Strange Smoke Detector Problem

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  #1  
Old 06-03-13, 07:58 AM
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Strange Smoke Detector Problem

In an apartment where I work, a smoke detector beeps when lightning strikes. There are four detectors in the apartment, and they're all interconnected. It happens to be the first on on the circuit. Although, I removed that one from the ceiling once and the next in the circuit beeped on the next lightning storm. I've checked all the connections on the breaker, including a bedroom and bathroom. They're fine. I've tightened all connections in the panel, replaced the breaker, installed a whole house surge protector, replaced all the detectors and wiring harnesses twice. The only thing that seems to help is if I disconnect AC power and let them run on battery. But...this weekend the same detector beeped when lightning struck nearby without AC power connected, and by that I mean I unhooked the wiring harness from the detectors. Anyone seen this before? I'm at a loss here.
 
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Old 06-03-13, 06:57 PM
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I've been installing and servicing alarm systems for many years and I have never come across that problem or even heard of that problem happening. I too am at a loss.
 
  #3  
Old 06-03-13, 10:49 PM
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I have heard of lightning triggering smoke detectors and affecting every other electrical item in a house in some way. Electrical experts in the field may tell you that lightning holds no surprises, but scientists aren't so proud and will admit that they don't even completely understand how it works.

Research and new findings on lightning are still running current to this year.

The scientific article mentioned in this news report is not even a year old yet.

What goes on when lightning strikes? | Science | The Observer


Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 185005 (2013): Runaway Breakdown and Hydrometeors in Lightning Initiation


and here's more from the Smithsonian, 8 new things about lightning, from 24 May:

8 Things We've Learned Lately About Thunder and Lightning | Innovations
 
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Old 06-04-13, 09:52 AM
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Lightning, even when miles away, can induce voltage into a wire. That little bit of induction (or sometimes lots) I think could easily be confusing the detectors.

There's not much you can do except maybe trying a different brand of detectors. Since it's happening even when disconnected from AC, it may just be the brand or model that is a bit more sensitive. Who knows, it could be part of the apartment is acting as a bit of an antenna. I like Nick's perspective on how much we don't know about lightning and severe storms.
 
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Old 06-04-13, 01:56 PM
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I've tried two different brands of detectors. Hmm yeah this is quite a mystery. There's been some electricians trying different things, and they're baffled as well. Today they put fire pads over each of the boxes that the detectors are wired in, to block moisture etc I suppose.
 
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Old 06-04-13, 07:44 PM
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It would take a pretty close hit of lightning to set off a battery operated smoke alarm.

I'm assuming you are using the photo type smoke alarms...... not the ion ones.
 
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Old 06-05-13, 12:03 AM
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He is using the ion type.
 
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Old 06-05-13, 08:33 AM
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Correct, they're the ion type. Would the photo type be less likely trigger?
 
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Old 06-06-13, 01:21 AM
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Would the photo type be less likely trigger?
I would think so.

Do you just have a problem in one apartment of the complex ?
 
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Old 06-06-13, 03:10 AM
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But for best protection both ion and photocell types should be used.
 
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Old 06-06-13, 12:43 PM
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The problem occurs in two apartments right next to each other on the top floor. They are the last two at the end of the hallway on the south side. I haven't heard of anyone else having these problems in the building.
 
  #12  
Old 06-06-13, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by maintman
Would the photo type be less likely trigger?
Maybe, maybe not. It would take some black magic and blood sacrifices to figure that out without just trying a photoelectric detector.

Ray is right that it is better to have both types, but it is not doubly better and consequently it is rare to see both installed, especially in a residential environment. "Combo" devices with both detection systems are available, however.

As far as lightning favoring only part of a building or even just part of an electric circuit, that is the norm. There are endless cases of lighting causing logically inexplicable damage, like blowing out half the lights in the house, while leaving computers unharmed, on the same circuit as some of the lights.
Lightning is not "normal" electricity and it CANNOT be considered such, under ANY circumstances.
People can be directly struck by lightning and be quite alive and well afterwards, yet the same direct strike can explode/split in half large trees and flat-out destroy robust electrical equipment. It is simply not predictable.
 
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