Cleaning smoke detectors?

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.
Morenuf
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.
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snipped-for-privacy@nobodyhome.com.invalid

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snipped-for-privacy@nobodyhome.com.invalid says...

Yes, they should be vaccumed once in a while. If yours are 12 years old, spend a few bucks and replace them. Smoke detectors are the cheapest form of life insurance. The usual advice is that smoke detectors should be replaced at least every 10 years.
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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 residence.
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
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Justin West wrote:

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 years old. What is causing this? Maybe excessive dust inside the units? TIA Chuck B.
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Chuck B. wrote:

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.
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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 toast badly)
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.
Regards, JW
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