Help needed re smoke alarms


I've got hard-wired smoke alarms in my house, installed by my building contractor when the house was built four years ago. For reasons I'm not certain of, there are two different type/brand alarms in place.
The alarms have started beeping, presumably because the back-up batteries need changing. Problems, however:
1. Two of the alarms (of the same type/brand) beep three times in succession, a couple of times a day. But I can't get them off the ceiling! I've tried everything I've ever known or could learn about smoke alarms to get them to unlatch, so I could change the batteries, but to no avail. There is no marking anywhere I can find on the outside of the alarm to give me either instruction for opening or even the brand name. I've twisted, turned, pried, and prodded them and cannot get them loose from the ceiling without pulling down the drywall.
2. Another of the alarms (different type/brand) comes off the ceiling easily using standard techniques. However, as it turns out, this one doesn't need to come off the ceiling for battery changes, as the battery compartment opens from the accessible bottom/down side. I changed the battery with ease. Several times. It won't stop giving me the weak-battery warning, no matter how carefully or how many times I replace the battery. If there's something I'm doing wrong, short of replacing the whole alarm, I'd like to know what it is.
I've put pictures of both type alarms (from various angles) on the following binary newsgroups on Usenet, under the same subject line as this message: alt.binaries.pictures.misc and free.binaries.misc. The beige-ish photos are of the alarm in example number 2 above, and the grey-ish photos are of the unremovable alarms in example number 1 above. Can anyone identify these (especially the grey-ish photos) or tell me how they are supposed to be opened or removed from the ceiling? And can anyone suggest why changing the batteries in the alarm in the beige-ish photos doesn't stop the beeping? (And yes, I'm certain of the polarity. It's clearly marked on the alarm.)
Thanks.
Jim Beaver
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Most smoke alarms contain tiny amounts of radioactive elements that sooner or later stop functioning as designed -- which may cause the beep signal, to prompt you to replace the unit.
A single mains-connected smoke alarm in our house died about seven years after installation. We replaced it by a battery-powered unit since power outages were then common where we live.
--
Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
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On Wed, 7 Feb 2007 14:25:34 -0800, "Jim Beaver"

DOn't some smoke detectors use a little radioactive emitter with a fairly short half-life? How old are these things?
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Around 3 to 3 1/2 years old.
Jim Beaver
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I not sure I can help you with getting the ones off the ceiling but I have had a go around with nonstop beeping ones.
I run into this before with the FireX Smoke/CO detectors.
As it turns out when changing the batteries you need to also unplug the unit from the back or kill the circuit breaker supplying it while the battery is out and leave it off for about one minute.
This allows it to reset.
Hope that helps.
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wrote:

