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Posted: 12/15/2016 3:57:41 PM EST
I'm living in a rented townhouse until construction is finished on my new house and the smoke detectors would go off now and again, usually the one outside the bathroom door after taking a shower.
Ok, np, don't leave the door open, problem went away. Today however the wife was out and came back to all the alarms blaring. She called me and I finally found the offending smoke detector, and disconnected it.

This is a 3 level townhouse, the upper level has one in each bedroom (3) and 2 in the upper hallway, about 9 feet apart.
There is 2 more in the middle level and 2 more in the basement. So 5 on the top level, and 2 on the lower two levels.

Well after disconnecting the one in the one bedroom and returning to work, she calls me back about 4 hours later saying they're all going off AGAIN.
wtf? All of these damn things are wired together somehow, so when one goes off, they all do on all 3 levels

how do I shut these fucking things up? will it "hurt" anything if I disconnect another one, assuming it's causing the problem?
Are they all going off because the system sees one is missing? I tried flipping the breaker just to shut them up when they were going off, and that did nothing, so I'm at a loss.. Can anyone help out?
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:03:20 PM EST
They sound like the interconnected detectors. 3rd wire causes them all to go if one does.

You should probably replace them all at once, 10 minutes each if you are slow. Buy the three wire detectors to replace them.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:05:25 PM EST
Really too many variables to be sure.

But here goes are they monitored? You have a security alarm panel? Common entry with the other town homes?

Reason the breaker didn't work is they should have a battery back up.

Yes, pulling one could make them all alarm.

Do you hear your neighbors alarms going of? Wouldnt be the first time it happened.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:05:28 PM EST
One of my hard wired units was going off and I blew it out with canned air and it stopped and I've not heard from it since.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:08:44 PM EST
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:09:05 PM EST
Ok if they are hardwired there should still be a Battery Backup in the Alarm panel that will power them, they also more than likely have a 9 volt battery in them also that might need changed although when those start to go normally they chirp.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:12:45 PM EST
How old are they? If they are 10+ years or older it's time to change them.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:16:34 PM EST
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:20:50 PM EST
I don't know how old they are, I'm at the tail end of a 3 month lease, new house is supposed to close on the 30th.

She says all the alarms in the house went off again for like 2 minutes, then they all shut off, the one that I disconnected earlier was also going nuts, but it was disconnected from the rest sitting in the extra bedroom.
She kicked it and it stopped making noise.

I don't understand why the rest of the system would go off if the faulty alarm was removed though. There is an alarm panel in the house, not monitored though, and I don't know if the smoke detectors are wired to it. I'd assume they are? whoever lived here before had monitoring service it looks like, we don't though.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:22:14 PM EST
As mentioned, they should have battery back up as well. AA or 9V

Are they chirping, or blaring? Chirping is low battery. Blaring is false fire alarm.

If they are blaring you could try getting rid of dust with canned air or vacuuming them.

If it keeps up, make the landlord replace them.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:22:59 PM EST
The brand new ones will go off easily just by heat. The oven will set most off these days without smoke.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:23:13 PM EST
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Originally Posted By kabal57:
I don't know how old they are, I'm at the tail end of a 3 month lease, new house is supposed to close on the 30th.

She says all the alarms in the house went off again for like 2 minutes, then they all shut off, the one that I disconnected earlier was also going nuts, but it was disconnected from the rest sitting in the extra bedroom.
She kicked it and it stopped making noise.

I don't understand why the rest of the system would go off if the faulty alarm was removed though. There is an alarm panel in the house, not monitored though, and I don't know if the smoke detectors are wired to it. I'd assume they are? whoever lived here before had monitoring service it looks like, we don't though.
View Quote

Do me a favor, take a picture of one of the smokes and the panel. Post it here.

<---17 year fire alarm tech.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:25:52 PM EST
Not your problem. Call landlord and tell him to fix his shit. Sit back and have beer or bang the wife. 
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:26:34 PM EST
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Originally Posted By TheGrayMan:
You should be replacing them every ten years anyway. Always replace them as a group.

Are they only smoke alarms, or are they also CO (carbon monoxide) detectors?
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Yep, they have a lifespan of 10 years or so. Then they start going off randomly. For the shower thing that's the condensation in the air. We have one in the garage that goes off when it's very cold outside if we leave the door open for anything more than a few seconds. Condensation from warm moist indoor air escaping, rising and then invisible water vapor forms.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:30:00 PM EST
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Originally Posted By TheTallest:

Do me a favor, take a picture of one of the smokes and the panel. Post it here.

<---17 year fire alarm tech.
View Quote


The detectors look like this:

The panel is an oldish brinks one, looks exactly like this:
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:30:14 PM EST
What brand?

