Why You Need to Check Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors Monthly

smoke detectors replacement

The little things in our homes can be the easiest to forget. Unfortunately, they can also be the most important. That’s definitely the case when it comes to testing a carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarm; lifesavers that can be easy to ignore.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half if the house has working fire alarms. Yet, nearly half of home fires that fail to trigger alarms occur in houses where batteries have expired or been removed from a smoke alarm.

We’ve put together some tips to make sure your home is always equipped with properly working alarms.



Test every carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarm in your home once a month. It won’t take more than a few minutes. Just press the test button on your alarm and after a second or two it will make a loud siren or alert.

Check the batteries in your alarms every six months. Replace batteries once a year to be safe (unless it’s a 10-year battery smoke alarm). If you hear random chirps from your alarm, that’s a signal you need to change the batteries immediately.

Pro tip: When testing, have someone walk to other rooms of the house to make sure the alarm can be heard throughout. If the sound is too low, replace the battery or the unit entirely.



Smoke alarms last about 10 years before needing replacement. Carbon monoxide detectors last 5-7 years. After that, deterioration can occur inside the alarm and make it less likely to trigger (besides, technology keeps improving so we recommend staying with the curve).

Detectors today will come with a manufacture date on the back for easy reference. If you have an alarm without a date, it’s probably old and in need of replacement.

Pro tip: Consider getting alarms with voice alerts that notify you of which area in the house has been triggered. This will save you from wandering to find that pesky beeping alarm. Studies also show that voice alarms may be better at waking children under age 12.



Other ideas for how to test smoke detectors and keep them in safe, working order:

  • When you test, vacuum any dust buildup out of your detector to keep the unit clean.
  • NEVER take your detector battery out to use in something else, even temporarily.
  • Install both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your house. Ensure they’re installed on every level of the house, and ideally in every bedroom.
  • You can sign up to receive monthly testing reminders via email from free services.



Taking a few minutes every month to test your carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarm to make sure they’re in safe, working order can save your life. 


1. Warn Occupants of CO/Smoke Detector Testing 

Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are very loud and can startle other family members or pets living in your home. It’s good to be overcautious and let other household members know when you’re testing smoke alarms. 

2. Perform a Sound Test

You’ve more than likely performed a sound test when changing the batteries in your CO/ smoke detector. To check the alarm, hold down the test button for a few seconds until you hear the alarm sound. If the alarm or other alarms in your house don’t sound or the alarm isn’t loud enough, you should replace the CO/smoke detector immediately. 

3. Test Your Detector with Canned Smoke

It’s important to note that even if your alarm sounds, that doesn’t mean that it can detect smoke. Debris can prevent smoke from entering the sensing chamber, or the device can fail entirely. In this case, you can test the CO/smoke detector with canned smoke to make sure it’s working properly.

Hold the canned smoke 2-3 feet from the device and spray for three seconds. If the CO/smoke detector doesn’t sound within five seconds, spray the device three more times. If it’s still not sounding, the device might malfunction and need to be replaced. 

4. Conduct a Visual Inspection

Remove the CO/smoke detector from its mounting bracket to perform a visual inspection. Check the device’s expiration date. Most smoke alarms last about 10 years, and carbon monoxide detectors last about 5-7 years. If your unit is expired, replace it immediately.

Look for debris such as dust, grease, and hair. These obstructions can clog the smoke alarm or carbon monoxide sensor and prevent it from working properly. In this case, take a damp cloth and wipe down the CO/smoke detector to make sure it’s clean.

Lastly, check that the batteries are still working. Remember to change the batteries every 6 months to make sure the CO/smoke detector stays in working condition.




A few minutes of smoke detector maintenance a month can ensure that your detectors are ready to help save your family and home in an emergency. If you have any questions about your home’s smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, give us a call.