What Causes a Smoke Detector False Alarm?

A fire alarm system going off is a sound that we all recognize. While a smoke detector can be a lifesaving device, it can also easily signal a false alarm – and when a false alarm becomes a regular occurrence, it can become a huge inconvenience. We’re going to take a look at what causes a smoke detector false alarm so you can avoid those unpleasant occurrences and you can also ensure that your fire alarm system is working correctly.

Dirt, Dust and Insects

Surprisingly enough, dirt, dust, and insects can cause false alarms in your smoke detector – and the older your smoke detector is, the more time this debris has to accumulate. This buildup has the ability to interfere with your smoke detector’s sensors and cause a false alarm to be triggered. 

Fireprotectionblog.com tells us more about this unexpected cause of a smoke detector false alarm:

“As surprising as it might seem, insects can cause smoke detectors’ false alarms. Some are so small that they can get inside the device and interfere with the detector’s sensors. Besides, accumulated dust and dirt can also make the detector overly sensitive, increasing the chances of a false alarm.”

The Unit is Within 10 Feet From Your Kitchen

Odds are, if you regularly cook your own food, you’ve set off a fire alarm at some point in your lifetime. With many fire alarms being located within 10 feet from your kitchen (even though it is advised that they are not installed so close), not setting off your fire alarm when there’s a sudden excess of smoke is nearly an impossible task.

Lee Wallender of The Spruce expands on the most common household reason for a smoke detector to trigger a false alarm:

“Cooking smoke, even when it is not visible, can trigger your smoke alarm. Manufacturers generally recommend that you install the unit more than 10 feet away from cooking areas due to the high number of false alarms triggered by smoke.”

Steam or High Humidity

Did you know that it’s not only smoke that can set off your smoke alarm? Both steam and high humidity have the potential for setting off your smoke alarm, due to that fact that the makeup of these kinds of particles can be mistaken for smoke particles.

Vivint.com tells us why even your morning hot, steamy shower has the potential for setting off your smoke alarm:

“High humidity carries dense moisture particles that your smoke detector may confuse for smoke particles. In extreme cases, the air is dense enough to scatter the light beam of a photoelectric sensor or cling onto the ions in an ionization chamber. The same concept applies to steam. So, if your smoke detector sits right outside a steamy bathroom, you may want to move it to a different location.”

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