By Samantha Volz, eHow Contributor
Dust and dirt building up in the sensors and vents of the smoke detector can lead to malfunctioning equipment, from going off when there isn’t really a fire to failing to activate when there is one. At least once per month (and preferably at least once every two weeks if you remember), dust off the smoke detector with a dusting cloth or feather duster. You can use a long-armed duster for this, or carefully climb up to the detector. If you can get on face level with the detector, inspect it and remove all dirt and dust thoroughly; some areas you may not see from the ground can also accumulate dirt and dust.
Most smoke detectors feature a testing button that will activate the alarm for a few seconds. While this can be loud and annoying, testing your detector is an important part of smoke detector care. Realizing that the detector does not activate during a real fire is too late to understand that there is something wrong. Test the detector at least once per month. If it rings like a normal alarm, it’s all right; if it only chirps or makes no noise at all, the machine may need to be cleaned or you may need to change the battery.
Changing the Battery
You can keep a strict regimen of changing batteries in your smoke detectors twice per year — when you set your clocks forward and back during Daylight Savings Time, which is a good way to remember to change your batteries two times per year. Exceptions exist: Some detectors are designed to last up to 10 years without changing the battery. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions carefully before you decide not to change the battery regularly, and always change it if the machine fails a test.
A nuisance alarm occurs when your smoke detector sounds due to cooking, a hot shower or a similar nonfire related incidence. One of the most important things to remember during these alarms is not to simply disconnect the detector altogether. Most detectors feature a silencing button that will shut off the alarm for a set period, allowing you to air out the space of smoke or steam to prevent the alarm from sounding again. If the alarm goes off for seemingly no reason at all, change the battery or install a new system.
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