The widespread use of smoke detectors in homes has resulted in significant reductions of injuries and deaths from house fires. However, the only smoke detector that can help you survive is the one that is properly functioning. Like all electronic devices, they can fail. The only way to be sure that your smoke alarm will work when you need it is to test it.
Alert all members of your household that you are testing the alarm first, unless you would like to use the opportunity for a fire drill. If your smoke detector is hardwired to a monitored security system, be sure to notify the security system's company that you are performing a test before you test the alarm. You don't want the fire department showing up at your door!
Have someone go to a part of the house that is as far from the smoke detector as possible when conducting a function test, to determine whether the alarm can be clearly heard at that distance. Remember, it has to be loud enough to awaken the deepest sleeper in the household.
Push and hold the test button for a few seconds. The detector should produce a loud noise. To test whether the unit will actually work in a fire, you will need a small spray can of smoke detector test aerosol. You might find this in a well-stocked hardware or home improvement store. If not, you can find it by searching the Internet. They cost only a few dollars, and one small can will last for years. Just spray some of the test material into the detector, and wait 5 to 10 seconds for a response. If the alarm sounds, you know the unit will sound in a fire. If not, you have a non-functioning smoke detector, even if it beeps when you push the button. Try changing the batteries and cleaning the detector to remove any dust that may be blocking the openings, then repeat the test procedure.
5. To turn off the alarm after testing you can hold a small, hand-held vacuum under the detector, suck out the test material, and the alarm will silence. If you only have a full-sized vacuum (the kind with wheels) use the extension tubes to reach up to the alarm and suck the test material out of your smoke detector. Newer smoke detectors may have a silence button that can silence the alarm until the residue leaves the unit. Alternatively, you can just wait for it to turn off by itself, but that wastes battery power, and the sound is very annoying.
6. Test every smoke alarm in your home every month. If you are not willing to do that, do it at least a few times a year. Always test alarms after battery changes to ensure that the device is working.