Wired Smoke Alarm Question


Old 05-21-19, 04:17 PM
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Wired Smoke Alarm Question

I live in an apartment over a garage. The apartment has a completely enclosed stairwell which is not heated and has lighter insulation than my apartment. I live in New Hampshire and in winter the stairwell gets quite cold.

Two wired smoke/carbon monoxide detectors were placed in the ceiling at the top and bottom of the stairwell. These both have battery backups. During the winter, every winter, the alarms start to beep all the time. I have researched this and found that the installed batteries will drain very quickly in the cold, causing them to fail and start beeping to be replaced. Apparently, cold is only good for sustaining battery life if they're not installed in something.

So, about every December, my alarms in the stairwell start beeping. The two inside my apartment don't beep - all are hard-wired. In the beginning, every winter, I would replace the batteries often. This is difficult since I need an extension ladder to access the downstairs one which is probably at least 10 feet high if not higher, and it's also at a very awkward angle, making it a pretty dangerous endeavor.

This year, I got tired of this and simply removed both smoke detectors and planned on putting them back up in spring. They don't beep during the warmer parts of the year.

I can find link after link online about the batteries in the detectors having the cold/beeping problem, but no information on if the same thing would happen to the detectors without batteries in them. If they don't have this problem, then I will put them back up without batteries. I should have tested this already, but winter is over now, so it's too late.

Of course, you're not supposed to use the detectors without a battery backup.

So, does anybody know if the detectors themselves are supposed to beep in the cold? Oh yeah, I forgot, one time I switched the inside detectors with the stairwell ones - same thing happened. It's not the units, it's the cold! Nobody believes me that the cold is the problem either.

By the way, I simply left the plug that goes into the detectors loose inside the ceiling fixture it was in during the winter. Since there was an actual plug on the end of the wires, I didn't think it was any different than having a power strip with unused, hot receptacles, or an unused outlet, and therefore not dangerous. I'm now wondering if I might be wrong about that? Here's three pictures of an outlet, a power strip plugged into an outlet, and the way I have left the plugs in the electrical boxes/containers/things in the ceiling. Are they different, and, if so, how?

Thanks to anybody who can help.
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Old 05-21-19, 04:53 PM
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You can leave the detector unplugged if you don't want it active. Not sure how that pertains to the pictures.

If those are battery/electric smoke detectors..... they will start beeping if there is no battery in them.
Just put in 9V lithium batteries. That should take care of the cold problem.
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Old 05-21-19, 05:25 PM
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Thanks for answering and for the info about lithium batteries.

I uploaded the pictures first and then forgot my train of thought. I guess I was looking at the wires up on the smoke alarm and saw some other wires above the ones with the plug (that plug into the alarm) that had nuts on them, and wanted to make sure that leaving all that open to the air was safe. I thought maybe they might not be, but wondered why, if other things like outlets and power strips also have "live" outlets. It just looks a little less safe, I suppose.

Thanks again.
Old 05-22-19, 04:31 AM
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Oh I believe you fully on batteries in the COLD. Why do automotive batteries specify Cold Cranking Amps? Because in really cold temperatures, the battery's ability to provide power is reduced. Why the redution? Because chemical reactions slow down in the cold. I don't think I ever saw the problem until the temperature dipped below zero for several hours.

This has been written about extensively over the years. There may be a battery technology that overcomes the problem, but if there is, you can pretty much depend on two things:
  1. The battery won't fit in a smoke detector
  2. It's going to be expensive.
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Old 05-24-19, 10:09 AM
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Are you required to use battery backup smoke detectors? In the interior spaces, I'd still use battery backups, but for the hallway, you can get smoke detectors that run only off mains power. They won't work in a power outage (but you have others if needed), but no battery to drain!
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