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Why is My Smoke Alarm Making a High Pitched Noise?

Smoke alarms are capable of making many different noises. Chirps, squeaks, buzzing and high pitched squeals. They are actually different signals alerting the house occupants that some action needs to be taken.

Smoke alarms are loud by design. Even when there is no fire. Here is what the high pitched noise means, along with the required action that will make it stop. 


Kidde Smoke Alarm. Button on Right is Reset. Flashes Red Every 60 Seconds When Operating Properly.



High Pitched Smoke Alarm Squealing

Most home smoke alarms put out at least 85 decibels–about the same sound as a passing diesel truck or a snow blower. Alarms sound louder because they hit the higher frequencies.


Why am I Hearing the High Pitched Noise?

Generally, prolonged high pitched alarm noise has one of three causes.


1) Fire

If the house is on fire or filled with smoke, the noise is probably the least of your worries. Just get out. High frequency noise can disorient some people. Have everyone in the house hold their hands over their ears. This should be enough to keep the noise at tolerable levels.


2) False Alarm

Your smoke alarm can be set off by a number of things that do not include fire or smoke. These include:

  • Steam from the shower or smoke from the kitchen (if the alarm is too close to either)
  • Dust in the air will affect the sensor (a windy day in a dusty location with the windows open)
  • Too close to a heating vent
  • Big temperature fluctuations
  • A defective smoke alarm.


3) Past Best Before Date

Many people do not realize that smoke detectors only last about 10 years. Some of the components begin deteriorating after that time, making the alarm less effective, or not effective at all. (Some of us know that the alarm needs to be replaced every 10 years, but forget to put a note on the refrigerator.)

Shortly before the 10 year mark, the alarm will begin to chirp or beep at random times. Eventually, as the 10 year mark passes, the noise will change to longer beeps. And finally to a steady high pitched noise, letting you know that something has to be done. Pressing the button on the face will stop it for a time. (From personal experience, walloping it with a croquet mallet is also very effective.)


What do I Need to do to Stop the Noise?

In all of these instances, pressing the reset button on the face of the smoke alarm will stop the noise–at least temporarily. This will give you the peace and quiet and time to assess the situation, find the problem, and fix it.

  • Steam. Having your alarm positioned too close to the bathroom door when someone takes a hot steamy shower could set off the alarm. To solve this problem you will have to either move the alarm, or change shower habits.
  • Smoke. Almost all of us have burned something while cooking. If it is bad enough, your alarm will go off. You can move the alarm further away from the kitchen, press the reset button to stop the noise. or keep your husband and children from cooking.
  • Dust. A lot of dust blowing in through an open window will affect the smoke alarm much the same as smoke. This is usually a rare occurrence that you might have to put up with. It is difficult to control the weather, and keeping windows closed all the time is usually not a great option.
  • Heat. Any time a smoke alarm is close to a heat source, there is a chance of it being activated when the heat comes on–specially if the room is cool to begin with. Try moving the alarm further away from the heat source.
  • Temperature Fluctuations. An alarm could be triggered if it is in a cold or warm area and the temperature is suddenly changed by opening a door and increasing or decreasing the room temperature significantly. The only realistic fix when this happens is to press the reset button to stop the noise.
  • Defective Alarm. If you are sure that nothing else is causing the noise, you may have a defective alarm. Smoke alarm warranties range from 5 – 10 years. If yours is defective, check it out on line, if you did not keep the information. 
  • Outdated. Virtually all smoke alarms need to be replaced after 10 years of use. For your family’s safety, just do it. (Approximately 70% of home fire deaths happen in houses without working alarms, or without alarms.)


Other Smoke Alarm Noise – and What it Means

Almost all of the other smoke alarm noises you will hear are chirps and beeps. Other than the “end of life” chirps before the continuous noise starts, these chirps are usually related to your backup battery. Here are some of the causes. You may have to do a little investigating to solve the problem.

  • Dying battery
  • Battery compartment door not closed properly
  • Loose battery connection

The chirping will last a minimum of 30 days. When the beeps are happening every 30 – 60 seconds you know that the battery as very close to being finished. 

Note: Some manufacturers like Kidde have developed a sealed lithium battery that will last the life of the unit, eliminating these annoying chirps.


Terry Schutz

I have worked as a contractor, sales person, and business owner in the construction industry for over three decades--mostly in home renovations and also as a home builder. I have been married to the same wife for 46 years. We have 3 children and 4 granddaughters. I have also been writing semi-professionally for about 20 years--construction articles, personal stories, and politically incorrect social commentary.

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