How do you change batteries in a smoke alarm and properly test it?
Modern smoke alarms have either front, side, or rear mounted battery compartments. The front (or side) mounted units are designed to make it easier to change the stand-by battery without actually removing the detector from its base. There are several videos available on “youtube” that, while helpful in demonstrating the technique involved in removing the detector from the ceiling, fall short when it comes to the proper procedure to follow when changing the battery(ies). In every case, you should remove the detector from its base. It may also be helpful to download and read the manufacturer’s installation and maintenance guide as some modern alarms incorporate an integral sealed battery you can’t replace (it has a ten year life).
So let’s proceed:
1. To remove the detector from the base, you twist it either clock-wise or counter clock-wise. It will only move in one direction, so exercise some discretion as to how much force you use. Don’t let go of it as it comes off. Pull it gently away from the base.
2. With the detector removed from the base, you’ll notice it has a small plastic plug on the back with three wires coming out (usually black, white, and a third wire that can be either orange, red, or yellow). Squeeze the two tabs on either side of the plug together and pull it free of the detector.
3. Open the battery compartment and remove the old battery. Check the date code on the back of the detector and make sure it’s within ten (10) years from manufacture. If it’s over ten years old, you should replace the unit. Let’s assume the detector is within the ten year cycle.
4. With the soft brush attachment use your vacuum to thoroughly clean all around the vents of the detector. NEVER USE CANNED OR COMPRESSED AIR TO BLOW OUT THE UNIT. If the unit has been beeping the “low battery” alert, leave it unpowered for at least five (5) minutes.
5. Insert a new, current dated, high quality alkaline type battery (Duracell or Energizer). Make sure that you position the red lever (if one has popped up when you removed the old battery) so that it’s depressed as you insert the new one.
6. Close the battery compartment and push the “test” button until the unit sounds. (This is the step on most of the videos I’ve seen actually miss doing). It’s an important one as it tests whether the alarm responds on battery power. If it fails to sound, you’ve either mis-aligned the batteries or the terminals inside the compartment aren’t making adequate contact. Open the compartment and make the necessary adjustments.
7. Once you’ve completed the battery test, you can plug the unit back in. The plug will only go in one way (it’s keyed). The green “power on” light should illuminate.
8. Relocate the detector back onto its base, and push the “test” button once more until the unit responds. This ensures it’s functioning on normal household power. If you have more than one smoke alarm installed in your home, they may be interconnected to all sound together when one is activated. You may have to hold the test button down for a longer period while someone goes around and makes sure they’ve all activated.
9. Light a candle. Blow it out and hold it directly under the detector so that the smoke impinges on the detector’s vents. The unit should sound within a few seconds. This tests the proper operation of the alarm’s detection chamber. Do not blow cigarette smoke at the detector. Tar and nicotine will clog the chamber and inhibit its operation (much like they do your lungs).
IMPORTANT NOTE: If your SINGLE FAMILY dwelling is equipped with a fire sprinkler system your smoke alarms are interconnected to it through a device called a flow switch. Your sprinkler system will also feature a back-flow preventer that must be tested on an annual basis to ensure it’s functioning properly. The back-flow preventer is installed to stop stagnant, contaminated sprinkler water from entering the domestic supply. You’ll need to engage the services of a qualified professional to perform and document the required testing. At the same time, they should also flow water through the inspector’s test which should activate the sounders in your smoke alarms.
The motion detector in my house is mounted a lot lower than my neighbours and is up-side-down. Is this normal?
Chances are it's about three to four feet from the floor, right? There's only one reason I can think of that your motion detector is mounted this way. Your installer has elected to provide you with a "pet alley" (an area immediately below the level of the sensor has been created using this rather "quick fix" method so that your pets can roam freely without risking a false alarm while you're out). Is it "normal"? Not really. There are a number of premium motion detectors that are specifically designed to "ignore" pets while still providing the same level of protection as the normally mounted sensor in your neighbour's house (and you won't have to suffer with this big "hole" in your security). If however, you happen to have pets and have a system installed by a well known "voice response" provider, then you're stuck for the rest of your contract term. When you're no longer under contract, my advice would be to get yourself a REAL alarm system.
I have a DSC POWER 632 security system with an PC-5508 LED keypad. My problem is on my alarm system I have 6 active zones that run from 1 through 6 on the keypad. The zone 8 light is on and I'm sure that's why I cannot set my alarm. I have changed out the battery.
