Saturday, April 12, 2008

The beeping, stop the bleeping beeping!

Ever since about a year after we moved into this house, we've had trouble with the smoke detectors. They are hard-wired into our electrical system with a 9-volt battery backup, and they're known to start blaring out for no discernible reason whatsoever. It hasn't been a consistent problem, but always seems to happen in the middle of the freaking night - and usually it's not a weekend problem, but a Wednesday night problem where you then have to drag through Thursday at the office running on about two hours of sleep.

The last major alarm problem happened last July. At that time, I consulted with a few friends who had the same issues at one point or another and they claimed it was either a dead backup battery, or that there was dust clogging up the sensors. We got on a routine - every 3 months like clockwork we would change the batteries in each alarm, vacuum out each alarm, and then reset the whole system. I think since July we might've had one incident on a Saturday afternoon where they went off, but we managed to figure it out in about 10 minutes and the problem vanished.

Sooooo...about a week ago I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I heard something. I wasn't really sure what it was, but I settled back to sleep after lying in the bed and straining to listen in the darkness. The next morning, I remarked to Joey that we were about due for a battery change and vacuuming session so we needed to plan a night or a day to do it.

At 3:43 this morning, the alarms started blaring. So we got out the stepladders, grabbed the big Costco pack of batteries and the canned air and serviced five of the eight alarms. And as we're doing it, the stupid system keeps going off over and over. Finally, after about 15 minutes it all stopped and we crawled back into bed exhausted.

My problem with being awakened unexpectedly in the middle of the night - whatever the reason - is that I can't turn my brain off at that point. Seriously, I laid there and obsessed for about 52 minutes about the stupid smoke alarms. Finally, I drifted back to sleep...for about two minutes...and then WAH, WAH, WAH, WAH, the stupid alarms started blaring again.


So then we did the other three alarms, giving them new batteries and a quick cleaning. Things were quiet, so we went back to bed. I was just getting back to sleep and then...WAH, WAH, WAH, WAH, WAH.

At this point it was almost 6:30 so I was pretty much resigned that we weren't going to be going back to sleep. We were running all over the house trying to figure out which of the stupid alarms was triggering the rest of the system - and then realized that the little warning lights and "active" lights weren't working the same on each unit.

Great. So how do you figure out what's going on when no unit is acting the same? ARGH.

Long story short, the stupid things proceeded to go off for the next six hours at an average of every 30 minutes. I called my friend Cathy, whose husband Patrick is an electrician - and he gave me a call back and said he'd be by after work today to help us out. Joey went to Lowe's and purchased eight new smoke detectors along with 10-year lithium batteries to put in for backup, we prepped everything, and Patrick put them in. And wouldn't take more than a few beers for payment. We are so going to take them out for a nice dinner next week to thank him for doing that for us.

The interesting thing was that as I was reading through the websites for different alarm manufacturers trying to pick out what we wanted, I noticed that one manufacturer noted that if your system is continuously going off without any reason and you can't reset it, that one of the units is bad and needs replacing. I'm kind of wondering if several of ours weren't faulty or something since the stupid lights were never the same. These new ones also have a "hush" feature to prevent from "annoyance alarms" which I'm all about. Hopefully we won't have to use that feature that often though.

The biggest problem? I keep hearing those blaring alarms in my head. And I am tired to the point of wanting to just fall right over. And the dog, between the thunderstorms we had today and the stupid alarms, is a neurotic mess. Or I guess I should say more of a neurotic mess than usual.

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