Join Now at the top right of this site) gives you your own electronic binder in which you can create reminders and to-dos, save HouseLogic content you like, and manage projects.

Live near a fire house? Many give away free batteries this time of year.

Have you ever taken the battery out of your smoke detector?