Turn Off Any Fire Alarm Smoke Detector In 5 Easy Steps

How to 'Temporarily' Disable A Smoke Detector

Does your smoke detector go off every time you try to make dinner? While annoying, it can be a good thing that your smoke detector goes off. This means that it’s working!

That being said, we can *temporarily* disable the fire alarm if you just want to a cook a steak dinner without alerting the whole neighbourhood.

If you need to disable your fire alarm, hold down the reset button for 5 to 10 seconds. Failing that, simply remove the batteries temporarily. For a more complex system, you may need to check the circuit breaker or fire control panel.

That being said – there’s more to it than that (and some safety issues we really should cover).

Smoke alarms can have false positives, known as “nuisance alarms,” that go off even when there’s no fire. This is because your smoke alarm is very sensitive to potential signs of a dangerous fire.

If you’d like to solve a smoke detector that’s always going off, then read on and let’s tackle it together. 

What You’ll Need

You won’t need too many tools to fix a smoke detector that constantly goes off. Really, the most you’re going to need is a new battery or maybe a screwdriver. Here’s every tool you could need to reset that nuisance smoke detector alarm. 

  1. New batteries which are usually 9-volts 
  2. A stepladder
  3. Your smartphone 
  4. Owner’s manuals

That’s it. Resting your smoke alarm is one of the easiest household maintenance jobs you can learn. 

How to Temporarily Turn Off A Smoke Alarm

If your smoke detector is currently going off and it shouldn’t be, you want to stop that alarm as quickly as possible. Let’s get right into the most common ways of temporarily turning off your smoke alarm. 

1. Press The Reset Button

This is the easiest and most common way to turn off your smoke alarm. All you need to do is press the reset button located in the center on the front of the smoke alarm. There are a few things we need to go over when pressing this button.

The reset button does just what its name would suggest. It resets your alarm. If your smoke detector is accidentally going off because you burned dinner, it might wind up going off a few times until you’re able to air out the room. This is true even if you press the reset button.

The reset button is typically located on the front of the smoke detector in the middle. It can sometimes also be a LED light on the front of the smoke detector that you can press down. There’s a different location for the reset button on older models.

Older smoke detectors have the reset button on the back. In order to access this button you need to remove the smoke detector from the wall. All you need to do to remove your smoke detector is twist it counterclockwise and then pull it away from the wall.

2. Remove the Battery 

It can seem like your smoke detector goes off for no reason. If your alarm keeps sounding even though you’re not burning anything in the kitchen or creating a bunch of steam, it could be because your smoke detector’s battery is getting old. The quickest way to check this is by changing the battery.

 There are three kinds of smoke detectors. There are battery operated smoke detectors and hard-wired smoke detectors. There are also battery operated smoke detectors that have a 10-year lifespan and their batteries can not be changed. The battery operated are the most common here in the United States.

You want to check with your owner’s manual to find out what battery your smoke detector uses. It’s typically a 9-volt battery, but there are other types. 

Hand changing battery of a smoke alarm
If this is the first time you’ll replace the smoke detector’s battery, check if it is a 9-volt alkaline battery or an AA before heading to the store.

Here’s how you can change your smoke detector’s battery.

  1. Get your new battery 
  2. Remove the smoke detector from the wall if needed
  3. Open the battery compartment. You might need a screwdriver to do this
  4. Remove the old battery
  5. Insert the fresh battery

There’s a good chance your smoke alarm will either go off or start beeping to let you know that the new battery has been installed. Your owner’s manual will be able to walk you through all of the different sound and lighting combinations your smoke detector can make. 

3. Check Your Circuit Breaker 

Hard-wired smoke detectors have an extra consideration. These are a type of smoke detector that are physically wired into your home. They don’t require batteries because they run off of your home’s electricity.

These are typically connected to your circuit breaker on their own circuit. Your smoke detector in the kitchen will not be wired into the kitchen circuit, but will have its own. In fact, it’s common for many homes to have two circuits just for their smoke detectors as a way to add some redundancy.

If your smoke detectors start randomly going off, it could be because there’s a problem with your circuit breaker. Here’s how to fix it.

