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  • Writer's picturePerceptive Things Team

How long will a smoke detector chirp before it dies?

Regardless of whether you own a home, business, or many properties, you want to know that you are safe in the event of an emergency. This is the primary reason why all buildings are required to have smoke detectors.

However, many people don’t realize this provides only a basic level of protection. If no one is home to hear a smoke detector, it serves little purpose.

Additionally, smoke detectors can fail to operate after a period of time. Even a perfectly functioning detector will often silence during a fire as debris can interfere with its internal mechanisms.

In this post, we will share how long the average smoke detector lasts and provide information on supplemental solutions that can keep your building, plus its tenants, safe.

The average battery-operated smoke detector dies in 8 minutes due to a fire

Battery-operated smoke detectors are designed to wake people who may be sleeping in the event of a fire. However, they are not designed to last a long time should a fire occur.

Their primary goal is to wake occupants quickly. As fires spread, smoke detector alarms usually go silent in as little as eight minutes. This is a direct result of either the heat from the flames or the debris (such as ash).

Later in this article, we will also cover how long a smoke detector takes to die in a non-fire-related setting.

What causes a smoke detector to die?

Aside from users manually removing batteries, there are 4 typical reasons that smoke detectors will stop functioning.

There are many reasons a smoke detector might die beyond these common 4, which is why it is important to put a backup or supplemental system in place.

Here are the 5 reasons smoke detectors typically die:

  • Drained battery

  • Faulty wiring

  • Water contact

  • Manufacturing instructions

  • User interference

Drained batteries

The most common reason for a smoke detector to dies is due to a battery that has drained. The majority of smoke detectors utilize 9-volt batteries. Some newer ones use double-A batteries. These batteries will drain over time, eventually failing to function.

Battery-operated smoke detectors will typically emit a slight chirping noise if a battery is detected as being low on power. This notification encourages the user to change the battery immediately.

However, if it is ignored, the smoke detector will die, usually within a month. The National Fire Protection Agency recommends changing batteries in your smoke detectors at least once a year to prevent them from dying due to drained batteries.

Faulty wiring

Some smoke detectors do not operate based on batteries. Instead, they are wired directly into a home’s electrical system. They draw their power from the power grid instead. This type of smoke detector often is more reliable because it does not require someone to remember to change the batteries periodically.

However, there are still situations where wired smoke detectors can die. One of the most common involves faulty wiring. This typically occurs when the connection between the alarm and the hot wire becomes intermittent or loose. In these situations, the alarm may go in and out of the functioning or stop working completely much like suffering from a power failure.

If your detector is suffering from faulty wiring, then there is no way of knowing when the beeping sound will stop without calling in professionals.

Water contact

Water is another common reason that smoke detectors will often stop working. You may expect that you would know if you have a smoke detector with water damage. After all, if you have a major water leak, you would likely realize if it impacted an area with a smoke detector. However, leaks can take a long time to be noticed.

Something as small as a little bit of condensation or a few drops of water from a leak can cause the electronic components of a smoke detector to fail. Smoke detectors are typically placed high up on walls or on the ceiling where they are most likely to detect smoke. Unfortunately, these are also places they are more likely to come in contact with water.

Manufacturing instructions

One of the most surprising reasons for smoke alarm failure lies in instructions from the manufacturer. Many people are surprised to learn that smoke alarm manufacturers can set alarms to turn off after a certain amount of time goes by.

Smoke detectors tend to have a natural life as their components experience wear and tear. The average smoke alarm is not expected to last long past ten years. After this time, the alarm can become much less sensitive to smoke, meaning it may not notice a fire quickly.

How to respond to smoke detectors quickly

1. Install

The first step is to ensure that you install smoke detectors on your properties. Your state and local fire codes and ordinances will have specific instructions for installing and operating smoke detectors in buildings. The laws specify the specific type, number, and location of smoke detectors. This is a legal necessity and is considered the bare minimum step toward promoting fire safety.

2. Install smart smoke detectors

There are many problems with traditional smoke detectors. After all, their main job is simply to wake up anyone sleeping in the event of a fire. Supplementing these with smart smoke detectors provides a more comprehensive asset protection solution.

Smart smoke detectors quickly detect signs of smoke and can send real-time alerts. This means you won’t have to rely on someone to make a report in the event of a fire. It also can reduce your need to worry about potential failures in existing systems.

Vapor™ by Perceptive Things is a combined smoke and heat sensor that can supplement your existing fire safety systems. Unlike traditional smoke detectors, Vapor™ can send you real-time alerts through text, email, or even a phone call. This negates the need to rely on your tenants to report potential issues and allows you to prevent losses by taking immediate action.

3. Test the alert system

Of course, the final step in providing prompt response to fires is to test your alert system frequently. You should utilize an artificial smoke source (i.e., “smoke in a can”) in order to periodically test all of your smoke detectors. This will ensure that they are still active and operational.

While many people trust that their smoke detectors will protect their home or business, the reality is that basic detectors can die without warning which means you often must rely on others to report issues. With smart smoke detectors, you can have faith that any issues will be immediately noted and responded to.

Are you looking into building loss prevention tools? Perceptive Things® has a wide range of leak, motion, and ambient sensors that can help you turn any building into a smart building! Leave a note for us in the comments or reach out to us at

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