Thanks. I'll give it a try.
Jim Beaver
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2 different types are required here in MA. Ones that go within 20' of bath or kitchen, ionic I think they are called. Bedrooms and other living areas that are not within that 20' get another kind, photo-electric. On the standard "pro" contrator grade ones for both types there is this little small plastic pin that goes in to the base, right at the ceiling level. This pin stops the detector from twisting which is how you remove it. Pull the pin, twist a bit, should drop down with your wires attached. Change the battery and put them back up.
-Brian
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buffalo ny: when in doubt, throw it out, applies to all my safety devices. unless they have changed it again, you will be throwing out your CO detectors every five years. you will be replacing your smoke detectors [with a frequently updated newer model number] as the old ones fail or under the latest recommendation under wikipedia research at 10 years. also read thoroughly the manufacturer's fine print. remember dust and humidity and spiders are the natural enemies of these smoke detectors. also, candle fires start 20,000 fires a year is a statistic i had not read in awhile. [we didn't allow them for our kids when they were growing up. and they are not permitted in our rental apartments, since it led to a tenant's candle by the window curtain bedroom apartment fire in 1974 in a house i later bought.] i started at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_detectors and follow the bottom links including: http://www.nfpa.org/index.asp
here is just one page quoted:
"NFPA urges replacing home smoke alarms after 10 years
Quincy, MA, October 23, 2001-Replacing batteries in home smoke alarms will be a common ritual this weekend for many people as daylight savings time ends. But if smoke alarms in your home are more than 10 years old, NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) recommends replacing them, as well.
Why? According to NFPA, aging smoke alarms don't operate as efficiently and often are the source for nuisance alarms. Older smoke alarms are estimated to have a 30% probability of failure within the first 10 years. Newer smoke alarms do better, but should be replaced after 10 years. Unless you know that the smoke alarms are new, replacing them when moving into a new residence is also recommended by NFPA.
Smoke alarms, when properly installed, give an early audible warning needed to safely escape from fire. That's critical because 85% of all fire deaths occur in the home, and the majority occur at night when most people are sleeping. Last year, NFPA documented 3,420 home fire deaths.
Fully 94% of U.S. homes had at least one smoke alarm as of 1997, according to NFPA, but as of 1998, 40% of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments and 52% of home fire deaths still occurred in the small share of homes with no smoke alarms. Half of the deaths from fires in homes equipped with smoke alarms resulted from fires in which the smoke alarm did not sound--usually when batteries were dead, disconnected or missing.
"Simple steps like maintaining smoke alarms and replacing older ones help diminish the possibility of fire deaths in the home," says John R. Hall, Jr., NFPA's assistant vice president for fire analysis and research. "Smoke alarms in the home are largely responsible for the decreasing number of home fire deaths over the last decades."
NFPA offers the following smoke alarm safety tips:
* Install new batteries in all alarms once a year or when the alarm chirps to warn that the battery is dying. * Test units at least monthly. Test the units using the test button or an approved smoke substitute. * Clean the units, in accordance with the manufacturers' instructions. * Do not use an open-flame device for testing because of the danger the flame poses. * Smoke alarms should be placed outside each sleeping area and on each level of the home, including the basement. * In new homes, smoke alarms are required in all sleeping rooms, according to the National Fire Alarm Code. * Alarms should be mounted on the wall 4-12 inches from the ceiling; ceiling-mounted alarms should be positioned 4 inches away from the nearest wall. On a vaulted ceiling, be sure to mount the alarm at the highest point of the ceiling.
As electronic devices, alarms are subject to random failures. Product, installation, and maintenance standards are used to assure products work as designed despite this. Part of the technical basis for the first alarm product standard was an assessment of expected failure rate, estimated at four per million hours of operation or one every 30 years. Early field studies of alarm reliability, notably by Canada's Ontario Housing Corporation, confirmed the essential accuracy of this estimate, restated as a 3% failure rate per year. This means a very small fraction of home smoke alarms will fail almost immediately, and 3% will fail by the end of the first year. After 30 years, nearly all the alarms will have failed, most years earlier.
How soon should you replace your alarm? This is a value judgment. Only 3% of alarms are likely to fail in the first year, and annual replacement would be very expensive, so that doesn't make sense. At 15 years, the chances are better than 50/50 that your alarm has failed, and that seems too big a risk to take. Manufacturers' warranties for the early alarms typically ran out in 3-5 years. So, in ten years there is roughly a 30% probability of failure before replacement. This seemed to balance safety and cost in a way that made sense to the responsible technical committees.
If a 30% failure probability still seems too high, remember that replacement on a schedule is only a backup for replacement based on testing. A national study found home smoke alarms, when they fail, tend to fail totally, as opposed to hard-to-detect creeping failure, such as a loss of sensitivity.1 Regular monthly testing will help discover alarm failure as well as a dead or missing battery. You can replace your alarm when it needs replacing.
The same study showed all the inoperable alarms tested in 1992 were at least 5 years old and predated a 1987 change in product standards that reduced sensitivity to reduce nuisance alarms. Changes in alarm chip design, among other improvements, make it likely that electronic failure now occurs at a rate much less than 4 times per million hours of operation.
Replacing alarms after 10 years protects against the accumulated chance of failure, but monthly testing is still your first, best means of making sure alarms work. Today's alarms are even less vulnerable than the original alarms. Regular maintenance of the more sophisticated systems used in larger buildings can keep them working very reliably for many decades.
1 Julie I. Shapiro, Smoke Detector Operability Survey, Washington: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, October 1994 revised.
URL: http://www.nfpa.org/itemDetail.asp? categoryID'8&itemID 526&URL=Research%20&%20Reports/Fact%20sheets/ Fire%20protection%20equipment/Smoke%20alarms&cookie%5Ftest=1
    NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02169-7471 USA Telephone: +1 617 770-3000 Fax: +1 617 770-0700    "
quoted from http://www.nfpa.org/index.asp
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Jim Beaver wrote:

Three suggestions:
1. Push, then twist.
2. What's it look like on the other side of the drywall ceiling?
3. Perhaps the alarms are reflecting the condition of the CENTRAL battery? You said they were hard-wired, maybe there's a large, universal, battery somewhere.
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I found the solution to the one where I changed the battery but the beeping wouldn't stop. I took the battery out, disconnected the wiring from the ceiling, and was about to heave it out the window when the beeping continued, despite the fact that there was now no power of any kind available to the alarm. But when I carried the alarm outside the room, the beeping stayed inside. The solution to my problem arose when I discovered a C02 alarm plugged into the wall behind the bed. I changed ITS battery and the beeping stopped.
Two weeks I've lived with that beeping. Some days I suspect I may NOT be smarter than everybody else.
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[snip]

You should get rid of it. It's likely to go off all the time in response to CO2.

CO makes you dumb.
--
charles

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