What You Need to Know About Fire and Smoke Alarms

Every home must have a fire and smoke alarm to be as protected from accidents and disasters as possible. However, there are an array of different types of detectors and depending on your needs, one may be better for you and your family over the other.

The first thing you’ll need to know is what’s inside the detectors powering them to alert you of danger. When it comes to smoke alarms, there are a few choices, according to A Safe Life:
ionized smoke detection


These detectors have a small amount of americium-241 inside an ionization chamber, which creates an electric current inside of two metal plates. This reaction creates a shrieking sound when smoke enters the chamber, altering you of danger. This type of detector can catch even tiny amounts of smoke, for example, when you’re cooking and the dish you’re preparing produces begins to smolder. They’re great to install near kitchens for this reason, however because of their sensitivity, they often go off even when danger is low. It’s important to keep them connected, even if you find them irritating. Disabling an alarm for the time being is an easy way to forget about it, leaving you at risk for fire and smoke damage.


These detectors rely on two light-sensitive sensors, which are set at 90 degree angles. These sensors reflect light onto each other, back and forth, however when smoke enters their chamber, it trips this balance, causing light to scatter and the alarm to sound. This is a good option for catching fires in their early stages, as thick, smoldering smoke will be detected. With these alarms, many people are able to sleep easier knowing that throughout the night there is something that can detect even the beginning stages of a fire.

dual sensor smoke detectors

Dual sensor

These hybrid alarms are made of both ionization and photoelectric sensors, so they’re tailored to alert you of a fire that has just begun to smolder, or one with active flames. However, as good as this sounds, these alarms don’t have a set standard for their functionality, so if one part of the alarm doesn’t work, but the other does, they’re still deemed safe. A Safe Life mentions that recently, these alarms were labeled “unacceptable” by the Association of Fire Fighters, who recommend using a photoelectric detector for the best protection.

Regardless of which option you choose, it’s important to install these devices properly so they’re working as they should. Battery powered alarms are easier to install, however, you need to make sure you’re getting battery backup in case the power drains or there is a power surge. You can also get detectors with battery backup functions, so even if you’re using a power source and that source goes out, your alarms are still active.

You should also test all current smoke and fire detectors in your home. If you aren’t sure how old they are, or suspect they may not work properly, it’s time to replace them with a new system. Make sure when you do, you’re getting enough detectors to cover your home. It’s advisable to place smoke alarms outside the bedrooms, near the kitchen, and in any recreational rooms you may have. Additionally, make sure your detectors are all the same type and the same age. This ensures that you’ll have steady and reliable coverage throughout your home.

Lastly, always test your detectors regularly. You never know when batteries go out or connection fails, so it’s smart to check in on how your devices are working every few months. If you are unsure about any installation process, which type of alarm to get, and how to best protect you and your family, contact your local home security provider for tips and advice.


Fire Marshall