Smoke detectors: Can’t cook with them, won’t survive a midnight blaze without them. If you spend any time in the kitchen, a food-triggered false alarm has probably happened to you. But you can stop false smoke alarms without compromising fire safety.
What causes your kitchen smoke alarms to go off when cooking?
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The simple answer to why your kitchen smoke alarms goes off is “smoke,” but when you drill down a bit, things get more complicated. Smoke is an expected by-product of cooking, but normal cooking shouldn’t set off your smoke alarms. If your gear beeps all the time, it could be due to:
- Burning the food: If your kitchen is filling with smoke every time you cook some chicken, maybe you’re burning it?
- Your oven is dirty: If baking sets off your alarm, it could be because you need to clean your oven.
- Your smoke alarm is too sensitive: Alarms sometimes detect steam or even heat. Not optimal for the kitchen.
- Your alarm is placed wrong: If your alarm is too close to the stove or oven, it’s more likely to go off.
How to stop your smoke alarm from beeping when you’re cooking
If your smoke alarm is constantly screeching when you’re trying to bake a soufflé, there are a number of potential solutions you could try before Superintendent Chalmers comes over for steamed hams. Try these solutions:
Reduce the sensitivity of your smoke alarm
Many models of smoke detectors have adjustable sensitivity settings. Some have a “hush” button will turn off the alarm and leave it off for 10 or 20 minutes. If your smoke alarm doesn’t have these feature, it might be time to upgrade.
Change the batteries of your smoke detector
Weak batteries can sometimes change the sensitivity of a smoke detector and lead to false positives, so make sure you’re not using old ones. You don’t have to wait until your smoke detector starts chirping to refresh the batteries.
Move your smoke detector out of the kitchen, but not too far
Since many home fires start in the kitchen, you don’t want to take it far away from the place where you cook. The sweet spot is high on the wall, away from windows and doors, but right outside the kitchen. You want enough separation that it won’t go off when you’re normally cooking, but will go off if things get really smoky.
Circulate the air away from the smoke detector
The low-tech way to keep your alarm from going off when cooking is to grab a dishtowel and start furiously waving it around to move the smoke away from the detector. (Make sure you curse a lot while doing this.) You could also create a dedicated “MacGyver Fan,” like this user of Stack Exchange has:
“My solution was a bit hack-y, but it works. I took one of those souvenir fans you get at Six Flags, and affixed it to a coat hanger with some hot glue. A lot of hot glue. Then I just bent the coat hanger around the fire detector until it stayed.”
Do not remove the batteries from your smoke detector
I already know you’re going to just take the batteries out of your smoke detector, but I urge you not to. Removing the batteries is an obvious, immediate solution that works perfectly—unless you forget to put the batteries back. You will probably forget to put the batteries back, and it’s just not worth the risk.