I am a short person (5'1", 154 cm) with tall ceilings (15 feet, 457 cm). I have an 8-foot ladder (244 cm). On this ceiling I have a smoke detector whose battery needs to be replaced. On this model, this involves unscrewing the case, removing the D battery from the slot, sliding a new one in (properly aligned, of course), then screwing the case back on. The case lid is attached to the ceiling by several electrical wires that connect to the building's central fire alarm system.

If I stand on the very top rung of the ladder (eg. the apex, the thing you're not supposed to stand on) I can reach the alarm case just barely with my finger tips if I stretch out my hands. But I can't get a good grip on the case to open it.

I can't get a bigger ladder. The 8 ft model barely fits in the elevator as it is. I would rather not rely on bringing taller people home just to change the smoke detectors -- so is there a way for me to change these batteries?

  • Have another one installed, that you can reach, slightly lower on the wall adjacent to the present one
    – Stan
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 7:40
  • 3
    @Stan It is important to be on the ceiling for early detection.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 17:42
  • When you say unscrewing the case, do you mean spinning the smoke detector from the base that is attached to the ceiling? Kind of like how this example would be attached to the ceiling, here there are no screws to detached it from the base. google.com/… Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 20:29
  • If your alarm is an older model, you can get someone to help you this time, and replace the alarm with one that has a 10 year sealed battery. They are getting pretty common. Then you only need to install it once and not have to deal with it again for 10 years!
    – ispaany
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 21:45

5 Answers 5


As it has been stated before without truly reading your request, a specific type of ladder is your best bet along with a "reach tool." The "reach tool" for someone of your height would probably come in handy for many other tasks as well around your house. Depending on where you live, many hardware stores rent ladders for a low couple hour fee. Home Depot is a large name store that does for around $20-$25 for four hours. I have this ladder at my home and when completely folded up it is only 6ft tall and does not require the support of a wall to reach 13ft. For you being 5ft tall, this should be more than high enough for you to reach said smoke alarm.

enter image description here

The other part of this that you may need is the "reach tool". Many hardware stores sell them as well as Amazon for $15-$20. These will give you the additional three feet that you may require.

enter image description here


You may qualify for the Smoke Alarm Assistant Programs (ReAlarm)

Two different programs exist for those qualified:
SABRE - Smoke Alarm and Battery Replacement
Smoke alarms for the deaf and hearing impaired

The Smoke Alarm and Battery Replacement (SABRE) program assists seniors and people with a disability who are vulnerable in the case of a fire because they are not able to install and/or maintain their smoke alarms.

Firefighters can visit the residence at an arranged time to install a battery operated smoke alarm or replace existing smoke alarm batteries at no cost. The resident must supply the battery operated smoke alarm or batteries. Firefighters can provide home fire safety advice while visiting premises.

For further information about the program, visit www.fire.nsw.gov.au/page.php?id=306


I think this kind of ladder will be your best bet, as you can not get a tall ladder/stepladder in the lift nor are you allowed to get a ladder up on the outside of the building. (This as per deleted comments.)

The ladder is one that can be bend in 4 short sections, which can be positioned as step ladder, as a platform and as a more traditional ladder. Likely you will not have to buy it, I bet they are for rent in many places.

If this will not do the job, your best bet is to get someone in to do it for you, who can reach the alarm from the top rung of the step ladder you own. Or someone who instals the allarms and might be able to exchange the battery operated one with one that works from the mains.


If you could search for this product on your neighborhood, it would be great that you can borrow it for this purpose. I would suggest you purchase a similar one and keep it in store as you will have to face this problem frequently for other smoke detectors.

If your smoke detectors are at the center of room, of course you could confuse yourself as how to use this ladder. In that situation either you can search for any obstacle in the room that would obstruct this ladder from gliding away along with your weight or you could tighten the ladder between two floors so that it wont move even if you enter on it. enter image description here

If you are not getting one such ladder, then you could search for obstacles that are stern to keep the ladder that you have on it so that you reach the ceiling. Please do call a second person as this way does not give you much grip to hold and fully depends on your balance.

  • 1
    OP stated in prior deleted comments the alarm is not against a wall. Mods are a bit aggressive in deleting comments.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 17:41
  • @Paparazzi Thanks brother for pointing special condition, I will include this instance also in my answer Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 5:33
  • 2
    "you could tighten the ladder between two floors so that it wont move even if you enter on it.". No. No no no no no. This is a great way to get hurt very quickly.
    – user204
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 18:03

Put the ladder on a sturdy table.

You get the height of the table added.

  • 1
    @kenorb How does put the ladder on a table not answer the question? You get the height of the table added.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 17:39
  • 2
    A ladder on a table is not safe, it is always advised against.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 20:52
  • 1
    @Paparazzi, the risk of the ladder slipping from a table are much higher than slipping from the ground. The ladder can be too close to the edge on some tables and the table moving. And there is the extra risks when stepping off the step ladder onto (or off) the table. So yes, the rule is NEVER to use a ladder on a table. (But people still do and people still land in hospital because of it.)
    – Willeke
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 20:58
  • 4
    Using a ladder on a table is probably more dangerous than not having a smoke detector.
    – k-l
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 20:59
  • 1
    @KiranLinsuain A STURDY table would be more dangerous than standing on top step (what OP is currently doing)?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 21:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.