When we first moved into our newly built house we had that issue. The builder kept replacing them with the same brand and problem was never resolved. Found out my neighbors with the same builder had the same issue. Smoke alarms were some odd off brand I never heard of before and can't remember the name at the moment.

Finally I said "Fuck it" and bought a bulk pack of alarms from the FirstAlert store. Had to do some rewiring but never had a problem since.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:31:51 PM EST
Call the landlord/property manager and let them figure it out.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:32:39 PM EST
forgot to add, the alarms are not chirping, they are blaring. 3 long piercing shrill beeps, pause, 3 more piercing beeps. and it's all of them in the house, on all 3 levels going off at once.
I was able to identify the "bad" one because it was the only one with a red light when they were all going off, so I disconnected it. Those alarms can't "hear" the other ones can they? like if the disconnected one flipped out and started shrieking, could it set the others off? I would think not but I don't know shit about hardwired systems.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:33:23 PM EST
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Originally Posted By kabal57:


The detectors look like this: http://www.homedepot.com/catalog/productImages/1000/b7/b7b5f7d9-8619-45f5-b594-bf968f75a69b_1000.jpg

The panel is an oldish brinks one, looks exactly like this:
http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/NjAwWDgwMA==/z/TF4AAOSwEetV8BTt/$_32.JPG
View Quote View All Quotes
View All Quotes
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By kabal57:
Originally Posted By TheTallest:

Do me a favor, take a picture of one of the smokes and the panel. Post it here.

<---17 year fire alarm tech.


The detectors look like this: http://www.homedepot.com/catalog/productImages/1000/b7/b7b5f7d9-8619-45f5-b594-bf968f75a69b_1000.jpg

The panel is an oldish brinks one, looks exactly like this:
http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/NjAwWDgwMA==/z/TF4AAOSwEetV8BTt/$_32.JPG

Chances are they are not tied to the panel. Try replacing the batteries in all of them as has been suggested here. OR replace all of the smokes.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:34:18 PM EST
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Originally Posted By HDLS:
Call the landlord/property manager and let them figure it out.
View Quote


already did. He's not sure when the maint guy can get here, so in the meantime I need to do something to shut these flippin things up.
They came out last time this happened and replaced one, things were quiet for about 3 or 4 weeks and then it started up again today, but with a vengeance.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:35:35 PM EST
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Originally Posted By TheTallest:

Chances are they are not tied to the panel. Try replacing the batteries in all of them as has been suggested here. OR replace all of the smokes.
View Quote


would a low battery in some of them cause them all to go off though? I was under the impression they'd just chirp if the battery needed replacing?
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:56:36 PM EST
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Originally Posted By kabal57:


would a low battery in some of them cause them all to go off though? I was under the impression they'd just chirp if the battery needed replacing?
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No. Low battery just makes them chirp. They are constantly powered by a 120v circuit. LL might need to replace all of them at the same time.

Sometimes a spider web can make a detector go off. Condensation leaking into the detector through the conduit (if piped) can make them short out. When a conduit runs through an unconditioned space and then into a conditioned space condensation will form.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 4:59:49 PM EST
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Originally Posted By kabal57:


would a low battery in some of them cause them all to go off though? I was under the impression they'd just chirp if the battery needed replacing?
View Quote View All Quotes
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Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By kabal57:
Originally Posted By TheTallest:

Chances are they are not tied to the panel. Try replacing the batteries in all of them as has been suggested here. OR replace all of the smokes.


would a low battery in some of them cause them all to go off though? I was under the impression they'd just chirp if the battery needed replacing?

It might. I know that the ones in my house if a battery starts to go bad they will all go off for no apparent reason.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 5:01:15 PM EST
these are built to have some form of supervision. meaning that if a wire is cut or burned thru , the others go off. so if you totally disconnected one it thinks there is a trouble and is sounding. go to HD or Lowes and replace that one detector and see if that stops the problem.Otherwise just replace them all.
Link Posted: 12/15/2016 5:02:15 PM EST
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Originally Posted By budasc:
One of my hard wired units was going off and I blew it out with canned air and it stopped and I've not heard from it since.
View Quote


Link Posted: 12/16/2016 11:05:51 PM EST
I had this issue 2 or 3 times over the last 2 years. It is horrible when it happens. Usually seems to happen in the middle of the night, and for me has been tough to trouble shoot. See the link below to my last 2 posts of the same questions, and all the responses and checks I did at the time. I don't know if I have ever really solved the problem, but here's what I came up with:

First, I replaced all the units with a modern one, still hard wired with a 9volt back up. I have more installed than I actually need in the house, but I keep them in for safety. The new ones will all flash red when they go off at the detector that triggers, so you know where the source of the alarm was. It flashes for 24 hours after the event. Good feature, because after they all go off, you would have no way of knowing the source. This feature allowed me to narrow down the source of the problems.

