Musings On Smoke Alarm Batteries

The switch to Daylight Savings Time was about a month ago.  This is the traditional time to change smoke alarm batteries. Though I’m a little late, I thought it’d be a change to talk about a few questions that have come to mind.  Yes, I actually think of such things.

And since this is a few weeks past the switch, maybe it’ll remind some stragglers!

Do You Change Your Batteries Twice Per Year?

The traditional advice is that you change your batteries around the time switch.  This would mean changing them twice per year.  I’m curious how many actually do that.  And, given that they changed the dates a few years back, the times are no longer even at all.   Daylight Savings Time lasts almost eight months now.  That’s hardly even.

However, I personally don’t change ours twice per year.  I change them only once, around spring time.  All of our smoke alarms are hard wired, so the battery is a backup. Even if a battery did go bad, it would start chirping.  So far, the once per year schedule has never yielded a run down battery.  In fact, I’ve taken the batteries from smoke detectors and used them for other things, and they’ve lasted a long time.

My guess is that I could go much longer than a year on hard wired devices.  I’m not going to chance that. I’m curious how many change their batteries twice per year?

What About When There’s No Daylight Savings Time

Some places don’t observe Daylight Savings Time.  They simply don’t change their clocks in the spring or in the fall.  I guess there’s enough hype that people probably hear about it anyway.  But, I’ve also heard that there are more and more places that want to get rid of it.  What if it went away altogether? Would our built-in reminder to change batteries be put at risk?

Is Battery Changing A Business Opportunity?

It crossed my mind that there are probably many people that can’t change their batteries.  Older people or disabled people might not be comfortable or even able to change batteries. The enteprenuer in me wondered if this could be a business opportunity.

I did a few Google searches and it looks like some people do offer this, but typically alongside other services.  This makes sense, because I guess it’s pretty hard to build an entire buisness model around something that would see peak demand for only a few days per year.

Still, interesting concept.

What About Changing Smoke Alarms?

This year, I changed out most of the smoke alarms.  They say you’re supposed to change them out every ten years.  I’m guessing ours were much older than that.  We’ve lived in the house 10 years and the house was 8 years old when we moved in.  So we probably should have done this sooner.

It was a little more involved of a process. We have eight smoke alarms.  Technically, we didn’t replace all of them, as I only replaced six.  One smoke alarm was added a couple of years ago when we finished off a basement room.  Another had recently been replaced because it did go bad.  But I replaced the other six.  It has a sticker where you’re supposed to write the year it was installed.  So that’ll be a reminder for when it’s time to replace them again.

When was the last time you replaced your alarms?

Sometimes You Tear Your Hair Out

This story goes back a ways but it’s still worth sharing. My previous residence did not have smoke alarms in the bedrooms as it wasn’t code when my condo was built.  So, I’d purchased battery only alarms and kept them in the bedrooms.  I didn’t install them, they just sat around.  When I moved, I threw them into a box and forgot about them.

Fast forward several years and I could hear a smoke alarm chirping somewhere in the house.  I never took the battery out and had stashed it away in some drawer.  It took me a few days to figure that out (it was in the basement) but maybe that helps answer the question on how long a battery really lasts!


Smoke alarms might not seem like the most exciting thing, but they’re so important.  Many people die every year in house fires.  So many stories that I’ve read talk about how it was discovered that there were no working smoke alarms.   I don’t want me or anyone I know to be a victim.

If you haven’t spent the few minutes to make sure your smoke alarms work and have working batteries, please do so.  It could be the difference between life and death!

13 thoughts on “Musings On Smoke Alarm Batteries”

  1. I replaced the smoke alarms at our rental condo earlier this year. These new ones should be good for 10 years and you don’t need to replace the battery. It’s sealed and you just toss them out. These are awesome for rentals because I don’t want the tenants to mess with them at all. I’ll replace the ones at home with these at some point too. Not sure how the battery can last 10 years, though… I might need to do more research on that point.

    • I’ve seen those as well. They seem to be pretty popular and I guess it probably forces the issue so that you don’t put it off for a few extra years. The key there is to remember somehow to do it.

  2. Thanks for posting an important reminder! Last year there was a fire in my development and sadly one of our neighbors died. Tragic though it was, it was the motivation I needed to replace our ancient smoke detector. I got a combo smoke and carbon monoxide detector which is hardwired, the battery is only a backup but I will change it once a year anyway. The other thing I did recently was to check our fire extinguishers. One had lost its charge, and the other was actually recalled by the manufacturer. Now we have two functional extinguishers. While you’re changing batteries, that’s another thing to check.

  3. You’re going to make me replace my batteries with your post. I actually forgot replacing my bedroom smoke alarm batteries that it finally stop making that low battery warning noise. I guess my wife did not care either. She never asks me to replace them.

  4. In these parts, you can NO LONGER GET smoke alarms whose batteries the homeowner can replace. You have to buy those stupid 10-year-guaranteed things that give out in about 15 months. The “guarantee” is that you have to ship the dratted thing to the maker, where they replace the battery (or, more likely, the unit) and ship it back to you, during which time you have no smoke alarm!!!

    After much rousting about, I finally managed to find two of the old-fashioned units on the bottom shelf at a Home Depot, where an employee who was sure he’d seen them somewhere managed to ferret them out and disengage them from the pile of junk stacked on top of them.

    Ah, the joys of living in a Brave New World…

  5. Ours are hard-wired too, so we only change the batteries when they start chirping. They also speak (“The battery is low. Please install new batteries.”). So you can’t ignore them. I’m guessing y’all are never woken up with chirping though, might be a solid item in the pro category!

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