Why is my smoke alarm beeping?

Is your smoke alarm beeping in the night and keeping you awake, or disturbing your day? Whether you have mains powered, interlinked smoke alarms, or battery powered smoke alarms, follow our guidance below to troubleshoot the beeping.

What sound is your smoke alarm making?

Smoke alarm sounding continuously

  • First check there is no smoke or fire in your property
  • Make sure the beeping is definitely coming from your smoke alarm. Other alarms in the property such as a carbon monoxide alarm or burglar alarm could be responsible for the noise.
  • Clean the alarm if it is dusty or dirty. Vacuum around the alarm or use a hairdryer to blow out dust on a cool setting.
Replace by date on the back of a smoke alarm | smoke alarm chirping in the night
Replace by date on back of smoke alarm
  • Check the replace by or manufacture date on your alarm. Smoke alarms usually last for a maximum of 10 years, so if the manufacturing date is approaching 10 years or more than 10 years, it’s time to get a new smoke alarm. Sensors inside the alarm deteriorate after this time causing the alarm to be less effective.
  • Check the position of your alarm. There are different types of smoke alarm suitable for specific locations in your home. Find out more below about positioning your alarm.
  • Your smoke alarm may be damaged or have developed a fault. Exposure to water, fire, grease and certain types of paint can cause a fault to develop. If there is a fault, replace your smoke alarm immediately to protect your home and family.

Smoke alarm chirping intermittently

  • Replace the battery* in your smoke alarm. Ensure you are using the correct battery type and are inserting it the correct way around. If the battery is low, it is more likely to sound at night as a drop in room temperature can impact the battery’s ability to power the alarm.
  • Check the manufacture date on your alarm. Smoke alarms usually last for a maximum of 10 years, so if the manufacturing date is approaching 10 years or more than 10 years, it’s time to get a new smoke alarm. Sensors inside the alarm deteriorate after this time causing the alarm to be less effective.
  • Your smoke alarm may be damaged or have developed a fault. Exposure to water, fire, grease and certain types of paint can cause a fault to develop. If you suspect a fault, replace your smoke alarm immediately to protect your home and family.

How to stop wired alarm chirping intermittently

* All new or recently extended homes should have mains powered, interlinked alarms fitted which also have a back-up battery. Intermittent chirping in mains-powered alarms is often caused by low power in the back-up battery.

Replacement batteries for smoke alarms

Smoke alarms usually require either Alkaline AA batteries, an Alkaline 9V battery or a Lithium 9V battery. Buy replacement smoke alarm batteries as soon as possible to ensure that your family would be alerted to a fire in your home.

Mains powered smoke alarm need replacing?

Whether your smoke alarms are mains powered or battery powered, they should be replaced after 10 years due to a deterioration of the sensors. Battery alarms are easily changed and installed, but how do you replace a mains powered alarm? Most mains powered alarms can be replaced without the need for an electrician if you purchase the exact same model, if still available, or an Easichange® replacement where applicable.

Discontinued smoke alarm need replacing?

If you need to purchase a replacement alarm, but find that your existing model has been discontinued, we have a dedicated collection of replacement smoke and heat alarms. This range consists of models specifically chosen to be the simplest, most direct replacement alarms that can often be installed without the need for an electrician.

Related help guides:

Preventing false alarms

The type of sensor an alarm has determines where it should be positioned in the home. False alarms may be due to the wrong alarm type being used in or near a steamy, dusty or smoky environment.

  • Heat alarms are more suited to areas such as the kitchen or garage that are often smoky or dusty. Other types of sensors would be prone to false alarms in these areas.
  • Optical smoke alarms are ideal for bedrooms, living rooms and ground floor hallways.

To avoid causing false alarms or affecting the performance of an alarm, it is good practice to avoid installing alarms in the following locations:

  • Next to a door, window, air vent or fan that would create a draft
  • Outside
  • Anywhere that airflow would be obstructed by curtains or furniture
  • Locations that are steamy or humid such as a shower room

Find out more about positioning your smoke alarm in your home or take a look at our help guides for more information about types of alarm sensor.

Always ensure you act as quickly as possible to change or replace a defective smoke alarm to keep your home and family safe. If you require any further assistance, contact our customer service team on 0800 612 6537 or email support@safelincs.co.uk.