For me, it was one of two detectors, one in my basement, and one in the vestibule of the floor above. Suspiciously, they were both within about 10 feet of one another in the basement and first floor. 

Here's where I really became lost: I had removed one possibly offending unit after it went off, and had it just laying on my counter. After 2 weeks, at 2:00 am it started going off all on its own. So I smashed it to pieces, and I thought I was done, problem solved, a bad detector. I replaced the unit where it had been, hardwired with the signal wire, and 2 months later, the BRAND NEW unit started to go off. That's when I took that unit off the signal wire, and have not had an issue since. So I think it's something with the signal wire but have no other proof. Something about that location, while other high stress areas have no such issue.

I kept the alarms up, and all units remain hard wired, but removed the signal wire from the 2 questionable locations, so if they do go off, it does not set off the whole house. I only have the signal removed for these 2 redundant units, the rest remain hard wired and with the signal wire. No issues for the last 6 months. The issue was so maddening, I stopped by the firehouse to ask their advice. The fire department thought the most likely cause was cobwebs or an ant walking through them. Possible, but I have not had the same issue since I replaced the detector but did not connect the signal wire. If it were ants, they would still be there whether I took off the signal wire off or not. So to me it is unresolved. My concern that there was some tiny short in the wiring can not be substantiated, and everyone I asked thinks it is highly unlikely, but to me I keep coming back to that question.

At any rate, should it happen again, I will check for which unit flashes red to indicate the triggered unit, and disconnect the signal wire only, and see if it continues to go off or not. If it goes off even when not connected to the signal, then the issue is with the unit itself.  It takes a long time to trouble shoot random event like this, and you need to write down what happens, because if it happens again 2 months later, you'll be hard pressed to remember just what happened the previous time.

I replace the 9 volt batteries every 2 years or so, since the units are hard wire powered, they don't draw down the battery, and when the battery is low it chirps anyway. To those that say a low battery will make them all go off, the two in the vestibule that went off were both less than 6 months old with brand new batteries, while the rest of the units in the house installed at the same time or earlier had no such issues. 

On the bugs and dust: I have other units, like right next to the boilers, subject to  much more dust, but these have never had an issue.  This is a long reply, but I am writing as much as I can think of to help you and anyone else that reads this solve their issues, because I hated this when it happened to me.

this years post
https://www.ar15.com/forums/t_1_5/1861700_.html&page=1
Link Posted: 12/17/2016 12:51:50 AM EST
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Originally Posted By kabal57:
forgot to add, the alarms are not chirping, they are blaring. 3 long piercing shrill beeps, pause, 3 more piercing beeps. and it's all of them in the house, on all 3 levels going off at once.
I was able to identify the "bad" one because it was the only one with a red light when they were all going off, so I disconnected it. Those alarms can't "hear" the other ones can they? like if the disconnected one flipped out and started shrieking, could it set the others off? I would think not but I don't know shit about hardwired systems.
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Yes, the one that started it will blink red. Clean it. Either vacuum it or canned air. Sometimes dust on the mirror will set them off. Change the 9v battery. Last, but certainly not least, do something to prevent bugs from entering it from the back. Silverfish or the like that live in the walls can cause it too. Foam, spackle, caulk or whatever on the drywall. Do not alter the detector.
Link Posted: 12/17/2016 12:53:04 AM EST
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Originally Posted By kabal57:


would a low battery in some of them cause them all to go off though? I was under the impression they'd just chirp if the battery needed replacing?
View Quote


If the battery is completely dead this can happen.
Link Posted: 12/17/2016 1:37:02 AM EST
Replace the batteries .  Even hard wired detectors have battery backup . 
Link Posted: 12/17/2016 2:11:10 AM EST
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Originally Posted By kabal57:


The detectors look like this: http://www.homedepot.com/catalog/productImages/1000/b7/b7b5f7d9-8619-45f5-b594-bf968f75a69b_1000.jpg

The panel is an oldish brinks one, looks exactly like this:
http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/NjAwWDgwMA==/z/TF4AAOSwEetV8BTt/$_32.JPG
View Quote


My house has those exact same Fire-X brand smoke detectors

I have replaced 2 of them over the past few years due to the non stop chirping ( no wasn't batteries )

They seem to have a life span rating of 8-10 years and some will just intermittently fail and set off the alarm

They say you can clean them ( spray out with compressed air ) but at $10ea from Amazon I picked up 10 of them to have on hand to just replace when one goes tits up.

No need to do all at once as I have been in current house for 5 years and replaced 2 of them. The other 8 or so are still functioning fine
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