Different Types Of Smoke Detectors In Homes

Different Types Of Smoke Detectors In Homes

Arby Babaian Alarm System, Fire Alarm Systems, Home Security Tips 2 Comments

This last week we were inspected a home that had a monitored alarm and decided to join the All About Security family.  When we did our security audit we wanted to make sure that everything was up to date. This particular home had monitored fire protection that was attached to the hardwired smoke detectors. We realized that these sensors weren’t protecting the family the proper way from fire.

Life safety sensors should be replaced every 10 years anyway. These smoke sensors were over 15 years old and hadn’t been updated. It doesn’t matter if you have a monitored alarm or not, having the right type of detection for fire and smoke is important for every household. After doing some research we wanted to make sure that we passed this important home security information along to our community.

Your home security isn’t always about having a monitored alarm or just preventing burglaries. Fire alarm system, although preffered,  don’t have to be monitored, but making sure you have the right protection is key.  Fire protection is so important in today’s homes. You don’t have to have a security system to take steps to protect the things that matter most. You may have smoke detectors in every bedroom and throughout your home but if a fire were to start would your fire alarm work.


When’s the last time you inspected your smoke detectors? You may be thinking that your  home is fine because you just replaced the batteries and tested all of them. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Did you know that over 90% of smoke detectors in homes aren’t effective as they could be for fire protection? Crazy, right?  Even if you just replace your smoke detectors and with new ones your home may be at risk.  Even though fire professionals agree that these type of life safety sensors aren’t effective the manufacturers will tell you different.  This is because they still pass state and federal regulations, but that doesn’t mean they will work. That isn’t because they are broken or need new batteries either. It also has nothing to do with a monitored alarm.  It’s not even about  your smoke detectors being old, (even though it;’s recommended to change them every 10 years). Over 90% smoke detectors  in homes don’t work properly because of the type of fire protection being used.

 Download your free guide and checklist below. Home security starts before any alarm system!

Download Free Ultimate Security Guide

There are different types of security equipment used to detect fires.  According to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)The two most common types of smoke detection are ionization and photoelectric sensors. They both work different ways. Most homes in the U.S. have been equipped with the ionization smoke detection. These are more effective for rapid flames. The problem is that fires can start in a smoldering stage. In these types of fires it can take a long time to build the flames needed for these detectors to go off. These sensors are also very inexpensive for manufactures to make and still are approved by state and federal guidelines. 

Smoke Detectors for Preventing Fires

The other type of smoke detection, the photoelectric type, are a better way to detect fires that start in the smoldering stage. These sensors use a light source rather than a small amount of radio active material that disrupts the flow of ions. When it comes to saving lives in a fire these sensors work better  for fires that don't have flames right away. This is important for life safety because smoke kills more people than flames from a fire.  If someone is in a home sleeping during the initial start of a fire the smoke inhalation can cause damage way before the traditional ionization type of smoke detector ever goes off.  Your fire alarm system is there to save lives. Having the right security equipment isn't very expensive and if you have a security system adding fire protection should be as easy as adding in a monitored smoke and heat detector

smoldering fires and smoke detectors

Even though many professional recommend using both technologies for smoke detection in homes, most homes only have the ionization type. The photoelectric sensors are more expensive and not as profitable for manufacturers. You can purchase them for only a few dollars more.  There are also dual technology sensors that use heat and smoke detection to make sure you have both types of technology, and that's what is recommended.  The International Association of Firefighters recommend using photoelectric sensor for fire prevention.  In 2008 they decided against using dual technology due to false alarms. Obviously, every home and property is different so there may be exceptions.  

How do you know if you have the right type of fire detection currently? You can't tell by looking at most smoke detectors.  To make sure your home and family is properly protected you can check each fire alarm by opening the cover. Inside of the detector the type of technology used should be stated.

 If you have a monitored alarm with fire protection that is less than 10 years old your home should have the proper protection. Most security systems that have added fire protection use both heat and smoke detection but still use photoelectric technology instead of ionization. If you aren't sure what type is used by your security provider give them a call to find out.   Security companies shouldn't take over your existing fire protection or any life safety sensors. These should always be replaced.

monitored alarms and smoke detectors

If you are interested in learning more about  security systems that have life safety sensors you can call us at 317.559.3500. One of our security consultants would be happy to answer all your questions.

 Until the next time stay safe and informed Indianapolis.



About the Author

Arby Babaian

More posts by Arby Babaian

Share this Post

Comments 2

  1. Hello! Thank you for sharing such useful information! But I have quite important question! I am going to install smoke detectors in my house and want to order them from here http://hardware.nu/ but here are a lot of different models and brands, cheap and expensive.. It is clear that i would like to get qualitative device for less price but how much money should good smoke detector cost?

    1. Hi Dan,
      There are different options with smoke detectors and that will depend on the type you decide to get. If they are hardwired or wireless, if they will be interconnected to work together, and if you want to have them work with a security system of on their own. In general, photoelectric smokes are recommended. However, a combination of ionization and photoelectric may be preferred for some areas of your home. I am not familiar with the site because there are many online vendors. I can’t tell you what is the best for your home without seeing it. Every home is different, but I would recommend using a physical location, if you have an issue customer service becomes important. As far as cost, usually a decent smoke detector will run from $35 to $70 but they can be more expensive depending on the technology and features. I have seen them for as little as $15 but I am always skeptical when something is that inexpensive. The most important thing is to make sure they work and you test them. If you don’t use the dual technology, firefighters always recommend photoelectric because of false alarms and their inability to catch a smoldering fire. A quick google search will show videos on why the normal detectors are ineffective. I hope that helps and thanks for your question and feedback!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *