When – and How – to Test Your Smoke Detectors

How to Maintain and Test Smoke Detectors, from the Electrical Handyman Experts at Handyman Connection of Charleston

Smoke detectors are your first line of defense against house fires – so when’s the last time you gave yours a good look? Even in the South, checking your smoke detectors is an important aspect of winter fire safety.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost three out of every five fire deaths resulted in homes without smoke alarms or with non-functional smoke alarms. To keep your home and your family safe this year, here are 5 quick ways to make sure your smoke alarms are always up-to-date and working properly.


The Complete Guide to Testing & Maintaining Your Smoke Detector


If you’re having issues with reaching or testing your smoke detector safely, don’t simply put it off – call our experienced handyman services to handle the job.

1. Test your battery regularly

According to the US Fire Administration, you should test your smoke detectors at least once a month. To do this, press and hold the test button down for a few seconds. If it is working properly, your smoke detector should sound the alarm loudly; if the alarm is weak or it doesn’t sound, that’s a sign that you might need to replace either the battery or the smoke alarm itself.

2. Change the batteries, if needed

Most smoke alarm batteries should be changed regularly – but how often depends on the type of battery it has. Use this table as a helpful guide to changing your smoke detector batteries:


How Often to Change Different Smoke Detector Batteries


Battery Type How Often to Change it
9-volt alkaline At least once or twice a year
 AA At least once or twice a year
Lithium Every 10 years*

*Since smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years or so, you’ll likely never need to change a lithium battery, as long as the alarm works for each of your monthly tests.

Pro-Tip: While rechargeable batteries may seem like a smart idea, they tend to lose their charge faster than regular batteries, which means you’ll have to change them much more often; avoid using them in your detectors, if you can.

3. Check your hardwired smoke detectors too

All smoke alarms – battery and hardwired alike – should be tested and checked regularly. Hardwired smoke alarms come with a backup battery in case the power goes out. Test and change these batteries as needed too.

4. Vacuum the smoke detector

Yes, you read that right – vacuuming your smoke detector can improve its effectiveness, keeping you and your family safer. Dust buildup can affect the alarm’s ability to properly sense heat and smoke, so run a soft brush attachment over your detectors at least once a year.

5. Replace old alarms

The lifespan of a smoke detector is about 10 years. If you’re celebrating more than a decade in your home this year, treat yourself by buying all new smoke detectors, if you haven’t done so since you moved in. Even if you’ve just moved in, it’s a good idea to check the age of your smoke detectors, in case the previous owners didn’t replace them recently.

To check the age of your smoke detectors, look on the back of the alarm. You should see a manufacturer’s date. If that date was not within the last 10 years, it’s time to replace the alarm.

Want help checking your smoke detectors? Call Handyman Connection of Charleston

Can’t reach your smoke alarms? Handyman Connection of Charleston offers a wide variety of handyman services and can help test and maintain them to keep your home and family safe. If you’re looking for a major safety upgrade, we’ll help you install a brand new smoke alarm system. To get in touch, call (843) 287-9223 today.

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