If the zone 8 lamp is lit continuously (even after you push the "#" key), this tells me that you may have some wireless zones on the system that are faulted (open). A low battery will light the "trouble" lamp and pressing *2 will cause the zone 1 light to turn on. Pressing 1 again will continue to illuminate the zone 1 light (press "#" twice to exit this display and arrange to have a new battery installed as soon as you can). If however, after you press *2, the zone 8 light is illuminated, you'll have to reset your system clock. Press "#" to exit the trouble display, then *6, your master code, then "1", followed by the time (in military format). Press "#" twice to exit. The "trouble" light will extinguish. The following FAQ details the "trouble" display for all of the DSC POWER products
The trouble light on my DSC Power 632 PC5508 keypad is on. What does this mean?
If you don't have your manual, you can download a copy from the DSC website. Pressing "*" then "2" will activate the trouble display. If the zone 8 LED illuminates, you have to reset your system's clock. Press the "#" key twice to exit the trouble mode. Press "*" then "6" and then enter your master code. Press "1", the keypad will beep several times. Enter the current time (in military format), then press "#" twice to exit. Your trouble light will extinguish.
If you're in trouble mode and any other LED illuminates, here's what they mean:
Zone 1 - General Trouble press "1" to advance to the next display level.
1 - Low Battery
2 - Bell/Siren Trouble
3 - System Trouble
4 - System Tamper
5 - Module Supervision Trouble
6 - Radio Frequency Jam Detected
7 - PC 5204 Low Battery
8 - PC 5204 AC Failure
Zone 2 - AC Failure
Zone 3 - Telephone Line Trouble
Zone 4 - Communications Error (Fail to Communicate Trouble)
Zone 5 - Sensor (or Zone) Fault (usually loss of supervision if your system is using end-of-line resistors)
Zone 6 - Sensor (or Zone) Tamper (applies to zones that have been programmed as "tamper's" - either latching or non-latching)
Zone 7 - Sensor Low Battery (applies to zones or sensors which employ RF - Wireless Technolgy)
Zone 8 - Loss of internal time (Reset your system's clock as I've described above
We have several Kidde combination carbon monoxide/smoke alarms installed in our home in Huntsville, Alabama, which we purchased about four years ago (the house was built in 2004). We’ve been replacing the batteries about every two years. Last night, the combo unit in the basement started chirping about every 30 seconds. We replaced the battery, but it continued to chirp until my husband finally took it down completely. This morning the one outside of our bedroom is exhibiting the same problem (chirps every thirty seconds or so despite the fact that it has a fresh battery). What is the problem?
If your home is seven years old, chances are the detectors are the same age. You can check the date code on the back to verify this, but what you’re experiencing is no doubt the “end-of-life” alert for the Carbon Monoxide detector. This part of your unit utilizes a chemical means of detection which has a limited service life. Kidde (as well as other manufacturers) builds in the end-of-life warning to alert you to the fact that you need to replace the unit. The replacement which I recommend is the COPE-i. This unit is a combination CO/photoelectric smoke alarm. Photoelectric smoke detection is recommended for residential type applications because it is much more efficient at detecting the thick smoke with heavy particulate generated by smouldering type fires that are more frequently encountered in this type of setting (they’re also less prone to false alarms from cooking or steam/water vapour). Target, Home Depot, Lowes, and Walmart all carry them. Chances are you’ll have to change out the bases (a screwdriver is all that’s really required). The plug-in harness from the old units should be compatible with the new detectors
What does “ERR” mean on the digital display of my carbon monoxide alarm?
This is indicative of an internal failure of some sort. It could have been precipitated by a power failure or surge, or simply the loss of communication with the internal processor. If, when you remove your unit from its base, the date stamped on the back of the unit indicates it might be approaching seven years of continuous operation, then this may be the “end-of-life” indicator for the sensor. If, however, you’re still within the seven year cycle, then try this method to reset your detector. Unplug it from AC power and remove the batteries. Leave the unit UNPOWERED for five (5) minutes. At the end of the five minutes, press and hold the “test” button for thirty (30) seconds. Insert new high quality alkaline type batteries (please observe the correct polarity when you do). Plug the unit back in. It will go through a self-test cycle and may display a number of odd symbols and numbers (888). It should revert back to a “0” with a small decimal “point” flashing steadily. This means you have successfully reset the processor. If the “ERR” message comes up again, the unit must be replaced. It is no longer functional. Kidde and BRK have excellent warranties for their products. You may wish to visit their web sites to download the manual for your model and the instructions for obtaining a return material authorization (RMA).
If I wanted an alarm to sound when a window was shut, how would you accomplish this (set up a circuit to do this)?
