Fix-It Chick: Is it time to replace your smoke detector?

If your electric smoke detector keeps beeping or randomly goes off for no apparent reason, it is probably time to replace it.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends replacing electric smoke detectors at least once every 10 years. Electric smoke detectors are easy to replace, as long as you can reach them and you are comfortable performing minor electrical wiring tasks.

Step 1: Begin by twisting the smoke detector to the left to remove it from its mounting bracket. Check to see if there is a battery backup in the detector. If there is, the job may be as simple as replacing the battery, if the detector is less than 10 years old.

Step 2: If there is not a battery backup, use a voltage sensor to confirm there is power running to the smoke detector.

Step 3: Turn off the power to the smoke detector using the circuit breaker or fuse in the electrical service panel.

Step 4: Use the voltage sensor to confirm there is no power running to the smoke detector.

Step 5: Untwist the wire nut on the pair of white wires. Remove the white wire attached to the smoke detector and reattach the wire nut to the remaining white wire. For added security, wrap the wire nut and wire with a small amount of electrical tape.

Step 6: Repeat the process for the black wire, making sure that the white and black wire ends are not near each other and are not touching anything.

Step 7: If a yellow or red wire is also attached to the detector, chances are good that several smoke detectors in the home are wired together. Remove the third wire from the wire nut and reattach the nut to the remaining wire.

Step 8: Take the old detector to the hardware store and purchase enough similar detectors to replace all of the electric smoke detectors in the home. If the detectors are wired together, be sure to purchase detectors that can be wired together in a series.

Step 9: Install the new detectors using new wire nuts for each pair of wires. Wrap each pair with electrical tape and carefully press the wires back into the wall or ceiling.

Step 10: Reattach each detector to the wall or ceiling, turn the power back on and test each detector by pressing the test button.

— Have a question? Email Linda Cottin at