Smoke or Carbon Monoxide Detector Chirping or Beeping? Here’s What to do

When a smoke or carbon monoxide detector is making a loud alarm noise every second, it may be an emergency and you need to leave the house immediately. 

If there is a fire, leave immediately and call 911.

If there is danger of carbon monoxide poisoning, leave immediately and call 911.

If a “combo” (smoke detector and carbon monoxide) detector or carbon monoxide detector is making a constant loud alarm noise and you don’t see smoke, quickly make sure the stove and oven are completely off, turn off space heaters and any other gas-consuming appliances, open a window if it’s quick and easy, and immediately leave your apt. If it is easy for you to bring the alarm with you, do that.

First call 911, and the fire department will come test the air for carbon monoxide. And call management to let them know.

If the alarm is still sounding when you are in fresh air outside of the house, it may be a faulty alarm. Call management for a replacement.

If the alarm needs to be replaced, answer these questions when you tell management:

  1. Is it a smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, or smoke and CO combo alarm? 
  2. Twist the detector off of the base. Can you just walk away with it, or is it hard-wired to the wall? 

If it has “10 year alarm” written on it and you are 100% sure that there is no fire or carbon monoxide but the alarm keeps sounding, management may ask you to follow instructions on the alarm to disable it.

In addition to gas stoves, a boiler, furnace or hot water heater could emit carbon monoxide. These are often in the basement in a separate room from all apartments.

If it is not an emergency, figure out what kind of alarm is sounding. There are a few kinds:

  1. Smoke detector. Figure out which kind of smoke detector it is. There are 3 versions:
    -battery operated with batteries (AA or 9V) you can replace
    -10 year alarm with non-replaceable battery (the whole alarm needs to be replaced)
    -hard-wired (if you twist the alarm off of the base you will see wires holding it to the house)
  2. Carbon monoxide detector. Most have replaceable AA or 9V batteries
  3. Combo smoke and carbon monoxide detector. Figure out which kind of detector it is
    -battery operated with batteries (AA or 9V) you can replace
    -10 year alarm with non-replaceable battery (the whole alarm needs to be replaced)
    -hard-wired (if you twist the alarm off of the base you will see wires holding it to the house)

Just chirping about once a minute? Replace the batteries

“Chirping” is when the alarm beeps about once every minute. This is not a constant loud alarm noise. Chirping means the battery needs to be replaced or the alarm has expired. Please have a couple 9 volt batteries and AA batteries in your apartment at all times in case this happens.

Cannot find where the batteries are? It may be a 10 year alarm and you cannot replace the batteries.

If it says 10 year alarm on it and it keeps chirping or sounding when there is no danger, call management to have it replaced.

Still chirping after you replace the batteries? Call management to get it replaced.

If you put in new batteries and the alarm is still chirping, it might be expired. Many alarms last 10 years. There is usually an install date on the alarm. Tell management what kind of alarm it is so they bring the right one (ex: hardwired combo alarm, battery operated smoke detector, etc)

Is it a hard-wired alarm chirping?

If the alarm is attached to the ceiling or wall with wires, it is “hard wired”. If there is a backup battery, replace the battery, put the alarm back and press the test button. If the alarm keeps chirping even with a new battery, either the alarm has expired or the electrical circuit it is on may need to be reset. Call management and they will come over or talk you through it.

Can’t find the chirping alarm in your apartment?

Email management. The alarm may be in your neighbor’s apartment and they are away, or in a shared hall or in the basement.

Smoke alarm keeps sounding every second even though there is no fire? Open windows and fan the alarm

If there is no smoke or fire and it is a smoke detector beeping, open windows and fan the alarm with a towel. Heat and smoke from cooking or even a steamy shower could set off an alarm when there is not actually a fire. If this happens consistently, ask management if they can move the alarm.

Excessive dust can make detectors malfunction

If you are sanding wood or doing something else that emits many particles into the air in your apt, you may be damaging your detectors and they may malfunction.

Info from the Emergency Guide: 


  • A working smoke alarm is required in every bedroom and in the vicinity of every bedroom, as well as in the hallways and common areas of the building. Carbon Monoxide detectors are located within 15 feet of every bedroom. Some models are a combination alarm for both smoke and carbon monoxide.
  • Keep detectors dust free and free of any covering that will reduce the sensitivity to heat or smoke.
  • If there is a detector directly wired to your electrical system be sure that the signal light located on the detector is blinking periodically.
  • Never remove a battery or disconnect a detector unless it is chirping from low battery and you are replacing the battery. Some detectors are ten year detectors, and the battery in those cannot be replaced. If a detector is not functioning or it is going off sporadically, contact maintenance immediately for replacement or service. It is a misdemeanor punishable by fine and or imprisonment to tamper with or disable any fire protection device.
  • Detectors may be on the ceiling or wall. Some are plug in models and may be in an outlet.