When Should You Replace Your Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Detectors?

September 1, 2023

You need to replace your smoke detectors at least every 10 years and your carbon monoxide protectors every seven to 10 years. That’s according to manufacturers and to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). 

Here’s how you can tell if your detectors need to be replaced.

Check The Date

Check the manufacturing date on the back side of your detector. The unit should be labeled with a date and a model number. If you’re still not sure, refer to your user’s manual or contact the manufacturer. 

Listen For Chirps

Smoke detectors are only designed to last about a decade. If you have a battery-powered detector but it’s chirping even after you replace the battery, it’s probably alerting you that the entire unit needs to be replaced.

This can be the case with hardwired systems, too. If your backup batteries are new but the system is still chirping or waking you up in the middle of the night with false alarms, it’s probably time to replace the system.

Carbon monoxide detectors are similar. If they chirp at a regular interval — say, every 30 seconds, even with a new battery — the system is telling you the unit has reached the end of its life.

Look At The Color Of The Plastic

The type of plastic used by smoke detector manufacturers has a brominated flame retardant in it. As this chemical is exposed to more and more light, it turns yellow or yellow-brown over time. If your detector is yellow, it’s more than 10 years old. Time to replace it. 

What Should You Look For In A New Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Detector System?

Since 1981, the state of Washington has required hardwired smoke alarms for new construction. In 1991, the state updated the code to require alarms in every bedroom. 

Citing a survey by the Consumer Product Safety Commission the NFPA states that interconnected smoke alarm systems increase safety for occupants. These systems are safer because occupants are more likely to hear the alarm: When one alarm sounds, they all sound.

So the safest option, according to experts and regulators, would be to replace your existing system with an interconnected combined smoke-carbon monoxide detector system with units in every bedroom and other spaces as indicated by the most up-to-date code.

There are two types of interconnected alarm systems:

Standard Hardwired Systems

These systems connect to the wiring in your home and all units are wired to communicate with each other so they’ll go off simultaneously in the event of a fire.

Wireless Or “Smart” Systems

These units wirelessly connect to one another, so they sound simultaneously. But they also connect to an app, where you can control them and receive alerts if the alarms are sounding. 

Can I Install These Systems Myself? 

Yes. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are designed to make them relatively simple to replace on your own, though a hardwired system will require a little more initial effort. 

You can also hire a professional electrician to install your system for you. 

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