Mel Saunders

Head of Marketing

Mel joined Safelincs in 2020 and leads the content and marketing team.

Top Tips for Fire Safety this Chinese New Year!

Follow our fire safety top tips for Chinese New Year: candles and fireworks are often used to celebrate Chinese New Year, as well as lanterns with naked flames. There is, therefore, an element of fire risk in these festivities – stocking up on fire safety products such as burns kits, fire blankets and extinguishers should be part of any event preparation.

Children celebrating Chinese New Year
Two children celebrating Chinese New Year

In 2024, The Chinese New Year will begin on February 10th and will be the year of the Dragon. This sixteen day long traditional Chinese holiday is recognised worldwide by many people across Asia, and increasingly in the Western world, along with festivals and celebrations to mark the Lunar New Year.

Following our top tips for celebrating will ensure that everyone can enjoy this tradition safely.

Fire Safety Top Tips for Chinese New Year

Whether organising a large event with fireworks and flames, or a small home gathering with sparklers and candles, Chinese New Year celebrations come with a fire risk. We have put together top tips for fire safety to help you make your event a safe and happy occasion.

1. Before your event you will need to carry out a fire risk assessment. This free assessment form will help you identify your fire risks and document your actions to reduce these risks. As the organiser of a public event, you have a legal duty to complete a fire risk assessment.

Fire safety top tips: invest in a site stand for Chinese New Year celebration events
Events marking Chinese New Year should have a suitable site stand

2. Consider how you will raise the alarm in the event of a fire. If you celebrate at home, do you have heat and smoke alarms fitted? When planning a public event, consider using site alarms or a rotary bell and having site stands with all your fire safety and first aid equipment at strategic places.

3. Prepare for any activities involving flames with adequate supplies of fire safety equipment. We recommend having fire blankets, water mist fire extinguishers, and a burns kit on hand for any eventuality. Our water mist fire extinguishers are non-toxic. This makes them particularly suitable for events with large numbers of spectators, or where children and animals may be present. Water mist extinguishers are environmentally friendly and leave no residue when discharged.

4. Even for an outdoor event like Chinese New Year, pathways should be kept clear of debris to ensure that people can move to a place of safety in a fire. Where crowds are expected, fire assembly points and exit routes should be clearly signposted.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Safelincs would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone celebrating the Chinese New Year good health and happiness.

Fire safety top tip: ensure your burn kit is in date and on hand at any events involving flames
Have a Burn Kit on Hand at any Chinese New Year Celebration

Hushing Interlinked Smoke Alarms

Interlinked smoke alarms are becoming more and more popular as they quickly alert you to the event of a fire across larger houses, where there is a risk that you might not hear an alarm going off in the kitchen when you are, for example, in a bedroom upstairs.

Whether connected to each other with wire or wirelessly interlinked through radio frequency, interlinked smoke alarms allow you to connect multiple units – including different types of detectors – which will all sound at the same time when a single alarm detects a potential fire. The heat alarm in the kitchen, the ionisation alarm in your home office, and the specialist strobe and vibration alarm in your elderly parents’ bedroom, for example, will all go off at the same time, if just one alarm is triggered by fire.

Most of us are familiar with the test button on smoke alarms which allows residents to test their alarms regularly, to ensure the components are working and the power supply, whether battery or mains power, is working. On top of this, however, many alarms have a “hush” button which allows you to silence an alarm that has gone off, for example, due to burnt toast.

So how do hush buttons work when you have several interlinked alarms?

It’s easy to assume that, as they are all connected, hushing one alarm will silence all of them, but it is equally logical that only the unit on which you pressed the hush button should be silenced – after all, you don’t want people to assume it was a false alarm if there really is a fire raging downstairs.

Interestingly, not all interconnecting smoke alarms hush in the same way. Here is an overview explaining the different approaches employed by the three main smoke alarm manufacturers in the UK.

Kidde Slick Wireless Smoke and Heat AlarmsFor Kidde smoke alarms, the originating alarm (the unit which detected a potential fire and triggered all of your units) will have its warning light flash faster than all other units while the alarm is sounding – enabling you to identify the smoke alarm that caused the alarm. Pressing the hush button on ANY unit will silence the ENTIRE network.

