Smoke alarms: are you safe?

Smoke detectors have a limited lifespan

Did you know that smoke alarms have an expiry date? Generally, after about ten years, the sensors in smoke detectors begin to lose sensitivity. 

Don’t trust the test button

Test buttons let you know that the battery and alert systems are working, but the smoke sensor requires a test of its own. 

Aerosol “Smoke Detector Testers” can be used to test the sensor. If the alarm sounds then the sensor is still operational (the alarm can be silenced quickly after a positive test result by using a vacuum cleaner to pull the air out of the detector, or have the cookie sheet, tea towel, cutting board, or whatever you grab in a panic when you’ve burned your toast…again). 

Hearing test

A closed door dramatically reduces the spread of fire and smoke. When you test your alarms, it’s a good idea to go to the farthest spot from each, closing any doors on your way, to ensure they’re loud enough to be heard. 

Visible alarms

If you regularly wear noise-canceling headphones, or if someone in your home is hearing-impaired, look for alarms with a strobe light option. Bonus: In the event of a fire, the combination of loud sound, flashing lights, and pyrotechnics could give your home a dance party atmosphere that will have you rushing for the exits.

Hardwired vs. Battery-Powered

Smoke Alarms that are hardwired into your home’s electrical power still require batteries to remain operational after the power goes out. Some have 10-year batteries, others require regular replacements the same as battery-powered devices.

Battery-powered alarms typically use disposable batteries that require regular replacement. Some have ten-year batteries. All are easy to install yourself.

Types of detectors

Ionization alarms are the most sensitive and should be installed wherever possible.

Photoelectric smoke detectors aren’t as sensitive as ionization types, and can be a good choice for kitchens, particularly if you’re the type of home cook that often wonders: “Can I still eat this if I scrape the top off?”

Did you know?

  • We are part of the Fire Mutual Guarantee Fund, which guarantees that all losses would be paid in the unlikely event that we were unable to pay a claim.
  • We sell carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers at cost.


Common fire hazards
Source: City of London Fire Department

Fire safety plans
Source: City of London Fire Department

Close before you doze: See the dramatic difference a closed door can make
Source: Underwriter’s Laboratory

Homeowner’s insurance
Source: Westminster Mutual Insurance Company