Smoke Detector

The sound of birds chirping outside is fun to listen to. The sound of chirping smoke detectors will drive anyone crazy after just a few minutes. While the sound may be very aggravating, it is incredibly important to pay attention to it and be sure to get resolved right away. 

When was the last time you checked your smoke detectors? Have you checked them in the last month as recommended? Probably not. You should. Go test them right now before you finish reading this article.

Push the test button – it really is that simple.

A non-functioning smoke detector is a major safety hazard. So too is a missing smoke detector. We frequently find smoke detectors that are missing from the necessary locations in a house.

smoke detector in bedroom


There should be one smoke detector in each and every bedroom. Many older homes do not have smoke detectors in bedrooms. Double check to ensure every bedroom has one. Even newer homes occasionally do not have one installed in basement bedrooms if they were finished at a later time.

There should be an additional smoke detector located within 20 feet of each bedroom. This is typically in a hallway. There should also be a smoke detector located in a common area on each level of the house as well as one in the furnace room.

Other things to pay attention to when it comes to smoke detectors are location and age. Properly installed, each smoke detector should be within one foot of the ceiling. A smoke detector located 9 feet above the floor of a room with 20 foot vaulted ceilings is improper and will not register smoke in the proper time that it should.

old yellow smoke detector


Any smoke detector that is older than 10 years should be replaced. There is a manufactured date located on the back of each unit. I highly recommend checking the age of your smoke detectors if you know they have not been replaced within the last five years.

If the plastic is beginning to yellow, they are definitely beyond the 10 year lifespan and should be replaced. If you can’t find a date on the back of them, then they are most definitely too old to be reliable and must be replaced.

Missing and outdated smoke detectors are one of the most common safety hazards that show up on a home inspection report.

I had two inspections today of houses that were built in 2013. The smoke detectors still ‘looked good’, but the dates on the back of them indicated that they needed to be replaced. 

If you plan to sell your home in the near future, check the date of your smoke detectors and replace them as needed. Doing so will show that you are proactive about the routine maintenance of your home and will eliminate this safety hazard from showing up on an inspection report. And it will make your home inspector very happy.

One additional note about replacement. If your smoke detectors are interconnected (wired), then they must be replaced with another wired unit. This is a requirement for all houses built after 2001.

Next week we will talk about the importance of carbon monoxide alarms.

If you have any questions about smoke detectors and your home, your local fire department can be a great resource. They may be in the best position to answer questions about the current regulations and requirements in your city/town.