Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Night of the Living Smoke Alarm

So late yesterday afternoon, the Lovely Bride called me at work and said "Will you pick up a 9-volt battery on the way home?" I dutifully did so, thought it meant risking a supermarket parking lot during a rising full moon.

It turns out when the LB got home that afternoon, there was a chirping in the upper hall. Short, sharp, metallic beeps, hard to exactly locate, but definitely in the upstairs hall. One chirp a minute or so. The hall was pretty empty, except for two smoke alarms in the ceiling. Kate had pulled the obvious unit, but it was wired into the house, and still beeping. We thought it was because the battery was dying.

So we switched batteries with the one I bought, and it was still beeping its dead-battery song. OK, the battery I purchased was for some reason dead. Lovely Bride went out and bought another battery. Came home, put it in. Still beeping.

Perplexed, we hit the web site for the smoke alarm. Under the FAQ on the site, it provided a list of what to do if you're getting the dead battery beep, including vacuuming the device and turning off all the power to the unit.

We went down the list, down to killing the power for that part of the house. Still chirping. Tripped the circuit breakers for almost ALL the house. Still chirping. We were prepared to rip it entirely from the ceiling, but we had no idea how if the power was still live. How could the smoke alarm still be getting power?

Then the Lovely Bride stopped for a moment, and decided that it had to be the OTHER smoke alarm in the hallway. The hallway is mostly empty, and it was difficult to tell where the sound was coming from. We repeated the process with the second smoke alarm. The eerie, sharp chirping continued in the darkness, mocking us.

Finally, the LB figured it out. It wasn't a smoke alarm at all, it was a warning device in the upstairs closet, where the water heater lives. THIS device was to detect if there was a leak in the hot water heater, and would ALSO chirp when its battery was weak. Since it wasn't hooked up to the house current, it would stay live (and chirping) when the rest of the house was in darkness.

All in all, the adventure took about five hours, including rebooting our Internet after we killed all the power to the house. The Lovely Bride did a lot of stomping about, trying to figure out what happened and hunting for tools, while I played with the cats in the dark.

Ahhh. Good times.

More later,