Sunday, September 9, 2007

Chirp! Chirp! Chirp! Someone PLEASE make that Smoke Alarm STOP!

As a parent and homeowner, safety is a number one priority in my home. That is why as a Realtor, I was often puzzled, even concerned, when I visit a home with disabled smoke alarms. I just never understood the logic of removing batteries or unplugging hard-wired safety devices. I never understood it until I lived with a set of defective alarms for several months on end.

Last November it started. It was shortly after we installed new batteries at daylight savings time the first chirps started. A few evenings later about 3A.M. we were awoken by the smoke alarm going off in the kitchen on the main level of our two-story Ham Lake house. By the time we got downstairs, the alarm had stopped. It had not triggered the other six alarms that are hardwired throughout our home. We figured that since we had just turned on our forced air furnace, maybe dust was the cause. This seems to happen every autumn once or twice so we went to back to bed.

Around Christmas, the alarms started to go off about once a week in the middle of the night. I was beginning to understand why I would see alarms with removed batteries in listings throughout the Twin Cities, as this was annoying!


I did a bit of online research. Smoke detectors should be vacuumed periodically as dust and tiny spiders can cause malfunction and false alarms. It was also noted that smoke alarms should be replaced every ten years. We opted for the cleaning route and vacuumed all seven alarms the next morning.

In March we contacted an electrician about having seven new Firex alarms installed. We were assured that these top of the line detectors would eliminate the problems. A few weeks later, we were $400 poorer but positive it would be worth it for a good night’s sleep. The electrician’s truck had not made it down the road before the next set of chirps began.

This was the first of several visits from the electrician to our Ham Lake home. He returned the next week to verify there were no loose wires. He also replaced the unit in the hallway that seemed to make the most noise. Again, within an hour there was a chirp, chirp, chirp. Now, I have an upset electrician along with a tired and upset family.

I did a Google search and ended
up at the Firex website. The company has a frequently asked question page that is a wealth of information. What a great resource. Newer alarms must be reset after the batteries are installed. To reset the alarm, you need to depress the test button for 15 seconds with the battery removed. Great! Problem solved! A good night’s sleep is ahead.

Wrong! About 12 hours later, it started again. Back to the list of options from the Firex site. We called the electrician back to put all of the alarms on one circuit so we could shut off the alarms and be certain that poor wiring in another part of the home wasn’t setting off the alarm. One more tense visit from the electrician and we were now on our own with the noisy, frustrating problem.

After months of this noisy protection of malfunctioning alarms, we found you can learn to sleep through the noise but never really get used to it. The four periodic chirps were nerve grating to say the least. On the first chirp our neurotic geriatric dog would get up and move closer to the nearest person. On the second chirp he would try sit as close as he possibly could and stare with big sad eyes. The third chirp would cause him to shutter and with the final chirp he would lay down at your feet shaking.

Finally in August we had enough and were ready to disable all of the hardwired smoke alarms in our home and install battery operated ones. I now understood the decision made by so many others to put a good nights sleep over fire protection.
Before we cut the wires, we tried one more time to resolve the issue. We took down all seven alarms, reset them and installed seven new batteries. One of the smoke alarms would sound as soon as the battery was installed. Bingo! We had the problem unit in hand. So we installed the six good alarms and waited.

Chirp! Chirp! Chirp! Finally I resorted to calling the 800 number for Firex technical support. They were very concerned about our wanting to remove these safety products from our home that were designed for our protection, not annoyance. They offered to replace the defective alarm and sent out a new one via overnight mail. But the technician did not stop there. He wanted to help us resolve the continuing problem. The tech asked if there could be anything else that would cause a noise. Check the attic and check for Carbon Monoxide detectors. The sound of a plugged in CO2 detector can travel echo through the house and sound like it is coming from the smoke detector. We had checked the attic previously but did not check the carbon monoxide detector as we they are electric not battery operated.

Of course I had forgotten that we now had two CO2 detectors. The newest one was installed in the hallway near our bedrooms. After a quick check I realized that the new model DID have a battery backup. It was the source of many of the annoying chirps. So lesson learned. Change the batteries in your CO2 detectors right along with the smoke detectors. Not certain if your carbon dioxide detector has a battery backup? Check it now. It could mean a good night’s sleep in your future.


If you are relocating to Minnesota, are looking for Homes for Sale in the north and east Twin Cities metro area and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. I specialize in acreage properties! Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.

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