How to Check if a Hard Wired Smoke Detector Is Working Properly

in Health & Safety on by

Smoke inhalation and a fire emergency injure thousands of people every day, and a hard wired smoke detector can make for a safe apartment. The nature of a hard-wired smoke detector means that if one unit goes off, they all go off at once, ensuring that no matter where you are in your home, you hear the alarm.

To test for proper function, follow the four easy steps below. Testing should be done at least once a month for maximum security.

Step One: Installation

After deciding on a hard-wired smoke detector for your apartment, it’s important to have it installed by a professional electrician certified in smoke-detection equipment. A faulty installation could fail to initiate battery backup in the event of a power failure, bypass one or more alarms, or even short out entirely.

Chances are, your apartment complex employs a certified electrician, or knows one to contract for such work. Once the installation is complete, ask the electrician to demonstrate to you how your specific model works.

Step Two: Crisis-Free Testing

After enough time has passed since your installation that you feel you‘d like to test your smoke detector for functionality yourself, locate a central detection unit and press the “Test” button that should be visible on the underside of the casing.

The alarm should immediately sound, and continue to sound either a short series of bursts or until your finger is removed. It’s best to have a partner help you test your smoke detectors, since it’s dangerous for you to be pressing the test button, leaping off your ladder/step stool, and running from room to room making sure all the alarms are sounding.

Step Three: Crisis Testing

Every few months, you should conduct a crisis test, wherein you bypass the “Test” button and test the actual smoke-detecting capabilities of your hard-wired unit.

Since crisis testing requires smoking materials, extreme caution is recommended. First, note that you should never attempt crisis testing alone; always have someone there ready to utilize a fire extinguisher.

Ignite a candle, incense stick or other material intended for burning. Once a steady smoke stream has been achieved, hold the smoking material between 12 and 18 inches below your smoke detector. Note: Any closer and you risk damaging the casing and possibly the delicate internal workings of the alarm itself.
Assuming the alarm goes off, check every wired room for functionality and then shut off the alarm.

Step Four: Maintenance

While regular testing is essential in making sure your hard-wired smoke detector is working properly, regular maintenance is a very good idea as well. Make sure that no dust, hair or fiber particles are obscuring the grates in the smoke detector, as such particles could cause the detector to not detect a problem, or even cause damage to the interior workings.

A hard-wired smoke detector is a wonderful tool for keeping your home safe, and with regular checkups can be quite literally a life-saver.

Jordan Gaither: I’m a Communications major by trade, an artist by choice, a welder by day and a dancer by night (Okay, I made that last part up). Having lived in a succession of cramped, oddly-shaped apartments, I have a wealth of personal experience in apartment living, as well as arranging and decorating to maximize effect and livable space.

2 Responses to “How to Check if a Hard Wired Smoke Detector Is Working Properly”

  1. September 24, 2016 at 5:09 am, Albert said:

    The smoke detector in one room dosnt set the other ones off when smoke tested what should I look for


  2. March 13, 2019 at 9:46 am, Upnorth said:

    "Hard-wired" only means it has power from the electrical panel. "Cross-connected" would mean the units are ALSO connected to each other, whether "hard-wired" or not.


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