A fire alarm going off at 3am is a pain everyone’s experienced at some point. When they start, they don’t seem to want to stop.
Find out everything to know about fire alarms, including how to turn off smoke alarms and how to check and replace a fire alarm battery.
For those on the hunt for a new detector, check out our picks for the best smoke detectors, heat detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors.
Why Does Fire Alarm Keep Going off for No Reason?
False alarms can be caused by dead or dying batteries, poor placement (in or next to kitchens, bathrooms or garages), or airborne chemical compounds, like those that are released from wet paint.
How to Turn off Fire Alarm
If there’s clearly no smoke, a smoke detector chirping or flashing red is a sign of a false alarm. How you turn it off depends on the model.
The vast majority, however, will feature a single button on the front panel, regardless of whether it is a standalone (battery powered) model or a hardwired model.
If a smoke alarm keeps going off every 10 minutes or so, it’s likely indicating that the battery is low and needs replacing.
Step 1: Press and hold hush button
Press and hold the hush button on the front panel of the alarm for at least 10 seconds. It will be the only visible button on the system and may be labeled ‘test’ or ‘silencer’.
Holding this button for different time periods can have different functions depending on the model, so consult the instruction manual.
Under no circumstances should the battery be removed or the device disconnected from a hardwired electricity source. Battery-powered devices can be moved to a new area if they won’t stop beeping. If that doesn’t help, swap the batteries out to new ones.
Step 2: Flip the mains or replace the battery
Investigate the entire property for signs of a fire and to be certain there isn’t one. If the smoke alarm that’s going off for no reason is hard-wired, try flipping the switch on the mains breaker box. Turn it back on after several seconds.
If a battery-powered smoke alarm keeps going off every 10 minutes or so, it’s more than likely caused by a dying battery, so replace the battery immediately.
Step 3: Investigate and evacuate
The alarm should silence unless there is smoke. If it continues to beep, investigate the surrounding area again and evacuate the home safely if smoke is noticed.
The only object to consider bringing is a phone to call the fire brigade from a safe space, but do not hunt for it. If it isn’t nearby or in a pocket, have a neighbor call emergency services instead.
Step 4: Ventilate the area
The alarm will reset itself after a period of five to ten minutes depending on the model. During the hush period, check the area for smoke, debris, or other compounds nearby that might be causing a false alarm.
Opening nearby windows and blowing out any lit candles can help to ventilate the area.
Never remove the battery or disconnect a hardwired detector. Going without fire protection puts properties and lives in danger should a fire break out unknowingly. If the fire alarm keeps going off, consider some of the possible reasons for false alarms below.
5 Most Common Reasons for False Alarms
1. Dead fire alarm battery
Fire alarms function by emitting a constant electric current to a sensor. When smoke obscures that current, the alarm will sound.
Given how they function, the most common reason for a false alarm is a dead or almost-dead smoke detector battery. Without holding it, press the button on the front of the panel to test the battery. If the alarm sounds loudly and clearly, it’s good to go.
If there is no sound, or the alarm is quiet, slurred, or bending in pitch, replace the battery. Every 6 months is recommended.
2. Too close to the kitchen
3. Too close to the bathroom
Rising steam from hot water will easily trigger smoke detectors, regardless of how well ventilated the bathroom is.
Not to mention, alarms aren’t usually waterproof, and moisture from steam can damage the circuitry. When enjoying a candlelit bath, never leave the lit candle unattended.
4. Chemical compounds, insects, and dust
Although less common, there are certain airborne chemical compounds that could trigger a false alarm.
If some redecorating has recently been done, for instance, there’s a chance that the compounds used to keep paint wet could be causing the electrical current in the detector to break.
Similarly, if the opening to the chamber is wide enough for bugs to crawl inside, they probably will.
Insects and accumulations of dust can interfere with both photoelectric and ionization detectors, so consider opening the cover to take a look inside.
5. Faulty product
Even if after replacing the battery and moving the alarm the fire alarm keeps going off, it may be time to buy a new one.
While fire alarms should, in theory, undergo rigorous testing before being released, there’s a chance that a faulty one with a weak electrical current was purchased.
It’s recommended that fire alarms be replaced every ten years, so if it’s been longer than that since last purchasing a new one, install a replacement as soon as possible.
Affordable Alarms Available on Amazon
Below are our picks for the best alarms on the market, from smart smoke alarms to heat alarms perfect for awkward-to-monitor spaces like the kitchen and bathroom.
Nest Protect (Battery)
Available on Amazon. From $116.49.
- Split spectrum sensor makes it accurate regardless of the state of the fire
- Combines smoke and carbon monoxide detection
- Push notifications let users know when and where something has occurred in real time
- The battery version requires six batteries in each unit
Google’s Nest line aims to increase security, comfort and seamlessness in the home, so it makes sense that they have included their rendition of a smoke alarm in the mix.
