Smoke Alarm Batteries and Statistical Impossibilities

Last week we were awakened at 2am by a single shrill sounding of our smoke alarm system.  We have eleven smoke detectors in our house, hardwired, and when one goes off, they all go off.  Loud. Like a bombing raid siren, but more shrill.  This is somewhat of a problem, because you can’t figure out which alarm is the one with the problem.  We suspected, it being black fly season and all, that perhaps one of the alarms had a fly nymph in it, triggering the sensor, or that there was dust in one of the alarms.

Fifteen minutes later, we were treated to another single blast from the alarm – it’s WICKED loud.  Oscar and Griffey were furious:

Oscar: "WTF is all this noise about?"

I wanted to just hope that the problem went away, but after another single alarm at 4am, Mrs. Dynamite went down to the basement and pulled the smoke detector off the ceiling.  We didn’t have the problem again that night.

Yesterday I took the backpack Shop-Vac around and vacuumed over each of the eleven smoke detectors.   In short order, one of the detectors began giving a “dead battery” chirp – not the shrill smoke alarm warning, just the chirp.  Ok – I changed the battery (these alarms are hard wired into AC, and have battery backup), finding that the original battery, less than a year old, was some crappy no-name brand.

Then, right before we were getting ready to go to bed, another detector started chirping.   Odd – are these batteries really so consistently made that they all die on the exact same day?  Seems impossible.  Anyway, I had another backup 9v, so I changed that one too.  Everything went smoothly until 4am, when we were awakened by yet another chirping battery.

“SONOFA!” Mrs. Dynamite popped up, and went in search of it.  She was gone for twenty minutes, of course, unable to find the ninja chirping smoke detector. These things are like crickets – when you get close to them, they shut up.

Mrs. Dynamite returned with 3 smoke detectors in her hand, and almost before she hit the bed, we heard another chirp from elsewhere.  It was like a bad comedy.  We went back to sleep, and she didn’t even hear the next chirps at 5:45 am, which at this point had me almost laughing.

So here’s the question:  Why is this happening?  Is it really possible that the batteries are all dying on the same day?  Or is it possible that vacuuming the smoke detectors made them go screwy in some way? All of these detectors were replaced (ie, are brand new) last year.

Bizarre, in any case.  I changed all of the batteries today, and haven’t heard the chirps since…

-KD

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