While for the most part smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can be left alone once you set them up it’s also important to realize that like most electronics they will eventually need maintenance and at the least a change of batteries. Aside from dead batteries there are a number of ways that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can be made faulty with dust, dirt, and other contaminants. Checking and changing the batteries is just one part of some regular maintenance you should do to make sure that everything is in working order and will be when you need it most. Here we’ll look at how to test, inspect, and maintain fire alarm systems for optimum performance.
One of the first and most important things to note about your alarm monitoring systems is when you purchased and installed them. Knowing the age and operational history of your systems is one important factor in knowing how to maintain them. Generally systems less than 5 years old have have fewer and different problems than older systems. Newer systems are more likely to suffer from improper installation or electrical problems rather than the degradation you’ll see in older systems. Most of the problems found in both newer and older systems can also be detected in routine maintenance.
When it comes to testing your alarm systems it’s a fairly straight forward process. Most systems have test buttons which are easily operable and will tell you if the machine is still drawing power and able to emit its alarm. As part of the test have someone stand on the other side of the building to make sure the sound is loud enough. While using the test button is effective for some aspects of the machine it doesn’t test all parts. For a more thorough test there are specialty testing kits for both smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors that will be able to make sure the chemical sensors are active and functioning properly. Smoke detectors can usually be tested with a specialty safe aerosol spray (as smoke detectors usually monitor particulate matter) while carbon monoxide detectors need a contained testing system. For carbon monoxide detectors there is a special plastic housing and container of gas.
While most manufacturers will recommend testing every month even doing so 3-4 times a year will put you ahead of most Americans in terms of fire and carbon monoxide safety. If possible push the test buttons on your alarms once a month and do a more thorough inspection 3-4 times a year.
Also important is to do a general visual inspection of the battery to check for an expiration date as well as corrosion. If you’ve recently changed the battery be sure to hit the test button to make sure it’s operable.
Lastly some systems will benefit from vacuuming or lightly dusting the sensors to remove dust.