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Author Topic: Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?  (Read 14810 times)

garya505

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Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?
« on: September 21, 2009, 08:00:07 AM »
Last night 1 of our 8 smoke detectors went off for no apparent reason.  It after 3 to 4 tones it stopped.  Then, while I was looking around the house for the reason, it did it again, exactly the same.  It's been quiet since. 

The only thing I can think of is that this was the detector nearest to the front door which was open because I was working on it.  I was using a little wood filler, varnish, and Liquid Nails nearby.  Could that do it?  I also noticed when I was on my bike ride just before that time, that some people were using their fireplaces as it was a chiily night. Could that do it?  The batteries were all replaced in January.   Didn't notice any fluctuatons in AC power.

Got any ideas?


MmmDee

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Re: Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2009, 10:48:05 AM »
You probably already know this, but depending on the smoke detector and panel, many panels do a  double-check upon detecting smoke/fire.  They will acknowledge the alarm, reset the smoke detector and wait for a second trigger before sounding an all-out alarm.

As to why the detector triggered, is this a new device or an eBay special?  Could it have been damanged in any fashion during installation?  What specific model is it?

garya505

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Re: Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2009, 11:01:34 AM »
I should have mentioned that these are not wired into the alarm panel as far as I can tell. 

These were installed when the house was built on 2002 and have not given me any problems since December when we moved in.  I don't know the brand at the moment.

twisted

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Re: Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2009, 01:46:54 PM »
Don't ignore it.  An intermittent wiring problem/ nicked wire in the walls can smolder for a while without setting off the circuit breaker.  That is not easy to see, smell or find.  I lived in a fused house (not mine) with a smoke detector that actually alarmed "for no reason" a couple of nights before it actually broken out in open flame.

Maybe you you don't have GFI breakers - then you might be able to test all circuits for ground leakage by sequentially snapping in a GFI breaker made for your panel, and temporarily wiring each circuit to the GFI - if it trips then mystery solved.

But GFI will not identify a leakage from hot to neutral - you'd have to do a survey of all electrical loads on a circuit, turn them all off and clamp an ammeter and see if you got any unexplained current still flowing.   

It's a lotta work, kinda paranoid - but houses do catch fire.

Swap detectors.  Ask if your fire department has a sniffer.  I guess you don't have a dog acting funny?



garya505

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Re: Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2009, 02:23:46 PM »
The funny thing is that there is another detector about 6 feet away that didn't alarm.    The 2 alarms were maybe 2-3 seconds each and about 1 minute apart.  Maybe a bug crawled into an AC outlet and got fried.

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Re: Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2009, 02:50:17 PM »
Especially for consumer grade, single station smokes, like this, dust, dirt, fumes, etc. can all cause false trips.  One fairly close to an exterior door, even more so.

Give it a good blowing out with some canned air, if it keeps falsing, replace it.  At 7 years old, it's getting close to time to replace, regardless.
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stebs

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Re: Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2009, 05:01:53 PM »

The only thing I can think of is that this was the detector nearest to the front door which was open because I was working on it.  I was using a little wood filler, varnish, and Liquid Nails nearby. 


I'm going to guess the varnish and liquid nails could be the culprit. Has it been really humid out in your area?  I have a battery powered one at the top of our stairway outside a bathroom door that has gone off randomly in the mornings a couple times (house opened up and humid as all heck outside + humidity from the shower). If we just let it scream, it quits after about 10 min or so, i'm assuming when the excess humidity clears out.

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Re: Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2009, 05:56:13 PM »
humidity can affect ionization detectors.  If you're replacing that, consider a photoelectric one.

canned air is great for cleaning the chamber out, if you don't have that, a vacuum cleaner works well, too.
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smith12

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Re: Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2009, 12:22:05 AM »
I also faced this problem months ago but as dboyle said about cleaning the chambers, I did same and the problem was almost solved.

garya505

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Re: Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?
« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2009, 10:43:24 AM »
It's been quiet for a week now so I guess a bug crawled in there, or something.   

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Re: Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2009, 02:52:18 PM »
If it's a smoke designed for a security system, get a small screwdriver and a small craft paintbrush.  Those smoke detectors are designed to be disassembled and cleaned.  Take the insect screen off and the chamber out... I bet you'll have a bed of dust in there. 

I've had plenty of calls to replace smokes because they falsed, and when I get there and take it apart, it's just dirty.  A little paintbrush and canned air... problem solved, detector good as new. 
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davidrosso

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Re: Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2009, 06:32:21 PM »
humidity can affect ionization detectors.  If you're replacing that, consider a photoelectric one.

In my opinion, the standard household 120vac ionization detectors are way to sensitive.  I replaced the two closet to our kitchen with photoelectrics after having the fire dept at our house twice in one night while tryin to cook dinner!  No smoke, simply small bits of something burning in the stove.
David J. Rosso
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Re: Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?
« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2009, 08:30:35 PM »
Sensitivity on those is way lower than a standard smoke detector.  for system smokes, 2.5% is the norm (most manufacturers give a window that goes higher and lower).  I forget what the actual sensitivity was for a typical ion smoke but it was considerably lower.

the "contractor packs" are always ionization.  photoelectric smokes are typically packaged as single units and are always specially marked.  I see little to no value in getting a combo ion/photo detector.  why they even market them is beyond me.  it's not being "extra safe".  it's twice the likelihood of a false alarm.
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amesalarm

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Re: Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2009, 09:44:14 AM »
humidity can affect ionization detectors.  If you're replacing that, consider a photoelectric one.

Not to mention solvents, which were in use in the immediate area. That's my guess, if this person has ionization detectors. Nevertheless...I too would recommend a photoelectric.

garya505

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Re: Smoke detector going off for no apparent reason?
« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2009, 03:59:34 PM »
It hasn't gone off since then, so it was probably the solvents in the varnish or the liquid nails.

 

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