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Not So Smart

A couple of years back, I noticed that I couldn’t use the oven at 425° without setting off the smoke alarm. If I wanted to set the oven that high, I had to make sure that all the windows were open – and even then it was hit-and-miss. When I asked people I encountered in the laundry room or elevator about it, the most common response was: yes, it happened to them too on a regular basis.

Because the smoke alarm is situated in the hallway next to the bathroom and across from the kitchen, heat from stove sets off the alarm. In winter, opening windows became a problematic solution because it made the apartment cold; once they were closed, it seemed to never get much warmer for the rest of the evening. Since the only thing I ever baked at that temperature was frozen pizza, it wasn’t much of a sacrifice to only eat it out someplace as a treat.

Then, last spring, the stupid smoke alarm started going off in the middle of a shower. I run the water as hot as I can stand to steam out the kinks and wake up creaky joints, especially my hip. Nothing like trying to have a relaxing shower with the smoke alarm screaming blue murder. Once in a while – okay, but it became a regular thing. Having tepid showers wasn’t an option.

So I Googled. Turns out that the smoke alarm isn’t as smart as it thinks it is. Essentially motion makes the alarm sound. But it can’t tell the difference between particles of smoke or particles of heat/steam. All articles I consulted pointed out that a smoke alarm shouldn’t be situated next a bathroom or kitchen. Great (it is)! But I did manage to gather a few of useful suggestions from a forum site. (I ignored the one that is technically illegal).

  1. Remove batteries
  2. Put a pot filled with water on the stove element over the oven vent
  3. Keep the bathroom door closed
  4. Block the bathroom door with a towel to stop steam from escaping (I use the bath mat)

I was afraid that once winter arrived and the windows were closed, the steam and heat would set off the smoke alarm again. I refuse to remove the batteries. But the other troubleshooting ideas seem to be working out fine.



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