A bonafide smart alarm, it combines smoke and carbon monoxide detection as well as a ‘split spectrum sensor’, meaning it can detect smoldering fires just as well as it does flaming fires.
It’s also capable of detecting steam to avoid false alarms, and notifies phones so that even when the home is absent, occupants can be notified. No annoying chirping either—it’s a smart alarm, after all, so expect polite ‘conversation’ instead.
Kidde Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detector
Available on Amazon.
- Combines smoke and carbon monoxide detection
- Voice alert
- Date of ‘manufacture’ is given rather than of expiration, which would be a much more clear way to indicate when it needs to be replaced
- Doesn’t have a photoelectric sensor, so won’t be as responsive with thick smoke
For those that don’t want to fork out on a smart alarm, this option from Kidde is the next best thing at a fraction of the price. A battery-powered smoke and CO detector, this failsafe option from well-regarded alarm experts Kidde is affordable and robust.
Chirping is absent, instead using a voice that states either ‘Fire! Fire!’, ‘Warning! Carbon Monoxide!’, or ‘Low Battery’. Suffice to say, there won’t be any confusion as to what it’s trying to communicate…
Ecoey Smoke Alarm
Available from Amazon. From $59.99 for 8 units.
- Come with up to 8 units in a pack, making it an affordable choice for larger spaces that need multiple units
- Photoelectric detector detects light smoke well
- Easy install, batteries included
- Chirping can be irritating
- Lacks an ionization sensor, which better detects thick smoke
This simple to use photoelectric smoke alarm comes with up to 8 alarms, allowing for maximum coverage of even the largest of properties. Batteries means users don’t need to worry about a power outage in the event of a fire.
It forgoes complicated features for an average user experience, although each unit is smaller than the average alarm, making them a little less unsightly. Despite the size, the alarm sounds loudly, clocking in at 85db.
BRK Heat Alarm
Available on Amazon. From $21.91.
- Hardwired for a long lifespan, with battery backup
- Ideal for areas that can’t be monitored by smoke detectors
- Remote testing possible
- Remote control sold separately
- Chirping can be annoying
- Hardwiring often requires an electrician
Since a fire is more likely to start in the kitchen than any other room in the house, a heat alarm is the only way to monitor it without experiencing constant false alarms.
BRK’s heat alarm will sound an 85db siren if it detects either a temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit or a temperature increase of more than 15 degrees Fahrenheit in under a minute—both of which strongly indicate the presence of a fire.
It markets itself as hardwired, but is capable of functioning solely on its battery backup.
Kidde Carbon Monoxide Detector
Available on Amazon. From $22.
- Plugs in to wall and has battery backup
- Batteries included
- Chirps and beeps
- No voice alerts
Having a carbon monoxide detector in your home is just as important as having a smoke or heat alarm. Having all three makes for a much safer home.
CO is a silent killer: it can’t be seen, smelt, or heard, so the only way to accurately detect dangerous levels of it is through a detector. This one plugs into the wall, but also features battery-backup for power failures.
What is the most common cause of false fire alarms?
The most common causes of false fire alarms are dying batteries, burnt food, candles, steam from the bathroom, and cigarette smoke. Less common causes include dust, insects, spider webs, and certain chemical compounds contained in things like aerosol sprays and paint.
What do carbon monoxide alarms sound like?
Carbon monoxide alarms will usually beep excessively if it detects unsafe levels of CO in the atmosphere. Models will have different beeping patterns, but it might be four beeps in a row repeatedly, for example. A ‘low battery’ warning is usually a single beep every few minutes.
What to do if your fire alarm keeps going off?
Holding down the main button on the fire alarm for at least ten seconds should silence it. It will reset after a few minutes. In that time, replace batteries if the beeping indicates low batteries, or move the alarm to a new location, away from steam. Never remove the batteries for the purpose of silencing it.
Who to call if fire alarm keeps going off?
If a fire alarm is going off, there is a chance of a fire. If that’s the case, evacuate the property immediately, prioritizing babies, children, and the elderly. The fire brigade should be called immediately from a safe location outside the property.
If false alarms continue, consider arranging an assessment with the fire brigade, or have a professional electrician take a look at the device.
Why is my smoke detector beeping?
A smoke detector beeps because a current has been broken or reflected by something inside the chamber, which triggers an alarm. Hence, dying batteries can cause a smoke alarm to beep, as well as objects like candles, steam from a bathroom, and other airborne chemical compounds.
A fire alarm that keeps going off is a nuisance, but removing the battery outright is extremely ill-advised. Check for other causes of false alarms (in most cases, it will be a dying battery). Otherwise, replace the alarm immediately. Never go without a fire alarm.