Nothing is more annoying than a smoke alarm going off for no reason (especially at 3am in the morning!). But why is your smoke alarm beeping without smoke being physically present? There could be several reasons for false alarms. The good news is that you don’t have to go on living this way – our wireless interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms provide reliable and trustworthy protection for you and your family.
The basic operating principal of a photoelectric smoke alarm is that it activates when the light beam inside the smoke alarm chamber is broken or disrupted – typically by tiny smoke particles. However these foreign particles can also come from sources other than real smoke – below are some of the most common examples and how to rectify them.
High humidity can occur naturally as the air carries dense moisture particles that your smoke alarm confuses for smoke particles. Although brands can differ, smoke alarms should be designed to work up to 93% relative humidity (RH) as per the Australian Standard 3786:2014 – however anything over 85% RH range and air could potentially become dense enough to scatter the light beam of a photelectric sensor. Extreme tropical weather conditions in the Northern Territory and far north Queensland can sometimes produce these high humidity conditions.
High humidity can also be artificially created by steam from a bathroom shower or the clothes dryer running inside a laundry room. If your smoke alarm is positioned outside a bathroom entrance or inside the laundry, consider moving it further away or out of that room altogether so that escaping shower steam and humid air doesn’t trigger a false alarm and start your smoke alarm beeping and going off for no reason.
A build-up of dust in the air can also affect your smoke alarm. If dust particles enter the internal chamber they will interfere with the photoelectric light beam and trigger nuisance alarms. We recommend cleaning your smoke alarms regularly by gently vacuuming around them with a soft brush attachment from your vacuum cleaner. Cleaning smoke alarms in this way may remove any cobwebs which could also prevent pests from entering the alarm. Be aware of any activities in the home which may create excess dust – for example renovations or shaking out old dusty blankets or doonas in a room which has a smoke detector installed.
Section 4.17 of Australian Standard 3786:2014 requires smoke alarms to have protection against foreign bodies, so that a sphere of diameter larger than 1.3mm cannot pass into the sensor chamber – this protection is provided by way of an internal mesh screen. Despite this requirement it is still possible that very tiny insects (smaller than 1.3mm) could enter the smoke alarm and by doing so interfere with the photoelectric sensor. One tip to reduce this likelihood is to wipe the ceiling perimeter around your smoke alarm with surface insect spray (be sure not to allow the insect spray itself to enter the alarm as this could affect its sensors which, you guessed it, could create false alarming).
It is true that whilst many house fires start in the kitchen, installing an alarm in the kitchen can induce frequent nuisance alarms. Irrespective of what smoke alarm brand you have, if it is installed too close to the kitchen stovetop or oven it will activate and start beeping when smoke particles are emitted from the food cooking process (after all, the smoke alarm is doing what it is designed to do). When cooking, always be sure to switch on the rangehood or oven exhaust fan to draw smoky air particles away from your smoke alarm. If the problem continues, try repositioning the fire alarm further away from the cooking appliance.
Beeping smoke alarms that are going off for no apparent reason can be both frustrating and stressful. Worse, an ongoing beeping smoke alarm may generate a ‘boy who cried wolf’ effect, reducing home occupants reaction to a real life fire event.
Fortunately, our wireless interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms undergo strict quality control measures and are manufactured in adherence to Australian Standard 3786:2014, independently tested and by the CSIRO which means may reduce the likelihood for nuisance alarms. Using the tips outlined above and below, your interconnected smoke alarms will provide many years of stress-free and reliable fire protection for you and your loved ones.
Want to know more about the potential causes of beeping smoke alarms and why they may start going off for no reason? Please refer to our helpful Red smoke alarms diagnostic checklist below!