Dangerous flaw in smoke detectors...

While cooking in my small apartment the other day I realized a annoying design/engineering flaw in smoke detectors; they are way too sensitive.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been cooking and something overheats and gives off a little smoke and beep…beep…beep the smoke detector goes off. I then (like most people I know) unplug it or remove the battery and until you remember to plug it back in it’s worthless. I have had this happen in houses, small/big apartments and with/without a vent hood.

It seems dangerous to me to have a safety device that in its normal operation you have to deactivate it to retain your sanity. I’ve been wondering what the solution could be. Better sensors, better placement, or some sort of kitchen feature that takes in to account normal cooking smoke?

I’m sure I’m not the only who’s had this problem, any thoughts?

I would use the word annoyance, not the word dangerous.

It would be dangerous if it didn’t detect that small bit of smoke.

Plus most of the time you can just hit the reset button to turn it off or mute it.

Never had an issue with it unless I was burning toast…

Thanks for the post Cyberdemon, I think you have pointed out the problem. I feel a bit like an idiot for not knowing you can mute the alarm, but in my defense I’ve never had to install a smoke detector and have never had a manual on hand to read. Also the only response I have ever seen to a beeping alarm is people yanking out the battery.

So I guess one design solution would be to instead of having the words “push to hush” in 6pt font in the same color as the background about 2 feet over your head, they should be made visible to the human eye.

I agree. My silly roommate thought it would be a great idea to put the smoke detector in the kitchen. To no avail it went off every single time you used the oven. So now I don’t even know where it is.
We of course could simply move it to the living room. But what if the place is small as most are. Then you are screwed.

dubya: I have the same problem. Hoodzy: Mine is in the kitchen too:(

The mute works…sometimes. Often if I have burnt my food enough, I have to keep smacking the alarm for 5 minutes until the air clears.

solution… don’t burn your food :wink:

We too banned our smoke detectors on the cause of to many false alarms. One time that damned
thing in my (then) home office went off at 5.30h in the morning. Can you imagine how it is to get
awake like that? I stood upright in bed, armed myself with an extinguisher and had to realize that
simply some morning fog had gathered in the room, as I left two small side windows open during that
summer night.

As this was the third or fourth false alarm in a row the smoke detectors landed in the basement.

It would be really great to have a device, that is clever enough to detect fire, not polluted air, so
that it would work in the kitchen, too.


Hell, if it weren’t for the smoke detector, my wife wouldn’t know when dinner is ready… … . barrr-ump-bump.

This past November I was working night-shift at Diablo Nuclear Power Plant, Avila Beach, California, at 02:30 hrs.


  • 900 office workers, in a six story administration building … two idiots are cooking microwave popcorn in a break-room and leave the microwave unattended …

  • the popcorn bag overheats and starts smoking …

  • the smoke detector in the break-room trips, and activates the FIRE alarm …

  • which simultaneously trips ALL of the other fire alarms in the admin building causing the aforementioned 900 individuals to immediately evacuate to the parking lots (it was raining furiously at the time) …

  • in addition the fire alarms in the main Power Block (where the reactor and turbines are located) are simultaneously tripped (causing operating engineering response teams be pulled from their primary activities and preemptively don SCBA in preparation for emergency fire-fighting duties ) …

  • the on-site fire department responds … the cause of the trip is determined (the alarm positions are coded) …
    the buildings are “cleared” and everyone goes back to work.

Elapsed time: 1 hr. 15 min. x 2,100 (the lost time of the 900 office workers + the 1,200 contract workers who were cleared from their project job-sites in the Power Block); 2,625 production hours. 2,000 hours = 1 man-year.

It happened, again, on day-shift two weeks later.

We have procedures so we don’t have to use our brains, which are allegedly expensive.

Also, what sort of idiot doesn’t know how to pop popcorn?! :astonished:

We have procedures so we don’t have to use our brains…

Like the one posted in the break-room, “Do Not Leave Microwave Unattended

But those rules and procedures never apply to “me”.

Reminds me of when my dad wanted to warm his coffee for 90 seconds. He forgot about it…and also had punched in 90 minutes instead. No coffee left in the cup, but a nice layer all over the inside of the microwave!

Thinking of which…why doesn’t someone make a microwave or a stove that clicks off if a certain level of smoke is detected? Also, why does a microwave allow itself to be programmed for 90 minutes. Shouldn’t there be a max?

Haven’t your read the poem the charge of the microwave brigade?

Ours is not to wonder why, ours is just to cook or die…

I think the unlimited cook-time is a marketing hold over from the “early” days of micro-wavery when everyone thought they were going to be doing the Thanksgiving turkey by microwave.

Personally, at out house, the microwave is relegated to heating frozen souffles, sauces, coffee, etc. We even quit micro-waving potatoes … it totally destroys the texture, and the flavor just isn’t the same. And pop-corn? The same, back to the good old days … a cast iron skillet, a bit of bacon fat, and stand there and shake it on the burner !!! Baby O!

I have smoke detectors specifically made for kitchens and the MICROWAVE set it off, once - not from burning, either. ???
It does have a 5m or so “ignore” feature but it makes an obnoxiously loud periodic chirp when this is activated.

When I Bar-b-q and have the windows open if the wind is blowing right the smoke detector goes off. One time I heard it go off and went in to shout it down and couldn’t find my sons… My four year old had gotten his 2 year old brother and led him out the front door to stand in our “family fire gathering spot”

I would rather have it be an annoyance and go off then like someone else stated not go off.

Plus… would you sue a company if it did go off and there was no fire or would you sue if it didnt go off and someone loss their life…

That is a major factor controlling the sensitivity.