Are you supposed to clean smoke detectors? Mine are 12 years old.
Reason I ask is I have 4 at heights 14-16 feet off the floor (cathedral
ceilings) & not easy to get to.
I vaguely recall at the university where I worked they had some
maintenance people who went around cleaning them in residence halls &
the academic buildings (hundreds of them on campus). I think it was
spider webs and accumulated debris the insects brought in they were
removing & cleaning out.
Thanks for comments.
additional note of embarrassment:
I ran a feather duster fluff on extension pole around a skylight to get
spider webs months ago, about 3 feet away from one of the smoke
detectors connected to our alarm system and accidentally set off (dust I
guess) the alarm system (which calls fire department automatically).
Installed 12 years ago I forgot how to turn the darn thing off
immediately (LOUD TOO) many minutes later had to call my local fire
department to make certain no false alarm had been called. Explanation
no doubt amused some dispatcher for the day.
Yes, they should be vaccumed once in a while. If yours are 12 years old, spend
bucks and replace them. Smoke detectors are the cheapest form of life
usual advice is that smoke detectors should be replaced at least every 10 years.
Smoke alarms should be replaced every ten years. They should be
cleaned on a regular basis, and if they are battery operated require
batteries on a regular basis.
Just an FYI, if your in Canada / Ontario you now need a smoke alarm in
front of each dwelling (sleeping) unit, and on each level of your
As for how to clean them, you can brush off / vacumm the exterior or
use a can of compressed air. If you use the compressed air I strongly
recommend not using the can too closely to the unit as the oils may
build up inside the detector.
Regards, Justin West
Speaking of smoke detectors and CO detectors, We have a pair located on
the ceiling near the patio sliding doors. When the doors are open and a
good breeze blows in, the detectors sound off. When the doors are
closed, they stop sounding off. They are on house current and about 3
What is causing this? Maybe excessive dust inside the units?
TIA Chuck B.
It's probably static electricity generated by the breeze. Moving the
detectors just 1-2' can sometimes eliminate this, but some detectors
are more prone to false alarms than others because of the design of
their vent holes or the short time delay built into the circuitry to
prevent false triggering. Some models are more sensitive than others
to this, but it doesn't seem to be highly related to how sensitive they
are to detecting fire or smoke. Long ago, I had the 2 smoke detectors
rated highest by Consumer Reports, and neither would trigger from air
duct wind, no matter how I oriented them, but a less sensitive detector
that took over twice as long to react to candle flame would sound
whenever the air conditioner came on. Vacuuming the detectors monthly,
right at their smoke chambers, is a good idea.
I would recommend checking what type of detector you have installed.
There are 2 types of smoke alarm units: Ionization, and Photoelectric.
Ionization units use radioactive material (which in such small
quantities, and in a protective enclosure renders it harmless to an
individual). Ionization (also refered to as Ion detectors) generally
are used in locations where quick detection is required. They sense
invisible particles and generate alarms. Not recommended to install
near areas where your storing chemicals (ie. cleaners, paints, etc...),
kitchens, or any where where dirt and fumes will be generated. They
are generally cheaper than photoelectric.
Photoelectric detectors require visible particles before they will
alarm. These are the detectors I generally recommend when installing
near kitchens or washrooms with showers and around areas where fumes
are likely. They will normally prevent false triggerings with regards
to the burnt toast syndrom. (unless of course you really burnt your
I hope this is of some assistance, and keep in mind the whole idea is
to have them period. Be it a photo or ion detector. Make sure it is
in an operable condition as you can be fined and or dead without one.
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