How to Adjust the Sensitivity of a Smoke Detector

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A smoke detector has the singular purpose of reacting to smoke and relaying this information to the homeowner either through a built-in alarm or the alarm of a security system it is connected to. You can adjust the sensitivity of the alarm's responsiveness to smoke due to false alarms or because of a situation in which a lower sensitivity is required. You can adjust the sensitivity of conversional home units as well as more sophisticated models. None of these procedures requires the use of specialized equipment.

Things You'll Need

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Compressed air
  • Cotton swab
  • Distilled alcohol/Lens cleaning solution
  • Phillips jeweler's screwdriver
  • Lessen the sensitivity of the smoke detector by removing it from an area of air high velocity that can trigger an alarm. Areas of high air velocity include, for example, outside a bathroom door where steam vapor can exit during a shower, or an overly close proximity to the cooking smoke coming from an oven.

  • Remove the cover from the smoke alarm by either twisting it off counterclockwise, or removing side- or front-mounted screws with a Phillips screwdriver. Locate the photo-electric sensor on the circuit board inside the detector -- the sensor has a curved metal plate that is unlike anything else on the circuit board. Clean dirt and other contaminants that have settled onto the sensor to increase the alarm's sensitivity -- this can be done by blowing a burst of compressed air at the sensor or by gently wiping the sensor with a cotton swab that has been dipped in distilled alcohol or lens cleaning solution. Replace the cover.

  • Remove the screws from the programmable smoke detector with a Phillips jeweler's screwdriver. Pull off the cover plate of the detector with your hands. Locate the addressable data card that is residing on the circuit board in the detector. Pull the card out of the socket in the circuit board. Place the tip of a flat-edged jeweler's screwdriver against the tabs on an edge of the card. Push the appropriate tabs from one side of the card to the other as per the instructions provided with the card as to changing the sensitivity of the detector's responsiveness. Place the car back into the socket on the circuit board. Place the cover back on and reattach the screws.

Tips & Warnings

  • Static electricity can damage an addressable card inside a smoke detector if you haven't grounded yourself first.

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