A loud and blaring smoke alarm can be annoying when it suddenly goes off. But it’s necessary to rile you up to alert you to a potential fire hazard. However, the real bother is if your smoke alarm went off for no reason. Why does this happen, and how do you fix it?
There are several reasons why your smoke alarm randomly went off even though there was no smoke. It could be as minor as a dirty smoke detector or low batteries or as serious as a malfunctioning alarm. In such cases, there are certain steps you can take to fix the problem. But if it gets too severe, you may need to get a new smoke alarm.
Read on to learn why your smoke alarm went off then stopped and what you should do about it.
Smoke Alarm Went Off Then Stopped [Causes and How to Fix]
There are several reasons why your smoke alarm randomly went off even though there was no smoke. It could be as minor as a dirty smoke detector or low batteries. But it can also be as serious as the alarm having a major malfunction. In such cases, there are certain steps you can take to fix the problem. But if it gets too severe, you may need to get a new smoke alarm.
While it may seem like your smoke alarm went off for no reason, there are several reasons why it may have occurred. Here are some of the most common causes of false smoke alarms:
- Low Batteries
- Dirty Smoke Detector
- Exposure to Steam, Heat, and Humidity
- Oversensitive Smoke Detector
- Sensitivity to Strong Chemicals
- Smoke Detector Placement
- Old Smoke Detector
- Power Issues
- Interconnected Alarm
- Malfunctioned Smoke Alarm
Let’s also talk about how to take care of this problem:
1. Low Batteries
Try to notice if your smoke alarm emits a repetitive high-pitched beep or a shrill, extended scream. It could be a sign that your smoke detector’s batteries need to be changed.
How often you change the batteries depends on the smoke detector’s manufacturer and model. Unless your detector runs on a lifelong battery, you should replace its batteries at least once a year.
2. Dirty Smoke Detector
Sometimes a smoke alarm can be triggered by bugs, dirt, and dust getting into the smoke detector. Insects are small enough to pass through the chamber entrances and interfere with the sensors.
Even more so, dust and dirt can build up and affect the smoke alarm. It is advised to clean your smoke detector at least once a year. Use a vacuum brush attachment to clean your smoke detector effectively.
3. Exposure to Steam, Heat, and Humidity
High humidity can cause smoke alarms to go off. It carries dense moisture particles, which your smoke detector may mistake for smoke particles.
In more severe instances, the air may be dense enough to scatter a photoelectric sensor’s light beam or cling to the ions in the ionization chamber. Steam and heat can have the same effect. So move your smoke detector away from highly-humid areas.
These include bathrooms, places where they can be exposed to steam or moving air, such as the following:
- HVAC vents,
- Furnaces, and
Avoid direct exposure to sunlight or fluorescent lights.
4. Oversensitive Smoke Detector
Sometimes the problem could be that your smoke detector works TOO well.
For instance, if you had installed your smoke detector more than 10 feet away from the stove or toaster. Then the smoke alarm randomly went off every time you slightly overcook your food or even so much as burn your toast. It could mean that you have an oversensitive smoke detector.
In this case, you can modify your detector’s sensitivity setting. It is also advisable to test your smoke alarm’s sensitivity every other year following its first testing. If the readings on your smoke detector remain consistent, you can depend on it for up to five years without the need for another test.
5. Sensitivity to Strong Chemicals
Smoke detectors can also be sensitive to particles released into the air by strong-smelling chemicals nearby. If you have been using strong chemicals while cleaning or remodeling your home, this may be what is causing your smoke alarm to go off suddenly.
6. Smoke Detector Placement
It doesn’t take much to trigger a smoke alarm. As previously mentioned, a smoke detector installed more than 10 feet from a cooking appliance can be set off by the slightest smoke or rise in temperature.
Likewise, with a detector installed beside a door or window, a sudden draft can interfere with its sensors’ performance. This can cause it to confuse the draft with smoke. The solution is to adjust the alarm’s sensitivity or move the detector to a less intrusive spot.
7. Old Smoke Detector
If your smoke detector is 7-10 years old or even older, then it’s time to remove it and install a new one.
8. Power Issues
A power outage could trigger the smoke alarm if you have a hardwired smoke detector. Usually, the alarm will briefly sound during a power interruption. Installing a wireless smoke detector over a junction box can also cause a false smoke alarm. Sharing the same circuit with a large appliance, such as a vacuum cleaner, can also cause the alarm to sound off.
9. Interconnected Alarm
There are smoke detectors that form part of an interconnected AC or AC/DC alarm system. This means that one alarm going off may trigger your alarm to go off as well.
10. Malfunctioning Smoke Alarm
If none of the causes listed above apply to your smoke detector, it could only mean that it is malfunctioning. If so, you need to either get your smoke detector fixed or get it replaced:
Factors to Consider Before Getting a New Smoke Alarm
If you need to replace an old or malfunctioning smoke detector, there are several factors that you should consider.
These include the following:
- Type of Smoke Alarm
- Noise Level
- Operating Temperature
- CO Detection and Other Extras
- Professional Monitoring
- Optional Alerts
- Silencing Feature
1. Type of Smoke Alarm
An ionization smoke detector is designed to detect fast-moving fires, such as a candle setting a curtain on fire. A photoelectric smoke alarm can detect slow-moving fires, like electric fires which start in walls. But a dual alarm has sensors that can pick up both fast and slow-moving fires, making it the best type of fire alarm to choose.
If you choose to buy a hardwired smoke detector, it will likely have a backup battery. If you opt for a battery-powered smoke alarm, you should consider its battery life.
