/ Health, Home & Energy

How often do you test your smoke alarm?

Smoke alarm

How often do you test your smoke alarm? Do you ever get the vacuum cleaner out to clean it? Testing and cleaning your smoke alarm could just save your life.

Your smoke alarm could save your life, so it’s vital that it can respond quickly to a fire in your home. But there’s not just one type of fire – they have to react to everything from fast-flaming materials like polyurethane to slow-smouldering materials like wood.

That’s why you can feel confident that the alarm you’re buying has been certified as tested to the British Standard in all types of fires. Or can you?

Smoke alarms our fail tests

In our recent test of smoke alarms, two FireAngel alarms failed to go off as required under the British Standards in one of the four test fires.

We advise people not to buy these two models (LSI-601 & SI-601) and have passed our findings on to Trading Standards. We also passed our findings on to Sprue Safety Products Ltd, the manufacturer, which is conducting its own investigations into our findings. Check out the smoke alarms that did best in our tests.

Testing your smoke alarms

Once you have a smoke alarm you can trust, you’ll want to keep it in good nick. Yet, not everyone does.

Around one in ten Which? members never check that their battery-powered smoke alarm is working. So how often should you test your alarm? You might not know it, but you should really be testing them once a week. Only 5% of people told us that they actually do this, with 11% only checking them when they beep.

However, checking they’re working isn’t the only thing you should be doing. You’ll also want to vacuum under the cover of your smoke alarm every six months, using the soft brush on your vacuum cleaner, to avoid dust particles interfering with the alarms performance.

Changing the battery

It’s also a good idea to change the battery every year. And don’t prise out the battery in frustration when the nuisance alarm in your kitchen won’t stop beeping after you’ve burnt a slice of toast. Or at least make sure you replace the battery straight after.

You should certainly make sure you’re not one of the 4% in our survey who don’t have either a smoke alarm or a carbon monoxide detector in their home.

So, how often do you check and clean your smoke alarm? And do you change the battery every year as recommended?

[UPDATE 31/10/2013] – Sprue Safety Products Ltd is the manufacturer of the two FireAngel smoke alarms that failed to go off in the parameters required by the British Standard when exposed to a test fire in our tests. At the time Which? magazine went to press, Sprue confirmed to us in writing its offer that it would provide alternative FireAngel alarms free of charge to Which? members who own the FireAngel SI-601 and LSI-601, despite questioning our methodology and results.

We are very surprised and disappointed to learn that Sprue Safety Products Ltd has now said that it will not honour this commitment because it now asserts the alarms are compliant with the British Standard. However, Which? has tested the Don’t Buy smoke alarms under rigorous British Standard conditions and we remain confident in our results. Accordingly, these alarms remain Don’t Buys.

We are very concerned that Sprue has reneged on its agreement to replace Don’t Buy alarms and we will be asking it to reconsider. We are also looking into how we can help those who have the Don’t Buy alarms and are concerned – if this applies to you, please contact our Customer Services helpdesk on 01992 822800. We will take your contact details and keep you posted about what’s happening.

Meanwhile, please do not take down any existing alarms you have and remember to test and clean them regularly in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Comments
Member

I have seven smoke alarms in my bungalow, including one in the hall and two with mute buttons in the kitchen. With this number of smoke alarms I feel it is adequate to test them at the start of each month, though sometimes the job is done more frequently. I test the batteries twice a year with a meter. I have one carbon monoxide alarm, in the room with a gas fire.

My smoke alarms seem to stay very clean, though I once vacuumed the one in the hall after a spider had taken up residence.

I used to test my alarms with smoke but have not done this for a few years, except the ones in the kitchen which frequently have to be muted when cooking.

An easy way to test smoke alarms is to keep a stick of the right length handy, to avoid climbing.

Member

I test my smoke alarms when making toast. I know that’s not the right answer.

Member

I don’t even have a smoke alarm :s *gets told off by Which?*

Member
Member

Just spoke to West Yorkshire Fire Service and they have booked me in for a “Home Fire Safety Check” and part of that is they will install fire alarms. All for free. I didn’t even think about getting one installed before so thanks Patrick 🙂

Member

Well done Lee, glad you’re going to be safe now.

Member
Figgerty says:
22 October 2013

Lee, I thought this service was only available to the elderly and disabled. I would say you must be using an old photo but I saw you on TV so know you are a young man. I might try my local fire station and see if I have adequate coverage and in the best position.

Wavechange, are all seven alarms connected so smoke or fire in one area sets off the other alarms.

I test my two alarms about every month or so and have unannounced tests when my cooking gets too hot. I change the batteries as soon as I get a warning beep. With Christmas coming up it is important for everyone to have an alarm as tree lights and candles cause many fires. I have a real flame gas fire and I always use it during the Christmas holiday. That and fancy dress children’s outfits are not a good mix.

Member

I phoned up to see if they sold them (I wanted one free, but didn’t want to just ask for one). They said they install them on the “Home Fire Safety Check” and asked if I even had one. I said no and they booked one in and said they will install 2 for free 🙂