Remember to Test Your Smoke Detectors

man testing smoke detector

First and foremost, your home should be safe for you and your family and pets. Nothing comes before that. In terms of protecting a home, fire alarms and smoke detectors are very important. Be sure to install both in your home. Both can alert you to dangerous smoke, gases and fire with enough time to safely evacuate your home. That is why you need to remember to test your smoke detectors from time to time to ensure they are functioning correctly.


Electronic devices malfunction. Sometimes due to loss of battery power or internal components wearing down. This is why it is a good idea to test them and replace batteries or even the entire smoke detector periodically. Periodic tests and new batteries could be the difference in keeping your family safe in an emergency.


The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) encourages homeowners to test their smoke detectors once every month and to replace the batteries twice each year. Consider doing this the same day you update the clocks in your home for daylight saving time. The USFA recommendation might vary based on the model of smoke detector, user manual guidelines and the following factors:

  • Regular false alarms
  • Short beeping sounds
  • Frequent activation leading to wear


There are two common types of smoke detectors found in most homes in the USA:

BATTERY-POWERED: This model of smoke detector is prone to defects based on battery age and power. It is important to test this type of unit each month. Never install used batteries in a smoke detector.

HARDWIRED: This model runs off the electrical system in your home and has backup batteries too. This means this type of smoke detector will continue to work even if there is no power in your home. You will still want to test hardwired smoke detectors each both to ensure the backup batteries are working and all other parts are functioning.


Follow the instructions in the manual. Each model of smoke detector is different. However, there are some standard guidelines and in most instances, both battery-powered and hardwired models can be tested with the steps below:

STEP 1: Notify everyone in the home about the test. Standard smoke detectors emit high-pitched and loud alarm sounds that can be irritating and frightening. Advance notice will let everyone ready themselves for the test and won’t scare children or pets if placed away from the alarm.

STEP 2: Have one member of the family stand as far away from the alarm as possible in order to determine if the beeping sound can be heard from everywhere in the home. If the person cannot hear the alarm, another smoke detector needs to be installed in that area of the home.

STEP 3: There should be a “test” button on the smoke detector. Press and hold the button for a few seconds until a beep or siren emits from the unit. The sound should be ear-piercing. If the sound is dull or muted, you need to replace the batteries on the smoke detector. You should replace the batteries regardless if it has been 6 months or longer. Test the new batteries and inspect the unit for debris, dust or anything that might stop the alarm even with new batteries.

The standard life span for a residential smoke detector is 10 years. The USFA recommends replacing a smoke detector after 10 years even if it still appears to be functional. Consult the manual to ensure the manufacturer recommendation is in line with the USFA.

In conclusion, never assume that a smoke detector is working. Be diligent in testing all of the units in your home once each month. The entire process should not require more than 5-10 minutes and could be critical in the event of an emergency.