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November 30, 2020

Why Does My Smoke Alarm ALWAYS Start Beeping in the Middle of the Night?

We know it’s happened to you. It’s happened to the team at Ernest Homes, too. You’re warm and snug, sleeping soundly in your bed, when a faint, persistent noise jars you awake. BEEP. CHIRP. BEEP. CHIRP. It’s the smoke alarm…right above your head. You flip over, try to go back to sleep. You may even try smothering your head with a pillow. “Why does this always happen at 2am?” you mutter to yourself, getting out of bed to address the problem. “Why can’t this happen at 2pm?”

As you get the stepladder out, you have a creative movie reel spinning in your head…the smoke alarms have come to life, spying on you to make sure you’re fully asleep before putting their evil plot in action. All the smoke alarms on the block go off at once, causing a wave of anger and frustration among the people. Chaos ensues as the beeping and chirping drives humans mad…the world approaches apocalypse in the middle of the night as homeowners everywhere lose their minds…

Stop. Although it’s tempting to believe this late-night disturbance is intentional, there’s actually a scientific reason why it happens. 

When a battery is working properly, a chemical reaction caused by the materials in the battery produces electricity. Most chemical reactions, including those produced by batteries, slow down at lower temperatures. This slow-down causes a reduction in power output. Outside temperatures drop during the night, and most homeowners also lower the internal temperatures in their homes overnight as well. This difference in temperature can be enough to trigger the low battery alarm when the 9-volt cell is nearing the end of its life. During the warmer daytime hours, just enough power is generated to keep the alarm sounds at bay, but once the temperature drops and the chemical reactions slow down, the chirping starts in the middle of the night.

For optimum fire safety, smoke alarms should be installed in bedrooms, or in the hallways right outside the bedrooms. While this also seems to be part of an evil plot, it’s necessary to make sure your family is best protected when they’re the most vulnerable. It’s less likely you’ll hear a low battery alarm if your smoke detector is in the living room.

While the temptation is great to simple pull the battery out of the smoke detector and go back to bed, this isn’t the best solution to your problem. If a battery only smoke detector is disabled, you’re putting your family at risk for a simple two-minute fix. If you have the newer, electric powered smoke alarms with battery backups, removing the battery will not stop the smoke detector from chirping, because the system will continue to look for that strong signal from the backup battery. 

The best solution is to change your smoke alarm batteries regularly, to prevent the signal from weakening to point where the low battery alarm starts to sound. A great rule of thumb is to change them twice a year, at the beginning and end of daylight savings time. It’s easy to remember the last time the batteries were changed, and unless they’re defective, the battery will certainly produce a best signal for this length of time.

If you prefer to change each battery only when it’s time, a handy tip is to keep a package of batteries within easy access of each smoke alarm unit, rather than storing all of them in a junk drawer or in your garage. Not only do you know exactly where they are, they’re easier to get to in the middle of the night if you don’t have to trek out to the garage and dig through a drawer for them. Good places to stash batteries are in the top drawer of your nightstand, an underwear or sock drawer, or in your bathroom cabinets. Just make sure you keep them in the same place all the time so you remember where they are.

Always check the freshness date on a pack of batteries when you purchase them, to make sure you can keep them in your home for a good amount of time before their effectiveness diminishes. Replace the stashed battery packages every year to make sure your batteries in waiting have enough of a charge to produce a strong signal. Choose a day you’ll remember, such as your birthday or Christmas, and make sure you swap out all stashed packages at the same time.

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