How to Check if Your Smoke Alarm is Working

How to Check if Your Smoke Alarm is Working

Smoke alarms are an integral part of home safety. In fact, in today’s world, they are more important than ever. With the rising use of electrical appliances and kitchen technology always thriving to be as silent as a hunting cat, detecting fire has both become harder and more important at the same time. The increased use of items that might catch on fire easily dilutes your attention which makes a smoke alarm that can go absolutely ballistic in presence of fire ever more important. But, the smoke alarm itself is electronic equipment and needs to be check to ensure that it is functioning well. 

Battery versus Mains

Before beginning the testing procedure, it is important to note whether your smoke alarm is battery powered or mains powered.

Mains powered smoke alarms can operate 24/7 until the day the alarm just simply falls of the wall. There is little or no maintenance in this regard for an alarm that is directly connected to the mains.

Battery powered smoke alarms however do need some attention. A battery is a battery and it runs out. The recommendation from most manufacturers and governing bodies is that you should change the battery on an alarm annually or every six months. A general rule of thumb would be to change the batteries out every 5 months. This way you ensure that the alarm will be able to produce the worst, most annoying, most ear-piercing and best informing noise in a situation it needs to do so. 


Testing a smoke alarm is quite simple. Since this quite an important piece of safety equipment, there are many regulations at play here and the standard procedure- often noted in government guidelines- will more or less be the same.

Step no. 1 for you is to get help. You cannot test your smoke alarm on your own and you will need a few of your family members to do the test. 

Step 2 is spread out. Once you get a few more around, spread them out and make them stand in the furthest corners of your house. The theory being, once the alarm goes off, they must be able to hear it loud and clear. This is especially important with battery equipped alarms as low battery levels can cause the alarm to produce a lower volume sound. 

How to Check if Your Smoke Alarm is Working

Also, it is important you ask the other participants to be specific. Namely, ask them to tell you exactly what varying degree of noise they heard. Since this is a smoke alarm, the siren should be loud, clear and alerting even at the furthest corner of your house. Anything less than that i.e., the person has only heard the siren because they were listening for it, and it can be easily missed, is unacceptable. 

Step 3 after positioning the other participants is to press and hold the test button on your smoke alarm. Pretty much all smoke alarms have a test function. You can refer to an owner’s manual or the manufacturers’ website to locate the button. Once located, you need to press it down for a usual standard duration of 5 to 6 seconds and the alarm will go off allowing you to note down info like whether or not it is working and is the siren alarmingly audible at every corner of your house. 

Lastly– this is a step totally for the most paranoid among us- you can check the sensor on the alarm if you really must so. Light a piece of paper on fire and hold it about 4 feet away from the alarm and it should start ringing if the sensor is working. Just remember to inform the others in the house of a bogey warning because you don’t want to create unnecessary scrambles. 


Smoke alarms are a modern home must have. They are a perfect addition in your quest to keep you and your family safer. Smoke alarms can save lives but, they do need to be checked up on regularly. For battery powered units, you would want to maintain a good habit of swapping the batteries out at regular intervals. And testing to see if the unit is working well in the first place is an obvious no brainer. 


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