5am is not a good time to be looking for an instruction sheet. But one night in March, with the smoke detector preventing me from sleeping for over an hour, I finally decided to get up and swap the battery over.
As with all new builds in the UK, the smoke and heat detectors run off the mains electricity supply but they have a battery back-up in case of power loss. And, for reasons that I don’t know, batteries always choose the cooler night-time to decide that they are running critically low. The alarm then gives out a regular beep to alert the householder – every 23 seconds by my counting.
I got out of bed and peered up at the white plastic device in the ceiling at the top of the stairs. It wasn’t obvious how to open this one, so I searched through 3 different folders to try to find the instruction leaflet. But eventually I had to admit defeat and woke Martin to ask him to look in his file of instruction leaflets which I couldn’t find. By 6am he came up with the better idea of investigating the identical, but more accessible detector in the utility room. By standing on a chair beneath it I could clearly read the instructions embossed on the detector’s cover. If only I had done that an hour previously!
Confident that this was a straightforward task, we went back upstairs to silence the beeping detector. We unfolded the step-ladder which still lives in our unfinished bathroom and positioned it next to the banister and Martin cautiously climbed up while I held the steps. My husband is only 5 feet 8 inches tall, but even if he had been taller with exceptionally long arms, I don’t think he could have reached that detector. Defeated, we sat and puzzled how the electrician had managed to install the device so high up above the stairwell. He couldn’t have done it while the temporary mezzanine floor was still in place because that was removed while the plasterers were still here. He might have balanced precariously on the banister, but we had since hollowed it out and now had massive houseplants growing there. Before we had resolved the conundrum, we realised that the rising sun had started to shine through the east-facing windows. The extra warmth had refreshed the battery and it had finally gone silent all on its own!
Later in the day, we positioned a Wikihouse step-up upside down on the top step, added a sheet of plywood as a platform, placed the step-ladder on the plywood and had the help of a son to steady everything while one battery was removed and another inserted. Job done!
Now we just need to log how to do it, for next time, and tactfully suggest to our lovely electrician and/or architect that future instalments are placed in a slightly more accessible location!