Ei160e Series Smoke and Heat AlarmsIf you have interlinking Ei Electronics smoke alarms, only the originating unit’s hush button will be able to silence the ENTIRE network. The other units in the circuit can be individually silenced. To identify the originating unit you need to look for the alarm whose warning light is flashing every second, compared to every 40 or so seconds on the other units.

FireAngel WST600 Series Radio-Interlinked Smoke and Heat AlarmsFireAngel smoke alarms, however, deploy an improved silencing protocol. If you hush the originating smoke alarm then, as with the other brands, ALL connected units will be silenced. However, if you hush any other unit, the ORIGINATING alarm will continue to sound but ALL OTHER units will be silenced. This allows you to quickly identify the originating alarm which is very helpful both in case of a false alarm or a real emergency.

If you require support selecting the best smoke alarm system for yourself, please contact the friendly Safelincs support team either by emailing support@safelincs.co.uk or by ringing 0800 612 6537

What causes “chirping” and false alarms in smoke alarms?

This post was written in 2016 and a more recent version exists. Please read our new guide to troubleshooting beeping smoke alarms.

hoovering-alarmIf your smoke or heat alarm is beeping or “chirping” in the middle of the night with no obvious reason, you may begin to see it as an annoyance rather than a life saving device.

False alarms and chirping are often alerting you of problems that require attention. There are a number of checks that can be done to help find the cause before seeking further help from the manufacturer or retailer. Below is a step-by-step guide to the possible causes and solutions for false alarms and chirping; however, always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for your exact smoke or heat alarm model. Additional care should be taken with mains powered alarms, as interference with the alarm can cause electrocution.

1) Are you using the correct type of smoke alarm?

There are three main types of domestic alarms available on the market:

Ionisation Smoke Alarms – Slightly quicker at detecting fast flaming fires than other technologies but usually only installed in upstairs landing areas. If installed near a kitchen, where the occasional toast might get burned, ionisation alarms can cause false alarms. The installation of this alarm near sources of smoke is one of the key reasons for false alarms in daytime.

Optical Smoke Alarms – Slightly quicker at detecting slow smouldering fires that can originate from upholstery type materials and over-heated wiring. Suitable to be installed in bedrooms, living rooms and downstairs hallways. These are fairly ‘toast-proof’ and can be installed near kitchens (not in kitchens, though).

Heat Alarms – Activate when the temperature inside the room reaches a certain trigger level or if the heat in a room rises very quickly. These are ideal in kitchens and garages, as they do not get triggered by fumes. Please note that a heat alarm only covers a small area, so larger kitchens will require several heat alarms.

All types of alarm will sound in the event of a fire; however, understanding more about each sensor technology helps you to select units that are least likely to cause false alarms. Alarms placed in the wrong location will on the other hand cause false alarms, eg if you have a smoke alarm located in the hallway and this sounds each time you use the toaster or boil vegetables, it is likely that you have an ionisation smoke alarm installed rather than an optical.

2) Is the alarm in the optimum position?

The user manual for your smoke or heat alarm will provide advice on where to avoid positioning your alarm on the ceiling. Below are some examples of locations to avoid placing your smoke or heat alarm:

  • Near fluorescent lights – as electronic “noise” can cause false alarms
  • In front of air supply ducts for heating or air conditioning, or near ceiling fans
  • Directly above cookers/toasters/kettles (heat alarm) – although heat alarms are designed not to cause false alarms from cooking fumes, they should not be installed directly above cooking appliances
  • Within 0.9m (3ft) of the door to a bathroom or shower room (smoke alarm) – steam can cause false alarms

3) Is there dust and/or insects inside the alarm?

Smoke alarms contain a sensor which is used to detect a fire. Over time, dust can build up or small insects/flies can crawl inside the unit, obstruct the sensor and eventually cause false alarms. Cleaning your alarm helps to remove anything that could be blocking the sensor. Wipe the outside of the alarm with a damp cloth, then using a vacuum nozzle or a hair dryer (set on cold), to suck or blow through the openings of the alarm.

4) Have you been decorating nearby?

