A Homeowner’s Guide to Smoke Detectors | America's Preferred Home Warranty Skip to main content

A Homeowner’s Guide to Smoke Detectors

Homeowners love to hate (and share stories about) that annoying chirp smoke detectors emit when the batteries get low. We know these alarms can and do save lives, so we all enjoy the joke—until it isn’t funny anymore. Will your smoke detector be able to help when the need arises?

One truly disturbing study found that three out of every five home fire deaths happen in homes with either no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.1 Ensure your smoke detector works by properly maintaining it with these tips—and avoid becoming part of this statistic.

Dual Duty & Destinations

Did you know there are combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors? Save some ceiling space by installing one life-saving device that detects both. Install at least one on every floor of your home, preferably adding one to each bedroom or guest room as well.

Give it Room to Breathe

You already know that a smoke detector will go off when it detects smoke. This may be obvious, but less so is the fact that corners where walls and/or ceilings come together create air pockets which can press smoke away, preventing your alarm from sensing it.

Install your smoke detectors at least 4 inches away from any cornered area. The best location is in the center of flat ceilings, or at least 4 inches from the cross section of a peaked one. If you must place your detector on a wall, make sure it is at least 4 inches from the ceiling to avoid the air pocket.

Maintenance Moments

Just remember this sequence: 1-2-10. Test your smoke detectors every month (1), change the batteries twice a year (2)—even if they aren’t chirping—and replace the detectors every 10 years.

A handy rule of thumb is to change the batteries when Daylight Saving Time rolls around, so it’s easy to remember when you changed them last. This is also a good time to vacuum away any excess dust that has built up, which can hinder detection.

Lastly, if you’re painting the wall or ceiling your detector is installed on, DO NOT paint the detector with it—the paint will block its sensors and render it useless.

Be safe, and don’t forget to Fall Back for Daylight Saving Time on November 4 this year!

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1. National Fire Protection Association; Based on a study conducted from 2009-2013; www.nfpa.org