Smoke alarms randomly going off

I bought my place about a year ago and haven't had any problems with my smoke alarms save one chirping (replacing the battery fixed that) until last night. Last night my smoke alarms went off as if I had pressed the test button (only lasted for a few seconds). Today shortly after I got home from work it went off again, which makes it at least twice within a 24 hour period. I went around and tested them all and they worked, but for some reason at least one of them is going off by itself.
The 6 smoke alarms (BRK Electronics Model # 86RAC) are hardwired together and are powered by 120V and/or battery (currently both). When they go off all of them go off at once which makes it impossible to figure out which one is going off. Assuming the smoke alarms haven't been replaced since the house was built that would make them around 12 years old.
Is there anything I can do to figure out which one(s) is causing the problem? I suppose I could disconnect them all from the power and see if one goes off eventually and hope I hear it, but is there a better way?
I'm assuming they can be replaced. They have 3 wires labeled white, black and interconnect.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Get a can of air that you would use for computers and clean them. Do not touch the lens with your fingers, an q-tip dry works well to break up the crud then blow clean. If that does not work get new ones. Probably you will have to get all new ones or replace with an exact match. I have never tried mixing and matching brands
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Morac wrote: Last night my smoke alarms went off as if I had

The one going off may have a light lit up. Might be the only way to track it.
If they are 12 years old, they should be replaced. Sometime in the last few years, (in the U.S.), a recommended 10-year life span was place on smoke detectors. There are a couple of people in this group that will fight that to their last, smoke-filled gasp of breath. For your peace of mind, and safety, do the (hopefully) simple thing and replace them.
Go to BRK's website and see what they have as a direct replacement. Again, sometime in the last several years, manufactures have changed to a low-voltage system. Plug one of those into your set-up, and it will burn out. Also, there are no plug standards. Easiest is to replace with a BRK, if they have something. If not, find another brand that has 120 volt replacements (I know FireX does). It is simple to replace the old plugs with the new ones. Just don't forget to shut off the power.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Smoke alarms have a finite lifetime. I had the same problem and eventually after waking up a few times to false alarms at night, I replaced them. Problem solved. I guess you could replace one at a time but that may not be worth your time.
Dave

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Since they also run on battery, unplug the pigtail from each leave in place and when happens again should only have the one with teh problem going off.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Tue, 31 Aug 2004 00:58:09 GMT, "Dave"
Why, please explain. They are just electronics like a computer, tv, or radio.... Why should they be different?
Other than a dead battery, or damage from a power surge or lightning strike, I see no reason they should wear out. There are no mechnical parts.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Marad,
At the atomic level there are moving parts. The ion chamber has a finite life time before it gets plated with contaminants or filled with crud. Read up on this at http://www.uic.com.au/nip35.htm . As the chamber becomes dirty less current is generated by the americium ions. The amount of current is used as an indicator of smoke (less current=more smoke) . As the chamber gets dirty it mimics this smoke effect and false alarms occur. While cleaning might clear out some of the crud it will not remove any of the stuff that has plated to the detector.
Dave M.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Tue, 31 Aug 2004 12:20:43 GMT, "David Martel"

Americium? Is that democrat or republican?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Tue, 31 Aug 2004 05:44:29 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@UNLISTED.com wrote (with possible editing):

No, but most smoke detectors have an infrared light source - an LED - and a phototransistor within a screened and baffled chamber. LED's actually have a lifetime. 10 years is 87,600 hours (I think) which is a pretty long lifespan and I think that's reason enough for changing them.
--
Larry
Email to rapp at lmr dot com
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
"L. M. Rappaport" wrote:

My built in smoke detector uses regular white lights have had two burnout in 26 years. 10 years is nothing, lots of parts have an average life span of 150,000 to 200,000 hours. Heck lots of light bulbs last 20 or more years of continous duty and some last as long as 40 years. Same is true of lots of electric and electronic parts, e.g., 40 years is nothing for a transformer.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I had eerily similar scenario happen to me!
I also have BRK smoke detectors, and after a year of living in my current home, they started going off randomly (always in the middle of the night of course).
If they are the same model as mine, and it sounds like they are at least close if not exactly the same (mine has same wires and battery), then you can tell the one that is going off by the red flashing light IIRC. That said, the damn things are so loud (especially since, as you said, once one goes off they all go off) that I couldn't stand to sit there and figure out which one was the culprit.
I tried vacuuming them out, but then after they started going off again I plugged my ears and looked to find the one with the light. I made the mistake of just replacing that one. The others started going off within a few weeks.
I advise you replace all three with exactly the same brand/model. If you have a Lowe's near you, I know they carry BRK detectors. I've lived in my current house for almost 4 years and I've had to replace all of the 3 detectors once, and then another one had to be replaced. BRK is junk IMO, but the local big box stores only carried BRK or a few other cheesy looking brands, and nothing but the BRK matched the plug IIRC.
Do yourself a favor and replace all three, and hope that the ones you buy weren't returned by someone else. That's what I think happened to me for the one of the three that I had bought originally. That's the problem with an open return policy though : )
--
mark
___________________
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
040831 0113 - mark posted:

A few years back, I worked on the installation of alarm systems in a 12 story high rise building for the elderly. The building management wanted a separate smoke alarm system -- separate from the general life safety system -- with a smoke alarm in each bedroom and an indicator in the control office indicating which floor it came from. That was easy enough, and we suggested a particular alarm, but the building personnel had their own suggestions, and decided on their own brand of alarm. After installation, and while the building personnel were in the process of bringing in tenants, the smoke alarms would go off randomly, turning on the main board light and buzzer, which had to be reset. After checking for smoke, no smoke could be found. They called me back to find out what the problem was. I made up a box with some resistors and capacitors and test leads and connected first to the floor lines. A day later I would go back and take a reading on the leads to see which capacitors had charged up and then traced the alarm to the floors with the problem, and then to a specific room. At one location, the supervisor was with me when we went into the room. I was just about to go to the bedroom, which was unoccupied, to examine the detector, when it beeped for just an instant. I looked at the building supervisor; he looked at me; and we both arrived at the conclusion at the same time that these detectors were all unstable. He contacted the corporate headquarters, and they OK'd replacement of all of the detectors with the one's that we had suggested in the first place. No more problems after that.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
They all have a plug on them that connects to the system. Unplug one of them and keep unplugging one till you find the culprit. You probably have to also remove the battery on the one you unplug
To get to that plug, you probably have to take the thing off the ceiling (or wall).
wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Was there a fire or heavy smoke in the room where the alarm was sounding and you failed to notice or mention it? (Just checking)
If not, read the other responses.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
040831 0845 - Joe Fabeitz posted:

Also, maybe the house next door has fire and smoke so intense that it is setting off your own alarm...
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.