Smoke detector maintenance is one of the most important tasks a homeowner can perform. Often neglected, this task can truly save lives! As most house fires occur at night, keeping your smoke detectors in good working order is essential. Before we get started with the “how to’s” of maintaining your smoke detectors, let’s explore the types of detectors you may have in your home.


Two Types of Smoke Detectors

  1. Hard-wired [with battery backup]

Most houses built after the 1970’s feature smoke detectors which are wired into [and powered by] a home’s electrical system. The key benefit of hard wired detectors is their connectivity. If smoke is detected on one floor, all the smoke alarms in a house are triggered simultaneously. This feature can ‘buy’ residents valuable minutes to safely evacuate. A battery back up feature ensures smoke detectors will continue to function in the event of a power failure.

2. Battery operated only

Battery operated smoke detectors can be mounted anywhere and rely solely on batteries for power. They do not require an electrical connection and can be installed in any area of a house. Operating independently, they are not interconnected with other detectors. Often found in older homes [before hard wired detectors were required by code], they can be quickly and easily installed in minutes.


5 Steps to Smoke Detector Maintenance


  1. Regularly vacuum the cover of your smoke detectors with a bristle brush attachment to remove dust and cobwebs. Over time, these can clog the grills and sensors.
  2. Check the detector’s expiry date. This is usually found on a sticker inside the detector. Typically, they expire after 5-10 years.
  3. Replace the batteries with NEW batteries [in appropriate models]. Never use old batteries or batteries taken from something else. Always use fresh batteries EVERY time. Check the manufacturer’s website for more information on your particular model.
  4. Check for recalls. Many people don’t know that it’s common to have recalls on smoke detectors. Check the manufacturer’s website for a list of recalls by looking up your particular model and serial number.
  5. Test your detectors regularly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your make and model.


Frequency of Maintenance

Smoke detector maintenance should always be performed exactly as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Both Kidde and First Alert are reliable brands with good after sale support. Look up your particular model to learn how to maintain [and when to replace] your smoke detectors. If your detectors are subject to a recall, you may be eligible for free replacements. Follow instructions given by your particular manufacturer.


Combination Smoke/CO2 Detectors

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. There are numerous potential sources of CO2 in your home [heating systems and cooking appliances as an example]. As CO2 is an odourless gas, a working CO2 detector is an important safety precaution. Carbon monoxide is heavy and can accumulate on lower floors, combination smoke/CO2 detectors are perfect for installation on the lower level of your home.


Disposing of Expired Smoke Detectors

Did you know you can recycle expired smoke and carbon monoxide detectors? Check with your regional municipality for details about local initiatives and participating facilities. Here in the Comox Valley, smoke detectors can be recycled at the Comox Valley Waste Management Centre , Courtenay Return-It Centre, and London Drugs. Keeping used electronic devices out of the landfill helps the environment and we encourage all homeowners to take advantage of this service.


Installing Replacement Smoke Detectors

We aim to complete smoke detector replacement requests the same day we receive them. Safety is our number one priority and we take great pride in helping our clients with this important task. For your peace of mind, our Lead Master Electrician will take care of you personally. Reach out today to schedule your smoke detector replacements!

For more electrical and home safety tips, check out our safety posts page.