Nothing really special is required other than hooking up an appropriate contact (in this case one that’s normally open). Most security systems employ normally closed contacts for doors and windows. This means that when they’re in proximity to a magnet, (which would be the case when the door or window was closed), the circuit is a complete. When the door/window opens, the circuit is broken causing the zone to fault (or alarm if the system is armed). A normally open contact would operate in the opposite manner. The circuit would be closed with the window open and fault when the window is closed.
I’ve recently had to change the battery in my Honeywell alarm system and it’s now displaying a “FC” at the keypad. Did I do something wrong?
“FC” is a trouble indication that means “Failure to Communicate”. This means that your system has somehow missed transmitting a signal to your monitoring station. Please ensure that the telephone cord from the common control is properly plugged in to its jack. If you’ve changed telephone providers recently, this could very well be one of the causes as well. VOIP service, in particular, can play havoc with an alarm system’s ability to communicate with a central station receiver. If your new Internet connection employs DVACS, then you will have to install a filter on the line so that your security system can transmit signals properly.
Is there anything I should know about my switching my telephone service to Vonage?
If by “Vonage” you mean VOIP (Voice Over IP) service, then there are several things you should know. First off, the VOIP modem has a rechargeable backup battery that will power your telephone line for between four and six hours in the event of a power failure. If the failure lasts for longer than this you will no longer have telephone service and your security system will be unable to communicate alarms and troubles to the central station. In addition, communications between your central monitoring station and your home could become compromised as many older panels don’t recognize the dial tone, or worse, will miss the cue from the station receiver that prompts your panel to transmit its status (alarm, trouble, or test signal). Many burglar alarm companies have taken the step to issue written dire warnings to their customers about switching to VOIP. While the service is often cheaper than telephone services provided by traditional companies like Bell, Telus, and AT&T, the overall reliability of VOIP communications relies on a stable connection to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). There is additional information on our Communicator TIPS page as well as this FAQ.
What are the pro’s and con’s of using a telephone-based type enterphone system?
Enterphones come in to “flavours”. They’re either a “phone bill based” system, or a “no-phone bill based” system. Simply put, one requires a telephone line and the other doesn’t. Over the long run, a “no-phone bill” type system is more cost effective as the monthly telephone charges associated with a “phone bill based” system can quickly exceed the extra expense associated with the former. Let’s make it a bit easier to understand:
Phone Bill Type
Can call a resident’s cellphone (doesn’t require the tenant to maintain a land-line).
Easy to install, service and maintain.
Easy to upgrade (or replace).
Monthly business rate charge from your telephone service provider applies to the base unit (main entry phone panel). Only a single line is required (can be shared with multiple entry panels in the same complex).
Unless the tenant has opted to include a “call waiting” feature in their normal service, visitors may receive a busy signal when attempting to contact the tenant.
Requires tenants to provide either a cellphone or landline phone number.
Requires you to program a new telephone number for every new tenant (or when a tenant’s phone number changes). **
No Phone Bill System
Calls are routed through a fixed termination block located adjacent to the main incoming telephone demarcation block.
Tenants receive a unique ring-tone even when on an outside call (no busy signal for visitors attempting to contact the tenant).
No monthly fees (other than to the residents/tenants who may have opted for their own landlines).
No programming required (unless tenant wishes to have their name appear on the directory). Calls are routed to suite numbers or unit numbers.
Requires tenant to supply a touch-tone telephone to plug into stationary jacks located in the suite (or unit).
Cannot be routed to a tenant’s cellular phone.
More difficult to maintain and service (in many cases, the equipment is proprietary to the manufacturer who may have designated a single local service agency, or dealer).
** NOTE: Programming most enterphone systems is more easily accomplished with a computer and software that can download the necessary changes through either a dedicated connection to the enterphone’s main board or by calling the base unit’s telephone number (where a “phone bill type” system is utilized).
What causes a loss of supervision signal at the keypad for a door?
The fact that your security provider has included properly supervised circuits in your establishment is indicative of the quality of your particular installation and the technical knowledge and integrity of the installation staff they employ. A “loss of supervision” could be caused by someone tampering with a door contact. In UNSUPERVISED circuits, the door contacts are usually “normally closed”. What this means is that the control panel sees a “short” on the circuit as a “normal” condition. A “short” can be achieved through bypassing a ”normally closed” switch (shorting the circuit). When this occurs, the zone becomes non-responsive (i.e. won’t show a “fault” condition if the door is opened). In systems employing supervised circuits however, this would cause a “trouble” (loss of supervision signal) or will “fault” the affected zone(s).
How do you change the programmed telephone number on a DSC PC-5508Z alarm system?
This is done while in INSTALLER MODE programming. On a monitored system, your service provider could also perform this function via a telephone download link.