Head down to your circuit breaker and flip the circuits that are connected to the smoke detectors. This should reset them and stop those nuisance alarms from going off.

4. Go to Your Fire Control Panel 

Here’s one of the more complicated solutions for people with a smoke alarm that keeps going off. If you live in a larger building, such as a multi-family unit or an apartment complex, it could be because of your fire control panel.

It’s important to remember here that if you’re not the owner of the building, you should contact your landlord or maintenance person to handle the fire control panel for you. If the entire building’s alarm system is going off, you should contact the fire department to have them come take a look at the fire control panel.

You can use the Fire Control Panel to reset a nuisance alarm. Different manufacturers of fire control panels have different control layouts. You can take a look at your fire control panel owner’s manual to find the exact controls that can deactivate nuisance alarms. 

5. Replace the Smoke Detector 

Here’s the last way to take care of a nuisance alarm from your smoke detector.

Certain models of smoke detectors continually go off when it’s time for them to be replaced. This is the smoke detector’s way of letting you know that it’s reached the end of its life cycle. You need to switch it out with a new model.

This is a great safety feature because it makes sure that you always have an updated and working smoke detector, but it does create the problem of an alarm that can’t shut off.

The only fix to this is to replace your old smoke detector. The old smoke detector can be deactivated by either disconnecting it from the wiring or removing the battery. You can then properly dispose of the old smoke detector after you’ve installed your new one. 

Man pressing button on smoke alarm
Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years, according to manufacturers and the National Fire Protection Association.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Should You Disable a Smoke Alarm?

That temporary reset button gives you a little break if you accidentally set off your smoke alarm. This is most often the case when you’re cooking and you burn something. However, excess steam can also set off a smoke alarm.

Temporarily disabling your smoke alarm turns off that loud noise. Most smoke alarms are back to normal functioning on their own within minutes after being temporarily disabled. 

What to Do About a Smoke Alarm When You’re Renting?

It can be a little difficult to figure out what to do about your smoke alarm when you’re renting. The truth is that it all depends on where you live. In some cities your landlord is responsible for changing the battery on your smoke alarm and for replacing it all together if it’s malfunctioning. In others, it’s left of the renters to maintain their smoke alarm so long as one is provided.

If it’s just a nuisance alarm, then it’s probably on you, the renter, to get up there and push the reset button. Check with your state and local regulations to find out what you need to do about a smoke alarm when you’re renting. 

How to Turn Your Smoke Alarm Back On

The majority of smoke alarms turn themselves back on after a short period of time. Pressing the reset button only temporarily deactivates your smoke alarm.

The only time you need to turn your smoke alarm back on is when you have taken out the battery or you’ve turned them off at the fire control panel. 

Is My Smoke Detector Radioactive? 

Your smoke detector contains a very small amount of americium-241. This is a radioactive substance. However, it is not a health threat to anyone in your home. Here’s why.

Americium-241 emits radiation in the form of alpha particles. This is a type of radiation that can be stopped by something as thin as a sheet of paper or even a layer of dead skin cells. The americium-241 housing in your smoke alarm prevents the radiation from leaving the smoke alarm. 

Your smoke alarm gets a small, low electrical current from its americium-241. This current is easily disrupted by smoke which is what triggers your smoke alarm. 

Never take your smoke alarm appart and always follow the proper disposal methods in your city or state when it’s time to upgrade. 

Stay Cool About Fire Safety and Smoke Alarms 

Nuisance alarms from your smoke detector can be set off by anything from blowing out a candle to burning some cookies in the oven. You can quickly turn off your smoke detector just by pressing the reset button or temporarily taking out the battery and older models.

Just make sure it’s actually a nuisance alarm and your smoke detectors are not giving you heads up about an actual fire. 

I've been helping homeowners with appliance repair since 2016. Starting out as an enthusiastic amateur, I've since worked with many Appliance, HVAC, and DIY experts over the last 7+ years. My mission is to help fix your appliances and prevent future issues - saving you stress, time, and money. Visit my author page to learn more! Read more