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Why does my smoke alarm keep going off? (and how to fix it)

February 14, 2013 3 comments

I recently updated the smoke alarms in our house.  Because I’m me, I did all the research to figure out the most up to date recommendations on type and coverage for the home.  We ended up with several First Alert Dual Sensor smoke alarms throughout the house.

These alarms came with a neat feature that allows you to shut off false alarms using any infrared remote control you might have lying around the house.  Useful I thought for burnt toast and whatnot.

Well the fun began that night, as we were watching TV one of the alarms kept going off.  After several false alarms I just took it down and removed the battery, with plans to exchange it.

The fun continued a few days later, as the alarm would go off in the laundry room when we turned on the lights.  What the heck?

This was now too much to be a coincidence, so I hit the internet to do some research.

Remember that neat feature that lets you use a remote to turn off false alarms?  Turns out it also lets you test the alarm via infrared remote.  And you know what else generates infrared signals that can trigger the test function?  Compact fluorescent light bulbs, yep those twisty CFL bulbs that are by law replacing every light bulb in your house.

Legally-required smoke alarms that are incompatible with legally-required light bulbs.  That, my friends, is what we call a conundrum.

How to fix it

In order to stop this annoying false alarm, you need to disable the IR sensor on the smoke alarm.  This won’t affect the ability to detect smoke, it will simply turn off the IR remote control features.  It’s pretty easy to do:

  1. Open the battery door (disconnect the battery)
  2. Hold down the test button on the alarm
  3. Close the battery door while still holding the test button
  4. You will hear a chirp, and can let go of the test button

You’ll need to do this every time you replace the batteries, because it will reset back to normal when you pull out the battery.