Smoke Alarms Just Would Not Stop
I have a 6 month old dormer bungalow located in the North of Ireland. I used the opportunity of the new build to put in a wired smoke alarm in every room – usual type with Battery backup. I used the Kidde 1275H models with hush feature button. 18 of them all linked in total and they blast out at 85Db each!!!
All the batteries that come as standard with the kidde 1275h are the Duracell ultra kind and are dated until March 2013 - the smoke alarms are dated themselves until March 2020. Please note that some manufactures state funny things like carbon batteries preferred and defo not rechargeables but alkaline 9v will do so long as it’s this brand and type... Eveready 216, 522, 1222, Duracell MN 1604 or Ultralife U9VL-J. to be honest I think that more marketing and about money than anything else… but can you take the risk.
Anyway. This morning at 5:30am... I had all my alarms blurring. And whilst this is a detached country house, I think my closest neighbour about half a mile away was about to call the fire brigade the noise was that great.... added to this... I have three children under 4! Talk about stress, I don't know if the kids screaming, or the wife blaming me for putting in so many damn stupid smoke detectors in the first place or the 85Db x 18 alarms blasting - which one was worse. Its 11 am now and my head is still thumping and the wife’s not speaking to me into the bargain – over than damn hush button which does not work in my situation... Talk about ringing in the ears! Tinnitus sufferers, I know how you feel.
Last week we had cold weather here reaching minus 8. However last night the thaw was on and it was 2 degrees… so whilst I was not prepared to rule out the cold… I was not 100pc convinced it was my problem. I thought that perhaps it might be the cause of one of my batteries going wrong in colder weather as they do… but I was getting full out alarms on all 18 devices… not a chirping away every now and then… which a low battery normally causes. I have now read from the Kidde website that they don’t approve their SD’s in lower than 4 degrees temp…. Perhaps the thaw did contribute to my problem! With our three young children we are always generous with the central heating settings and would have house warm. We have some serious Kingspan TP10 insulation installed also – so maybe condensation in the detection chamber was my issue… water vapour can defo set them off as it’s a particle sensing device and when water condenses in the sensor, the unit will go into alarm. As you will know if you have one outside a bathroom shower!
In my attempt to be 100pc secure and fully cover my dormer bungalow, I put SD’s in my Voids… or the attic portion of the house when you think of a converted bungalow. Whilst it is insulated with full whack kingspan 125mm insulation in the thrusts and high density fibre glass stuff between rafters, it’s still cold. I knew it was overdoing slightly with 18 SD’s in a 3000 SQ Ft house, but when you are doing these things and you hear of tragedies involving fire etc, you want no chances. We use the voids or angled attic space for storing all types of unused stuff etc… so why not put an alarm there…. Even thou it’s fully lined with insulation that has got a massive heat and fire protection quality… I wanted it covered to give a potential extra few minutes or even seconds alarm.
To get back to the story, in my haste to quieten the whole house and try and save the children’s ears, I pulled the electric fuse or circuit breaker! I forgot for that moment about the battery backup… so they kept going and into the bargain I had the house alarm (Red Care) trip into action and we had bells and whistles everywhere. Phone calls from the alarm company… crazy… whilst the alarm was easy turned off – still the smoke alarms where still going at it. Mind you, after reading quite a bit, pulling the power is not a bad thing as it can reset a lot of error conditions that SD get themselves into… so don’t rule it out just because of my situation. It needs to be off for 15 seconds or more.
To be honest I was getting a bit of a break maybe a few minutes of chirping then full out ringing again…. All the while you are trying to read instructions under duress to see what can be done. The hush button did not seem to work at all and some feature about “quick quiet” which should give you about 15 minutes of peace did not seem to work for me either… The wife had the 3 kids in one bedroom then and I could not get a screw driver small enough to push the release button to take that one down and I was keeping the dimmer light in the room down low so as to try and get the kids back to sleep if I ever got the damn thing to stop – I some how thought the issue would be solved in a few seconds or minutes – not HOURS (where is my Mag Light torch when I need it – on seconds thoughts where is the baseball bat)… The alarm would stop briefly – maybe with all the hush button pressing and I would go back to reading or turning on the computer to get on the web or something… oh my word… I’m not meant to be a multi tasker in that type of situation…. I think the reason why my hush button did not appear to work 100pc was because the alarm was triggering and then turning off quickly and starting again and again and again… so therefore you would need to be pressing this constantly. Upstairs I was able to reach up on tippy toes and press this button, downstairs with higher ceilings I was up on a chair running around. Talk about working up a sweat.
