Smoke Detector Beeping? Find Out Why And Fix The Problem

Jer Thorp/flickr

Why is your smoke alarm beeping and chirping up a storm? There’s no fire in your house, thank goodness … not even the teeniest wisp of smoke. But still you keep hearing that annoying (and frightening) smoke detector beeping sound. To stop all the racket and restore your peace of mind, here are 7 DIY troubleshoots for a beeping or chirping alarm.

  1. Clean the unit.

    Dirt or grease on the smoke detector cover, and dust or even tiny insects inside the sensor, may be interfering with the unit’s air flow … and causing that infernal smoke detector beeping sound. To clean a smoke alarm cover, remove the cover, wipe gently, and screw it back into place. To clean the sensor, use a vacuum cleaner hose or compressed air spray to remove any obstruction.

  2. Examine the battery.

    Make sure that the pull tab of your smoke alarm battery has been removed and that the battery is securely positioned so that it is in full contact with the detector’s terminals. If the battery drawer is even partially open, it will prevent proper contact. Ensure that the negative and positive symbols on the battery are placed as indicated on the diagram inside the alarm.

  3. Replace the battery.

    A low battery will usually result in a smoke detector chirping sound at regular intervals of 30-60 seconds, depending on the manufacturer. This chirping will continue until the battery dies completely, unless you take care of it. (Experts recommend changing your smoke alarm’s battery at least every 6 months. To help jog your memory, schedule this vital task for spring and fall, when we change the clocks.) Try replacing the battery with a fresh one.

  4. Press the test button.

    Even after you change the battery, your home fire alarm may still register an error message, resulting in beeping or chirping. When this happens, disconnect the alarm, remove the battery, and press the test button steadily for 15 seconds minimum. You may then reinsert the battery. This process resets the device, erasing any error messages. (You will hear a single chirp when the battery is reinserted, but this should be followed by blissful peace and quiet.)

  5. Check your home’s electrical supply.

    If you have a hard wired smoke detector and there’s no smoke in its vicinity, check to see whether the alarm is signaling “no power” due to either: A) an electrical outage in your home, either complete or partial (a blackout or brownout) OR B) a tripped circuit breaker. If neither of these is the case, flip the breaker to the off position and see whether this works to stop the commotion.

  6. Consider the air temperature and humidity.

    Your smoke alarm is designed to react to high heat and humidity. If it is hung in an exceptionally “hot spot” – near your kitchen stove or living room fireplace (even a gas or electric fireplace produces concentrated heat), for example – it will beep. Ditto if it is in a damp area, such as next to a bathroom door. Repositioning the detector will eliminate this problem.
    US Fire Administration/
  7. Look at the age of your smoke alarm.

    Smoke detectors typically last for up to 10 years. As they near the end of their lifespan, these devices frequently start to produce beeping sounds. In this case, you will need to have a new alarm installed. If you’re not sure of your alarm’s age, unscrew it from the ceiling and check manufacturing date on the back.

When to contact a professional electrician:
Okay, let’s say that you’ve tried all the troubleshoots and your smoke detector is still beeping away. At this point, you’d be wise to hire a licensed electrician to investigate potentially serious problems with your home’s electrical wiring.

Laura Firszt writes for


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