If decorating, especially sanding, has recently taken place, dust particles or paint fumes could have entered the sensor chamber, causing damage to the unit and therefore causing false alarms. It is recommended to temporarily cover the alarm whilst decorating. Some alarms are supplied with a protective cover, so keep hold of this after installation for any future use. If you suspect decorating may have affected your alarm, try cleaning the unit as described above.

5) Is the temperature causing the alarm to beep?

Smoke alarms have an optimum operating temperature and it is important to ensure that your alarm is not subjected to temperatures above or below these thresholds. Typically, the operating temperature for a smoke alarm is between 0 ˚C to +40 ˚C. If the alarm is positioned where it may experience blasts of hot or cold air e.g. close to a front door, or the ambient room temperature is not constant e.g. in attics, this is when false alarms can occur. It may be necessary to reposition your alarm.

6) Is the alarm at the end of its life?

Each smoke and heat alarm should have a sticker located on the edge or the back of the unit indicating a replace-by date. This is usually ten years after manufacture. If your alarm starts chirping or regularly sounds falsely, it could mean that the alarm is close to, or has reached the end of its life. Check the date to see if the alarm is due to be replaced.

7) Is there a problem with the mains supply?

Mains powered smoke alarms can usually be identified by two LEDs located on the face of the unit. One LED flashes red approximately once a minute to indicate that the unit is operating correctly. The second LED should be constantly green to indicate that mains power is present. If the green LED is not present, this could mean that there is an issue with the mains power getting to the alarm. If needed, advice should be obtained by a qualified electrician.

8) Is the battery running low?

Chirping every 30-40 seconds is generally an indication that the battery is running low. If your smoke or heat alarm has a replaceable battery, try replacing the battery with a brand new one. It is recommended to change the batteries in your smoke and heat alarms every 12 months. Changing your battery before it runs low helps to overcome the annoying chirps at night. Change the batteries when the clocks are changed forward or register for a free email reminder service.

Many smoke and heat alarms are now fitted with a sealed lithium battery, designed to last the life of the alarm. These batteries are not accessible for replacement and so if your alarm starts chirping but has a non-replaceable battery, the alarm may have reached the end of its life. Batteries running low apply to both solely battery powered alarms as well as mains powered units with a back-up battery.

9) Is there another alarm nearby?

If you have tried all the above and you can still hear chirping, the final check is to see if there is another alarm or device within the same area that could be causing the chirp. It is easy to associate chirping with smoke and heat alarms and forget that other devices e.g. carbon monoxide detectors could also contain a battery that is running low.

Safelincs are happy to provide information regarding your smoke and heat alarms. For more information, you can also visit our Smoke Alarm Help Guides page, or contact our customer services team.

Smoke Alarms versus Fire Alarms in HMOs

flatsDefined under BS 5839: Pt. 6 a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) is “a house that is occupied by persons who do not form a single household.” These are typically large houses that have been converted into flats or bedsits. Many of our customers ask what type of smoke alarm system is suitable for this type of property. According to the British Standard, the recommendations are as follows:

For one or two storey HMOs where the individual floor area is no more than 200sqm, a Grade D, category LD3 smoke alarm system should be installed.  Grade D refers to mains powered smoke and heat alarms with a built-in back up battery power supply, and the alarms can be interconnected either by wire or by radio signal. That means that fire alarm panels are not required. Ei Electronics and Kidde offer both RF and wired mains powered alarm systems as well as a range of accessories that can help you to test, locate and hush alarms easily.

Category LD3 (level of coverage) is the minimum requirement and defines where alarms should be installed. LD3 requires smoke alarms in all circulation spaces that form part of the escape routes from the dwelling, i.e. hallways and landings. If justified during a fire risk assessment, the level of cover may be increased to LD2 which requires smoke or heat alarms to be installed in specified high fire risk rooms and areas. Dependent on the specifier, this can include living rooms, kitchens and possibly bedrooms.

For Grade D system it is becoming more and more acceptable (especially if retrofitted) to install radio-interlinked smoke and heat alarms with 10 year sealed batteries rather than mains powered smoke and heat alarms. This saves the cost for the electrician and systems like this can be installed very quickly. We still recommend that you ask for confirmation by building control or the relevant council department before installing these systems.

