An estimated 770,000 Honeywell Inc. smoke detectors are being recalled because of possible defects, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced yesterday. The recall comes after 18 months of negotiations between the commission and the company.

In a separate action, the Federal Trade Commission filed an administrative complaint charging that 50,000 Vanguard heat detectors made by Figgie International Inc., a Virginia company, don't live up to advertised claims.

The FTC charged that, "contrary to the claim made by the manufacturer," the Vanguard heat detectors don't provide significantly greater fire warning protection for occupants than smoke detectors alone.

Figgie officials said they couldn't comment until they had read the complaint.

CPSC Chairman Nancy Harvey Steorts told a news conference that it took "much too long" to get Honeywell to agree to a recall. "The situation should have been resolved earlier," Steorts said.

Commissioner Sam Zagoria called the delay "unconscionable."

About 40 percent of the Honeywell detectors tested by the CPSC failed to sound alarms in the presence of smoke, agency officials said. But they said there were no reports of injuries due to failure of detectors to sound warnings.

Honeywell officials did not return telephone calls placed by a reporter asking for comment on the recall of the smoke detectors, which were produced in 1977 and 1978 and sold in the United States and Canada for about $30 each.

The detectors being recalled carry the model number TC89B and TC89C and have a date code between 7601 and 7820. The model numbers and date codes are found under the smoke detector cover.

The CPSC said that Honeywell recommends that consumers check the battery and then test the detector with smoke from an extinguished.

If the detector alarm doesn't go off when smoke is present, consumers should contact Honeywell on its toll-free number, 800-328-8194, or write Honeywell Consumer Affairs, 8941 10th Avenue North, Golden Valley, Minn. 55427.

Consumers with defective Honeywell detectors will receive a replacement comparable detector made by General Electric Co. or BRK-First Alert because Honeywell no longer makes residential smoke detectors.

David Schmeltzer, director of compliance, said the CPSC first learned of a problem with Honeywell smoke detectors in January 1981 as a result of tests by the Montgomery County Fire Department.

But Honeywell insisted the product was sound, contending that any problems were due to shipping damage, Schmeltzer said.

He said it took nearly a year for the CPSC to establish through additional tests that there was a design problem in the Honeywell smoke detector's circuit board mounting and another six months to work out a recall agreement with the company.