Where we went
On the 28th August 2019, we travelled to a two-story residential property in Parrearra, Sunshine Coast QLD to attend to a report that the smoke alarm downstairs was false alarming.
What was the issue?
The client had reported that the smoke alarm downstairs was randomly false-alarming. They had tried everything to quieten it down:
- They had replaced the back up battery, and
- Tried cleaning out the inside of the alarm with a vacuum.
- They tried resetting the smoke alarm by pressing the 'hush' button.
But all to no avail. The false alarming was completely random without any noticeable pattern.
The worst part of the problem was that the other smoke alarms in the property were 'interconnected' with the 'bad egg', so when the faulty alarm activated, ALL the alarms in the house would activate, so they certainly knew about it! And of course, this would often happen in the middle of the night - just all you need for a good night's rest!
How we approached the job
The first step was to diagnose the possible cause of the smoke alarm downstairs false-alarming.
We inspected the alarm and found it had a bad electrical contact between the base on the ceiling and the alarm itself. The smoke alarm's base is where the incoming 240 volt mains supply connects to and it's critical this makes a good connection to the body of the smoke alarm when it is clipped back the ceiling.
On this occasion, the contact pins were bent out of shape and there was even some evidence of electrical burning/charring in and around the contacts.
We also found a large amount of insect ingress in the alarm which is one of the main causes of smoke alarms false-alarming.
However, beyond all of this, we found that the smoke alarm had expired back in 2015 (August 12th, 2015 in fact). That is, 10 years after it's manufacturing date. See image below:
This expired smoke alarm was also of the now outdated 'ionisation' sensing type. The smoke alarm legislation we're governed by here in QLD Australia states that when replacing a smoke alarm with new, it must be of the newer photoelectric sensing type. These photoelectric smoke alarms have advantages in that they will alert you quicker in the event of a fire (as they are more sensitive to smouldering fires before they take hold), and also they're less likely to activate from smoke which aren't from real fires (like from burning toast and cooking smoke).
Next step was to check the other smoke alarm upstairs, and it too was found to be expired.
What we did next
After consulting with the client, it was decided to replace both expired and faulty smoke alarms with new Clipsal 240 volt mains powered photoelectric smoke alarms with 9 volt back up batteries. The client did not opt for the Clipsal smoke alarms with the sealed 10-year-life rechargeable lithium back up batteries in this case as they were quite happy to replace the 9 volt back up batteries each year.
We're a big fan of the Clipsal smoke alarms and have found them to be extremely reliable with very few false alarms. Additionally, they have a wide base plate 'footprint' which ensures there are no holes or paint imperfections left when the new smoke alarm is installed.
At the end of the job, a new photoelectric smoke alarm was installed upstairs and downstairs and the interconnecting wiring connected to ensure each alarm activates the other. Here is the completed smoke alarm installation in the home in Parrearra:
Some key take aways...
Check smoke alarm expiry
Check the expiry date on your smoke alarms. All smoke alarms expire 10 years after the date of their installation, after which the whole smoke alarm needs replacement. Keep a record of your smoke alarm expiry dates in your home (bear in mind, you may have different expiry dates for each alarm), and ensure your alarm(s) get replaced when they're due.
Know about false alarms and replacing batteries
If you experience some false alarms (i.e. the alarm enters full siren randomly), the underlying issue isn't likely to be the back up battery. It's probably a deeper problem. So, replacing the back up battery will usually have nil effect on any false alarms you're experiencing. Instead, if you notice your smoke alarm chirping once every 40 seconds or so, then yes, that means the battery requires replacement.
Check if your existing alarms are ionisation type
Check if your existing smoke alarms are the older ionisation type. Consider upgrading these alarms to the newer, safer photoelectric smoke alarms to improve safety in your Sunshine Coast home.
Vacuuming alarms can help
If you are experiencing some false alarms, you may like to try using a vacuum cleaner in and around any holes/openings/slots you see on the body of the alarm. This will often have the effect of cleaning out the sensing chamber inside which will often fix the problem.
If you need some smoke alarm help
If you live in Parrearra (Kawana Island), or anywhere else on the Sunshine Coast in QLD, we would be only too happy to help you with any smoke alarm repair or installation.
When you choose Smoke Alarmed, you'll receive these benefits:
- $0 call out fee.
- We're electricians and smoke alarm specialists.
- On time arrival or we pay you $100!
- Call or text message when we're on our way with a tracking link so you see us coming turn by turn.
- Up front fixed pricing by the job, not the hour. You know the full price before we start so there are no nasty surprises.
- Clean and tidy electrician who will leave no mess behind (we come equipped with clean boot covers, drop sheets, mats and a vacuum cleaner.