How to Test a Smoke Detector Quickly and Correctly

A smoke detector is one of the most important items in a home or building. This early warning device helps alert those inside to fire or dangerous smoke and gives them time to effectively respond, which according to the size and scope of the fire, may crucially include an evacuation procedure.

If you’re a building owner, you’re well aware that you’re responsible for the safety of those who reside or work inside your property. It may be useful to know that installing a smoke detector is an easy and inexpensive way to protect your tenants.

However, smoke detectors can only help if they are functioning properly. That’s why it’s essential that you know how to properly maintain and test the smoke detectors in your building.

Testing Different Types of Smoke Detectors:

Battery Powered

Battery powered smoke detectors should be checked regularly for defective or worn-out batteries. To this end, monthly testing is essential. Always remember: never put old batteries into your device.


Hardwired detectors are powered by your building’s electrical system. Hardwired devices usually have backup batteries so that the device can remain operational in a power outage. Hardwired detectors should still be tested every month to ensure that both the batteries and parts are functioning properly.

How Often Should a Detector be Replaced?

Remember that per the US Fire Administration, no matter the kind of detector, smoke detectors should be tested at least once a month. The batteries for the detector should be replaced, at a minimum, once or twice a year.

The US Fire Administration also states that smoke detectors usually have a lifespan of 10 years. Even with regular maintenance, and even if the device is still functional, you should still replace it at least every decade or earlier.

How Do You Test a Smoke Detector?

You should always check the manufacturer’s instructions on how to test your specific smoke detector device, however, you can still typically follow some general guidelines for most devices:

Step 1

Alert any residents or tenants that you will be testing the alarm. Smoke detectors emit a high-pitched sound that is both distracting and alarming if one isn’t expecting it.

Step 2

If it’s possible to get someone to assist you, station that person at the furthest point possible from the device inside the room or building. This is important as it will help you make sure the alarm can be heard from everywhere in the building. If the alarm’s sound is weak or muffled in any part of the building, you may want to consider installing extra devices closer to the particular area(s) in question.

Step 3

Press and hold the test button on the device. It may take a few seconds, but a loud siren should sound from the detector. If the sound is weak or the device remains silent, replace the batteries.

You should also make sure that there is no dust or substance blocking any part the detector. This can also inhibit the device from working properly, even if the batteries are new.

Ready To Test Smoke Detectors?

Knowing how to properly test a smoke detector could just be the difference between protected and severely damaged property. For building owners or managers, remember that the safety of your building or facility can often hinge on the proper functionality of smoke detectors and other fire safety systems, including fire alarms and fire sprinklers.

A fully-functioning, regularly-maintained fire safety system is essential to keeping your tenants, residents, or employees safe.

Check us out for more information on fire safety systems and the services we can offer you.