Replacing the Battery on a Hard-To-Reach Smoke Detector the TheoryLabs Way.





Introduction: Replacing the Battery on a Hard-To-Reach Smoke Detector the TheoryLabs Way.

WARNING: We are not smart people, and do not recommend this as a first choice of action, however we submit this instructable based on its resolute and violent effectiveness. We highly recommend reading this instructable in its entirety BEFORE deciding on whether or not it's for you. Seriously.

After three days of the sound of a mysterious and continual beeping sound resonating through our cavernous laboratory every 30 seconds. It was decided to do something MUST be done about it. Those closest to point where the sound seemed to be emanating from reported inability to sleep, as well as a slowly building rage.

Step 1: STEP 1: Assess the Problem

The single beep we heard every 30 seconds turned out to be a smoke detector who's battery needed to be changed. In most households, this would not be any more difficult than reaching up with the aid of a small step ladder, removing the unit and replacing the battery. Our ceilings however are 30 feet high, and we have no ladder that height.

Step 2: STEP 2: Find an Alternate Approach

Fortunately, we did have a small bathroom window which was a little over four feet away at about the same height. While out of arm's reach, some simple improvised tools would close the gap. We accepted early on that this would not be delicate work.

Step 3: STEP 3: Select or Fashion Tools

For our purposes, a 2x4 cut to a four foot length and a 2 pound hammer proved to do just the trick. Depending on your distance, a baseball bat, 22 caliber pistol or whaling harpoon might better serve your needs. We discussed the pistol idea, and concluded that discharging firearms indoors would set a dangerous precedent.

Step 4: STEP 4: Purchase Replacement Parts

STOP! We can't stress enough how important it is to purchase your replacement parts BEFORE you proceed. If you're like us the likelihood is that you'll stop after step 7, and while you may have solved the initial problem, you may end up creating a far more dangerous one in the long term. For this instructable, you will need an entirely new smoke detector and battery, as you will see later.

Step 5: STEP 5: Drink Beer and Watch a Movie

While someone goes out to the hardware store, we recommend having a few barley sodas and watching a movie to keep you occupied. We chose Star Wars, Episode 4. While it is not necessary to wear helmets or costumes (as we did, shown here) we find it makes the movie watching experience much more fun.

Step 6: STEP 6: Remove Old Smoke Detector From the Wall

This really is the best part. From your secure distance, use your larger tool (the 2x4 in our case) to repeatedly smash the old detector until it tears loose from the wall and goes crashing to the floor below. While striking it head-on in a jabbing fashion feels more natural, it's the downward blows that really do the trick.

Step 7: STEP 7: Disable the Old Smoke Detector

You will find that smoke detectors are not only made of some pretty sturdy stuff, it's not enough to just remove the battery to stop the godforsaken beeping. There's a capacitor inside which will slowly discharge just enough power to keep the beeping going very possibly until the end of time. This is where your second tool comes into play. Place the target on a clear hard surface, and repeatedly smash it with the two pound hammer until the beeping stops. Don't feel bad if you don't get it on the first stroke. Ours took almost five straight minutes of of non-stop violence until it succumbed. IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: It's probably a good idea to wear protective eye-wear, and wash your hands with lots of soap and warm water after this step. We found out later that there is a very small amount of radioactive material called Americum contained in most smoke alarms (it's usually just a tiny disc), and while it's nowhere near a toxic amount, it's better to be safe than sorry. As of this writing, none of the participants involved in our process has developed any new superpowers or worse as a result of our level of exposure.

Step 8: STEP 8: High Fives/Silverbacking

Congratulations! You stopped the beeping! Congratulate your accomplices with whatever customary actions are specific to your region. While a flawlessly executed 4 part handshake may look a little cooler, we went for a full armed high five (jumping optional). Other methods can include head-butting, chest pounding, or urinating on the broken pieces.

Step 9: STEP 9: Drink Beer/watch Movie

You probably won't have to repeat this step, however, our guy got sidetracked on the way home from the hardware store and we had some time to kill.