3. Noise Level
It is advisable to get a smoke alarm with a sound level of at least 85 decibels so that you can hear the alarm even if you are asleep. Even better, you can have your smoke detectors interconnected. So that if one alarm sounds off, the rest will go off as well. If you’re installing hardwired alarms, it is best to get the fire department or an electrician to do it for you.
4. Operating Temperature
Your home must be kept at a particular temperature range, preferably around 32 to 100°F. Any lower or higher those temperatures will cause your alarm to cease functioning.
5. CO Detection and Other Extras
It is suggested to get a smoke detector with a CO alarm, which can detect the presence of deadly carbon monoxide. There are smoke detectors that feature a combination smoke/CO alarm. They are also sensitive to humidity, temperature, occupancy, and ambient light. It may cost you a bit more, but the additional features are beneficial and cool as well.
6. Professional Monitoring
You might want to sign up for a smoke detector with 24/7 professional monitoring. The last thing you want to happen is for your smoke alarm to go off while you’re out of the house. It is possible not to receive any mobile notification about it too. With the 24/7 monitoring, someone will call the fire department on your behalf, no matter what time of the day it is.
Smart smoke detectors can automatically test themselves periodically to ensure they are still functional. If applicable, you can also connect them to professional monitoring.
If the smoke detector is an IoT device, it has to have a bug-free mobile app. Check the reviews and ratings on the official app store of your mobile device before you buy a smoke alarm.
On average, the smoke detectors we’ve sampled cost approximately $44. But prices may slightly vary according to the make, manufacturer, and capability.
Your smoke detector must be certified by your state’s fire marshal or the Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
11. Optional Alerts
It is possible to get an alternative to the typical smoke alarm sound alert. You can choose from other smoke detectors that come with voice alerts, color-coded light alerts, or low-battery alerts.
12. Silencing Feature
And, of course, if your smoke detector starts giving out false alarms, it is essential to have a silencing feature to keep your smoke alarm quiet temporarily.
Again, the smoke alarm went off then stopped – what are the causes? A smoke alarm can go off then stop due to low batteries. If your alarm’s battery is dying, the sensor can’t function properly. So, you’ll likely get a false positive.
How to Temporarily Silence a Smoke Alarm
To temporarily stop your smoke alarm from sounding off, the methods vary. It depends on your smoke detector’s manufacturer and model. But for several smoke detectors, you can do so in three easy steps:
- Press the Test/Hush/Silencing Button
- Allow the Smoke Detector to Reset in Eight Minutes
- Press the Test/Hush/Button Again
1. Press the Test/Hush/Silencing Button
Push the test/hush/silencing button to silence the whole interconnected system. It will immediately silence all the systems unless traces of smoke and debris remain.
2. Allow the Smoke Detector to Reset in Eight Minutes
The smoke detector will reset in eight minutes, as long as the smoke and debris have been dissipated. You can repeatedly press the hush button until the air is clean.
3. Press the Test/Hush/Button Again
Press the test/hush button again to end the hush period.
How to Reset and Clean a Smoke Alarm
Before cleaning your smoke detector, you need to reset it first. There are two methods of resetting and cleaning. One is for a hardwired smoke alarm, and the other is battery-powered.
Hardwired Smoke Alarm – How to Reset
A hardwired smoke alarm can be reset using the following steps:
- Disconnect the Smoke Alarm
- Clean the Device
- Press and Hold the Test Button
- Reconnect the Smoke Alarm
1. Disconnect the Smoke Alarm
Disconnect the smoke alarm and remove the battery.
2. Clean the Device
Hold the alarm by its edge. Then use a keyboard cleaner to get rid of the debris on the sides of the device.
3. Press and Hold the Test Button
Press the test button. Then, hold it for five seconds.
4. Reconnect the Smoke Alarm
Reconnect the smoke alarm to power and the backup battery. You will hear a chirp when it connects to power.
Battery-powered Smoke Alarm – How to Reset
Here are the steps involved in resetting a battery-powered smoke alarm:
- Remove the battery.
- Push and hold the test button.
- Reinstall the battery: You will hear a chirp when the device reconnects to power.
Where to Install a Smoke Alarm
Even if your smoke detector is excellent, it may still be prone to false alarms depending on its location. When installing a smoke alarm, make sure you put it someplace where it can’t be easily triggered.
These areas may include the following:
- Every level of the house
- Inside and outside of every bedroom
- Near the family room, living room, or den (if the bedroom isn’t already included on that level)
- At least 10 feet from the cooking appliances
- On the ceiling or up on the wall within 1 foot of the ceiling
- If the ceilings are inclined, within 3 feet of the peak, but not within the apex of the peak
- The basement, on the ceiling below the stairs
- Near the staircase to the upper level
Where Not to Put Smoke Alarms
Avoid placing a smoke detector in the areas where a passing draft or a rise in temperature or humidity may set off a false alarm.
These areas may include the following:
- Near the windows, doors or ducts where a draft may cause the alarm to go off
- Near the kitchen, bathroom, fireplace or furnace
- Less than 10 feet from the cooking appliances
- Not more than 12 inches from the ceiling
Conclusion – Smoke Alarm Went Off Then Stopped
There are several reasons why your smoke alarm randomly went off even though there was no smoke. It could be as minor as a dirty smoke detector or low batteries. But it can also be as serious as the alarm having a major malfunction.
In such cases, there are certain steps you can take to fix the problem. But if it gets too severe, you may need to get a new smoke alarm.
The ringing of a smoke alarm is meant to warn you of a possible fire. But if it goes off even when there’s no smoke, it can be a warning that your smoke detector is defective.
Take the necessary steps to clean and maintain your smoke alarm to keep it functioning in top condition. Keep it out of places where it may be easily set off or exposed to damaging elements.