For HMOs of 3 storeys or higher, there are two options available.  The first is to have Grade A fire alarm system installed throughout the building.  Grade A consists of a conventional or addressable fire alarm panel, and then fire alarm detectors, call points, sounders and beacons are specified according to the layout and requirements of the property.  The second option is to have a mixed system.  This would comprise of  Grade D, category LD3 in the individual dwellings (see above) and a separate Grade A system in the communal areas.  Again, the category of cover in the individual dwellings can be upped to LD2 if needed.  Both of these options have pros and cons depending on the requirements and the owner’s access to each of the dwellings.  A mixed system appears to have become the preference, as it is likely to reduce the impact of nuisance alarms from individual flats on other occupants.

For additional guidance, please visit our Smoke Alarm Help and Information, BS 5839-6 and BS 5839-1 summary pages.

Which type of smoke alarm should I use?

Smoke alarms are the most essential components in any fire safety strategy, whether in commercial or domestic properties.

There is a wide range of smoke alarm models available designed to suit various circumstances. It is therefore important to ensure that you purchase the correct model for your requirements, in order to ensure your smoke alarms operate as efficiently as possible.

Below is a summary of the various smoke alarm models featured on our website:

Optical smoke alarms are suitable for general use and are especially suitable for detecting smouldering fires caused for example by smouldering soft furnishings. They are also not too sensitive to false alarms from burnt toast, making them ideal in hallways (near kitchens), living rooms and bedrooms.

Ionisation smoke alarms are able to detect the change in the behaviour of the air in case of a fire. Fast flaming fires, such as burning waste paper baskets, are easily detected by ionisation smoke alarms and we recommend ionisation smoke alarms for use in offices or on landings. Please note that ionisation smoke alarms contain a small amount of radio-activity. If you wish to avoid this, choose optical smoke alarms instead.

Heat alarms are designed to detect the increase of temperature caused by a fire and do not cause false alarms. They are especially useful in dusty or smoky areas, such as kitchen and garages. They do, however, not cover very large areas, so cannot really be used for larger parts of a building.

Multi-sensor alarms combine the features of optical and heat alarms, resulting in rapid fire detection and a reduced risk of false alarms. They are suitable for living rooms, bedrooms, hallways and landings but should not be used in kitchens.

If you require further advice on which smoke alarm design is suitable for you, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. We also publish a guide on the different smoke alarm technologies.

For warehouse areas and industrial properties we offer more fire detection technologies and central alarm panle systems.

How to protect a kitchen with heat detectors

Kitchens produce great amounts of steam and cooking smoke and ordinary smoke alarms are not able to cope with these confusing signals. An ionisation smoke alarm or even an optical smoke alarm would quickly be set off when a kitchen is being used. At the same time fires regularly start in the kitchen, so rapid fire detection is important.

Luckily, there is an easy solution available. Heat alarms or heat detectors work by detecting either rapidly rising temperatures or trigger when a certain temperature is reached. Heat detectors do not get set off by steam or smoke or the normal cooking tempreatures. The thermistor in the heat detector head only detects the temperature changes mentioned above and ignores all other influences.

To notify the rest of the house of a fire in the kitchen you do not need to rely solely on the siren in the heat detector. You can interconnect the heat detectors with other smoke alarms in the house either with wire or through radio-frequency. The latter avoids you having to lay cables between alarms.

Heat detectors are also installed in garages and other areas where smoke or gases are present (with exception of bathrooms).

More information about the workings of heat detectors and other smoke alarms can be found in our smoke alarm guide.

What to do with old smoke alarms?

Customers ask us occasionally about the recycling of smoke alarms. Here is some information relating to this.

Smoke and heat alarms fall under the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) regulations. The biggest burden, with regards to the recycling of these goods, falls on businesses manufacturing, rebranding or importing alarms or any other electrical equipment. Retailers like us have to follow a reduced set of regulations.

Retailers have to pay a fee to be allowed to recommend  their domestic customers to drop their old smoke and heat alarms off at local recycling centers (Distributor Take-Back Scheme) rather than returning them to Safelincs for passing on to the manufacturers. As the directive states that the customer should in this case dispose of the old alarm themselves at the recycling centers we could in theory refuse to accept old smoke alarms back from domestic customers. However, we allow customers to send us their old units as a courtesy when they purchase from us.

