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Safety devices in your RV are designed to keep you and your loved ones safe should the unthinkable happen. When properly maintained, these devices are your first line of defense in the event of a fire, LP leak, or other life-threatening malfunction in your home away from home.
RV smoke detectors are designed to alert us in the event of a fire or excessive smoke throughout the rig. In this article we are going to cover the importance of properly maintaining your RV smoke alarms and find out the answer to the question, “Do RV smoke detectors expire?” and what you need to do afterwards.
Let’s jump in…
Do RV Smoke Detectors Expire?
Yes. Your RV smoke detector as well as the other electronic safety devices in your camper have a lifespan. Typically, an RV smoke alarm has an average reliable lifespan of 5 to 10 years, depending on the manufacturer. It is recommended that your RV smoke detector be replaced every 5 years for maximum effectiveness.
- When checking the expiration date of your RV smoke detectors, check the expiration date on your RV wheel chocks as well.
Why Do They Expire?
Your RV smoke detector is made with sensors that are designed to detect smoke, and in turn, alert you of possible danger. Over time, these sensors begin to degrade making them less dependable and effective.
There are two types of smoke detectors. Ionization smoke detectors and photoelectric smoke detectors.
With an ionization smoke detector, two electrically charged plates inside the smoke detector are “ionized” with a small amount of radioactive material, (very, very small amount). When smoke passes between the plates, the current is interrupted causing the alarm to sound.
On the other hand, a photelectric smoke detector sensors use a light source. The light is aimed away from the sensor and when smoke enters the sensing chamber, the light is reflected back to the sensor. As a result, the sensor is triggered and the alarm sounds.
An RV, however, typically uses what is called a dual-sensor smoke detector. These are basically both types of smoke alarms built into one unit.
As time passes, the sensors in both types, and the RV dual-sensor type, of smoke detectors begin to lose their effectiveness and reliability.
Where Do I Find The Expiration Date?
The expiration date on your RV smoke detector will be printed on the back, or side of the device. When you open the alarm to change the battery, you may notice two mounting screws. Simply remove, or loosen the mounting screws to remove the smoke detector and look on the back side to reveal the expiration date.
In some instances, you may find a small sticker on the side of your RV smoke detector with an expiration date or a “replace by” date.
Why Does My RV Smoke Detector Keep Chirping?
One of the most annoying things about an RV smoke detector is having one that endlessly chirps. However, don’t ignore this and by all means, don’t take the alarm down and throw it out the door. Your smoke detector is trying to tell you something.
RV smoke alarms can “chirp” or “beep” for a few different reasons. The first, and most common, is a low or dead battery. Another reason your RV smoke detector will chirp is because it is reaching the end of its lifespan.
Try changing the battery first. If this doesn’t stop the chirping, check the expiration date on the unit.
When you have a combo (smoke/CO) alarm, remove the device and take it outside to a well-ventilated area. If the chirping stops, your device may be detecting low levels of carbon monoxide. Make sure to get your family out of the camper, open all windows, turn off your propane tanks, and call a qualified technician to further investigate the issue.
If it doesn’t stop chirping when taken outside, it may be time to replace the unit.
- Want to learn more about propane? Check out our article RV Propane 101; Everything You Need To Know About Your RV’s Propane System
How Often To Replace Smoke Alarm Batteries
You should replace the batteries in your RV smoke detector at least two times a year. Just like in your sticks-and-bricks home, a good time to replace the batteries is every time daylight-savings time begins and ends.
When you replace the batteries, always test the unit to ensure proper operation. You should also test all of your RV safety devices before and after every trip.
How To Replace An RV Smoke Detector
When replacing your RV smoke detector, keep in mind that not just any smoke detector will work. An RV requires a dual-sensor smoke alarm. In fact, according to SAFE-T-ALERT, you should “Never install a home CO, LP, or smoke alarm in your RV. RV compliant alarms must pass additional testing for vibration, shock, extreme temperatures, high humidity, cooking fumes, and salt water spray exposure. Before replacing or installing any alarm on an RV, always verify that the alarm is marked for RV use.”
To replace your RV smoke detector, remove the cover to access the two mounting screws. Remove, or loosen the screws to detach the mounting plate. You will mount the new smoke alarm in reverse order.
Recommended RV Smoke Detectors
When choosing a replacement RV smoke detector, make sure you look for one that is labeled “for RV use”. Other factors to consider are:
- Power Source – Wired or battery operated (depending on your current setup).
- Safety Lights – Safety lights inside your RV smoke detector can help in the middle of the night.
- UL Certified
Kiddie Dual Sensor Pi9010
The Kiddie Dual Sensor Pi9010 includes both ionization and photoelectric sensors and is ideal for RV use. One great feature of this RV smoke detector is its “hush” function. This useful function temporarily silences nuisance alarms.
This smoke alarm operates with a 9-volt battery and includes a flashing red light to easily check that it is working. In addition, this RV smoke alarm meets UL requirements.
First Alert SA320CN
The First Alert SA320CN is equipped with a photoelectric sensor and an ionization sensor to provide maximum protection for your family. This device, like the Kiddie listed above, features a “mute” or “hush” function for false alarms and also contains an extremely loud 85 decibel alarm that is sure to get everyone’s attention.
The Anka AJ-730 smoke detector comes equipped with a built-in Lithium battery that takes the hassle out of changing batteries twice a year. The really cool function of this RV smoke detector is that it is equipped with an end-of-life signal to let you know when it’s time to replace it.
To reduce the number of “false alarms”, this unit has a feature that takes three separate smoke samples before sounding off.
Although RV fires are rare, they do happen. In fact, according to The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are an estimated 2,000 RV fires every year. Being diligent and maintaining your RV safety devices, including your RV smoke detector, is the best way we can all stay safe should the unthinkable occur. Before your next camping trip or road trip, make sure you check the expiration dates on your safety devices, as well as the batteries. If your RV smoke detector is expired, or nearing the expiration date, go ahead and replace it now.