Why I’m Running Around Like the Energizer Bunny Changing My Smoke Detector Batteries

Fire safety.  Does anyone else freak out about fire safety or is it just me?  It’s not a pretty subject – but an important one.  In 2013, there were over 1813 structure fires and 19 fatalities in the state of Maine alone.  Those are pretty sobering statistics.  

The warnings come from the fire department, the tv stations, Facebook… change your smoke detector batteries twice a year when you change your clocks.  I think that most of us do that in our homes. (Maybe now that so many of us have hard-wired smoke detectors, we don’t do it as often as we should).  When we purchased our home in Maine, by state law, within 30 days of closing, we had to have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  Although the ones in the house appeared to be working fine, we assumed that they were original to the house that was built in 2000.  We figured that by 2012, it was about time to replace them.  And replace them we did.  In our 3 bedroom, 1600 square foot house, we installed and/or replaced nine smoke and CO2 detectors.  All are hard wired into the electric system except for one smoke/CO2 detector which is battery run but connected to our wifi.  That one will text us an alert if it detects smoke or carbon monoxide so we can monitor from miles away.

I’ve made it my policy to change the batteries in the spring, before our first rental guests arrive and, in our Maine house, in the fall.  (I don’t change the batteries in the fall at my Nova Scotia cottage because the pipes are drained in autumn and the home is winterized – I figure that if it burns down, no one would be there to hear the detectors anyway).

So, that’s what I did this past May.  I changed the batteries in nine smoke/CO2 detectors in one property and three in my tiny Nova Scotia cottage.  But, here’s where the problem started.  In June, one of my guests emailed to say that one of  the smoke detectors was chirping and she had replaced the battery.  Then, a few weeks later, someone else heard a chirp from another detector.  Then, up in my NS house, someone heard a chirp up there!  What the heck?  Did I purchase a bum box of 9-volts? 

That’s when I started to do some research.  Did you know that some states and municipalities have LAWS that decree what kind of batteries to put in a smoke detector?  Yes, sir. Oregon and Louisiana, as well as some municipalities, all have some sort of battery, smoke detector law.   Apparently, the kind of battery to purchase is not a run-of-the-mill, Dollar Store alkaline battery.  The kind that we want for a faithful guardian for our homes is a lithium battery.  Yes, these are the puppies that we want – for, hopefully, a fail-proof smoke detector.  Some of them (read labels!) will last 10 years as back-up for hard-wired detectors (but will need to be changed more often for battery-only detectors).  And every ten years is what the experts recommend for replacing your smoke detector anyway. 

So that’s it… next month I’m changing all of my smoke/CO2 detectors to lithium batteries.  Hopefully that will both get rid of the annoying chirping AND keep my family and my guests safe for, at least, the next 10 years.  By then who knows what new technology will be around?

Smoke alarm requirements by state

Maine statutes – fire prevention and fire protection

Maria Lamb

About Maria Lamb

Maria is the owner of Wicked Awesome Maine Vacation Rentals based in beautiful Washington County, Maine.