Ideally, as stated above, domestic customers should drop their old alarms off at their local recycling centers, however, they can also dispose small numbers of alarms in their normal refuse. Quite often customers are concerned that the crossed-out wheelie bin on the back of the alarm means that they must not place the unit in a normal waste bin. This is a mis-understanding, the crossed-out wheelie bin just means that this product falls under the WEEE regulations and ideally should be recycled. Nevertheless, small numbers of smoke alarms are permitted in the household waste. There is currently no differentiation in this respect between the  ionisation and other smoke alarms despite the ionisation alarms containing small amounts of radio-activity.

There are WEEE rules that differ for domestic customers and businesses. Business smoke alarm users can drop small numbers of old alarms off at the recycling centre, where the cost for recycling will be passed on to the manufacturers. Business customers can also pass the smoke alarms on to us. We then pass them on to the manufacturers. This is only the case if they buy new smoke alarms from us at the same time or if they bought the units from us in the first place (there are some detailed rules relating to this regulation, which have been left out for simplicity).

Chip pans cause fires, don’t be caught out!

After a good night out with friends in the pub there is nothing nicer than to get back home and finish the evening off with a midnight snack. For many people it is the last snack that they will prepare. Chip pan fires are the cause of many house fire deaths, many of them occurring as a result of the midnight munchies after a night out.

A chip pan that is left unattended can burst into flames. Many people putting the chip pan on after a night out, go and sit down while it is heating up; they fall asleep and without them being aware the chip pan bursts into flames. If a heat or smoke alarm is fitted in or near the kitchen, the occupant will be alerted to the fire and will have the time to evacuate the building and call the fire brigade.

Where there is no smoke or heat alarms fitted the story has a different ending. Unlike the perception that many people have that they will wake from the smell of smoke, the smoke overcomes them and they die of smoke inhalation before the flames reach them. Smoke is toxic and after only a few breaths you can be rendered unconscious, not giving you enough time to escape to safety.

By following two very simple safety steps you will reduced the risk of dying in a house fire.

1) Ensure that you have working smoke alarms fitted in your home.

2) Get a take-away after a night out rather than putting the chip pan on or put something in the microwave.

Here are some real life accounts from fire fighters who have attended fires caused by cooking after a night out where someone has died

False Fire Alarms Waking You Up?

This post was written in 2011. Please read our new guide to troubleshooting beeping smoke alarms.

A common complaint we hear about are smoke alarms that go off in the middle of the night. There are a number of reasons and steps you can take to minimise the possibility of nuisance alarms waking you up.

Smoke alarms with low batteries will emit a beeping sound to indicate that the batteries require replacement. Batteries are at their weakest at night when it is cooler and you can therefore get low battery warnings which can wake you up. If it is a low battery warning sound (every few minutes or so), change your batteries. Make sure you use good quality batteries, as cheap batteries may not be strong enough to power the alarm and again cause the alarm to bleep during the night .

The issue of low batteries may  also apply if you have mains powered smoke alarms, as most mains powered alarms contain a backup battery to power the alarm in case of power failure.

If a mains powered smoke alarm gives an irregular warning sound, it might also indicate that the mains power supply is interrupted. Some smoke alarms have a green LED light on the outer case to show that the smoke alarm is connected to the mains power. If the green LED is not lit it can be an indication that there has been an interruption in the mains power supply and that the alarm will be using the back up battery as the power source.

Should the alarm emit a continuous sound, check first of all that there are no signs of a fire. False alarms can be caused by condensation or insects finding their way into the alarm. To eradicate this type of false alarm try to vacuum out the inside of the smoke alarm as thoroughly as possible and ventilate the room to reduce the condensation present.

When a smoke alarm has reached the end of its life it might also start to sound an intermittent beep as and when the alarm starts to become faulty. Check the manufacturing date of the smoke alarm. Smoke alarms need replacing after ten years.

In all cases of nuisance beeping or false alarms do not disconnect your alarm or leave the alarm without batteries fitted. This would leave you unprotected in the event of a fire and you would not receive any warning to evacuate the building.

To ensure that you have done everything possible to minimise the chances of false alarms and nuisance beeping take advantage of our free reminder service to alert you to replace batteries or replace the smoke alarm unit.