I fired up the hoover and ran around the house hovering out all the little vents or filters on the SD’s. Still no let up.
I took time out and had to let them ring. I got a thin screw driver and started taking them down one by one… now I know I could have pulled out the interlinking switch wire (black in my case) and stopped the chain from working.
At about 9:15am I got most of the SD’s pulled out, and then I cleared out the attic voids of rubbish and the empty Christmas decoration boxes and went in there… would you believe it. SPIDERS! Damn spiders. Two webs connected to my SD and they even had flies or something caught in them
With the kidde model, the kittle red light should flash every 40 seconds or so, this tells you that the device is working 100pc and the battery is good, the duration gets longer when the battery is weak, a low battery will have the red light flashing every four minutes only and not every 40-45 seconds as designed…. Outside of that there is a second LED light which stays green… I was around every alarm in the house (bar the two in the voids that I could not easily get to numerous times – all were green and showing normal)
Now the spark is on telling me that we should have fitted a panel when doing that many – as we could have pin pointed problems easier and specifically
I went to the void at the back of the house and ripped that one out too… whilst it did not have spiders… it was behaving funny. When you take the battery out, they carry a bit of residual power that allows them to keep chirping for a while it’s a charged capacitor of some sort or another layer of battery backup. But if you press the test button you can hear this discharge and fade out very quickly. For this void based SD, when I put the battery back in, it seemed to beep funny… I was putting it in correctly, as I had just done about 17 other alarms before this one… and multiple times at that. Again the battery was the same type and make with the same expiry date. I done a quick tongue test and it had good life in it. So I changed the battery and still it went a tad funny with its noises. It seems that if dust is caught in the detecting chamber the sensitivity of the alarm increases and hence the potential frequency of nuisance alarms… so clean regular.
So I found a problem with the spiders… but maybe not THEE problem. But one thing for sure… I have not put the two alarms back into the voids. I may look to see about putting in heat detectors or maybe even ones that are certified for colder weather or for attic spaces… as you never know… that is where we have a lot of the wires running and belt and braces never hurt anybody. I did read a report from the Australian fire authority saying that many fires do start in the attic space due to a multitude of situations, down lights in rooms below, some lights now need heat hoods over them in attic spaces, in our case the sockets into the upstairs bedrooms are wired thru the void, old insulation smouldering, faulty wiring etc etc. They recommend having a SD in the attic… but yet, there are guidelines from the makers stating operating conditions that are not met in this attic spaces!
Might I add that in all the confusion and fuss, I was on ebay at about 8am and ordered 18 new Duracell’s at a cost of £23 and 4 compressed air canister cans at a cost of £20. I was on the verge of ordering a load of new SD’s also! So apart from having an expensive Christmas last week, no sleep last night, a wife who isn’t speaking to me and kids running riot earlier than they did on Christmas day. My pocket is even emptier this morning over this whole affair.
When I called the local fire authority… (Sent them an email and then decided I wanted to vent to them on the phone) when they hear that you are a professional working family with 18 smoke alarms… it’s not in their remit and they would be useless at detecting the problem anyway and are not interested. Perhaps if you had none at all and were a pensioner, then yes, they may come out and give you their free SD pack etc.
My house will be close to 3,000 sq ft once the addition is finished & I will have 9 once completed - 5 possible bedrooms
That includes 1 in the walk up attic & 1 in the basement
I also have knee wall storage - no detector in there
I do not have any installed in a cold area at present
Mine are all powered by 1 breaker, of course as you found out that does not help with battery backups
I do not know of any residential alarm panel offered by Kidde that would tell you which alarm was going off
Commercial/Pro systems have that feature...probably expensive & more expensive detectors
Sorry to hear of your problems
...so, what was the cause of the alarms going off?
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