Step 10: STEP 10: Install Replacement Smoke Detector

Mount the new smoke detector within a more convenient arms reach closest to the point where the old one existed. This will prevent you from having to take such extreme measures in the future. The good news is that tonight you'll be sleeping like a baby.

Step 11: Conclusion

There you have it. Like we said earlier - not for everyone, but it our case, it certainly worked. Remember folks, when logic and science fail you, there's no match for brute force and ignorance.

Instructable by Buck AE Down & MattShaw. Photography by Kevin Rolly

TheoryLabs is a live/work space located in the Brewery Arts Complex in Downtown Los Angeles California. For the better part of a decade, TheoryLabs has been the host to a steady stream of ideas and artistic output ranging from Stunning Genius to Appalling Stupidity.



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    24 Discussions

    Hi, we have the same exact problem accept the smoke detector is on the ceiling, 8' away from the closest wall!! Did the home builder really make it so I need to rent scaffolding to maintain something you're supposed to replace batteries in twice a year??

    When the alarm sprinkler system in our office building needed updating and an inspection, I had trouble finding a professional firm, but eventually found Premier Fire Alarms on the internet, they provide 24 hour service and these guys went to the extreme to get the job done. Check out their website or call (954) 797-7692.

    I would have just made a remote battery location. Solder wires to the inside battery compartment and get a battery holder to go on the wall at the remote location.

    Are the detectors really in the best place? Inside of a massive shed, shouldn't they be somewhere else? L

    1 reply

    yes,before install them,we should chose a right palce and should check to make sure they are workable every year.

    actually - we totally have a scaffold - and it's on wheels - however at this point in time - it was completely structutally connected to something else on the other side of the lab. taunting us.....

    Well, that's good. Would have been disappointed to hear you didn't have any at all. This actually turned out to be a great solution. Very nice. Leave it up to Gigsville to come up with a solution that is destructive and efficient. :)

    The unit on the right... I remember when those were brand new. "ESL's Revolutionary New 400 series detectors" and, like capnshady said, that is connected to a security system. I wouldn't recommend disconnecting it unless you put your monitoring account on test, and you know what you're doing. Basically, if you don't know what an EOL resistor is, don't touch it.

    smoke alarms do not die of battery failure. The plaintive cry (or "beeping" as you callously put it) of the alarm is it's cry of boredom, of loneliness. Yes, they cry because they cannot bear to hang on the wall unnoticed and unused a day longer. The kind thing to do is to regularly give the alarms a chance to exercise. To alarm. Waft a cigarette under them and hear their heavenly aria; once a year is all they need.

    1 reply

    we cant because that would make a HUGE alarm ring throughout the whole campus

    HAhaha! This is a shw33t instructable not bad, youz guys are funny.

    I did something like this once, but instead of a window my method involved a 12 gauge shot gun and some slugs... what?

    RE: #7 Sorry to be a dark cloud...

    Americium (Am-241) is used in smoke detectors.
    It is an alpha emitter.

    THE US CDC says "Exposure to radioactive americium may result in increased cancer risk."

    I say, don't phuck with anything radioactive.
    Mind you it's half life is ONLY 423 years. So in 17 generations, your gonnadfs may be half as radioactive... presuming you had children following playing with Americium.

    EPA Fact Sheet -> HERE

    CDC LINK ->

    Um, that said, interesting instructable folks.

    you went a bit of an odd direction with this... I had a similar problem in the old depot (turned out the whole thing was asbestos) and the smoke alarm was out of the forkilfts reach (really i dont know how it got there myself) so I tied a slipknot with a big start loop in it and eventually hooked the archiac device (were talkin metal boxes here). I gave a sharp tug and it held another, no movement, I could swing off the infernal automaton, so enter the second round of the forklift, tie the rope to the random towing-ish bar at the back and yank the bugger down, along with a large chunk of the now decayed concrete and a massive cable, later we found it had gotten ripped clean out the side of the electrical box. turns out the thing had faulted due to dirt and age and thought there was a fire... 8lb sledghammer did the trick... (yes I did realise i could have killed at the electric box but at the time i didn't know until it was lying in a heap on the floor.)

    But you didn't do it wearing meat shorts. A little bit of disappointment has nestled its way into my being.