Weekend Project: How to {Properly} Test Smoke Detectors


Deaths from house fires occur more frequently than you might think–the CDC reports that it is the 5th most leading cause of unintentional injury deaths each year. For this reason, it is worth your time, effort, and money to ensure that smoke detectors are properly installed in your home. Like any other electronic device, the batteries can die and the unit can stop functioning correctly. The only way to make sure that the device is working properly is to test it regularly. Here’s how you can test your smoke detectors:

1. Test manually. Have a family member go to an opposite end of the house while you press the “test” button on your device for a few seconds. It should produce a loud noise. If it doesn’t or if your family member can’t hear it go off, you should replace the batteries and test the device again. You should also look at the detector to see if there’s any dust buildup that could block the grates on the front of the device.

2. Test with real smoke. Light a match directly under the detector, let it burn for a few seconds, and then blow it out. It may take a few seconds for the detector to go off. If you don’t like the idea of testing your detectors this way, you can buy smoke detector testing aerosol spray at any local home improvement store instead. Spray according to the instructions on the can. If the detector doesn’t go off, replace the batteries and clean the unit. If it still doesn’t work, you should replace the unit.

Remember that just because your test button works doesn’t mean that the device is actually functioning properly. This is why it’s important to do the second step as well, because you will know exactly how well your detector can detect real smoke–which is what matters most.

If you’re interested in learning about more ways that you can prevent house fires, read our previous post on 10 Tips to Prevent House Fires.

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