Dual-sensor smoke detectors are more effective than single-sensor detectors because they provide an early warning for both flaming and smoldering fires. So if you’re looking for a new smoke detector, consider a dual-sensor.
What is the best type of smoke detector to install in your home? According to fire safety experts, a dual-sensor smoke alarm with ionization and photoelectric sensors is the most effective combination. Offering a single solution in detecting slow-smoldering and fast-flaming fires.
Let’s discuss each type of sensor and its features in more detail below.
How does an ionization smoke alarm work?
The ionization smoke detector is generally faster at detecting fast flaming fires that quickly produce large flames.
Fast flaming fires are often caused by combustible materials that burn rapidly, such as:
- Flammable liquid
- Cleaning products
- Cooking grease.
The ionization smoke detector is the most common type on the market. It features a small amount of radioactive material (americium-241) ionizing the air between two plates inside the sensor, which creates an electric current.
When smoke particles from a fire enter the sensor, it neutralizes this ionization, which reduces the current flow between the two plates and triggers the alarm.
The ionization detector is more prone to nuisance alarms, though, which is why it is not recommended to install in areas like kitchens, where cooking fumes are common.
Are ionization Smoke alarms safe?
According to the U.S Environmental Agency, ionization alarms are safe because it contains a minimal amount of americium-241 in the sensor.
Americium-241 is a radioactive material, but it emits alpha particles and not the more penetrating gamma rays. The amount of radiation involved is within limits set by the U.S Department of energy and is not a concern.
How does a photoelectric smoke detector work?
Photoelectric smoke alarms are designed to detect slow-burning smoldering fires, such as those caused by smoldering cigarettes, fireplace ambers, and shorts in electrical wiring.
Smoldering fires occur in things like:
Photoelectric smoke detectors use an(LED) light beam to detect smoke particles. When smoke enters the sensor, the light beam between two LEDs is interrupted, triggering the alarm.
Photoelectric detectors are less prone to nuisance alarms. However, ionization fires can also produce enough smoke to set off these types of alarms.
What is a dual-sensor smoke detector?
It’s impossible to know what type of fire you’ll be facing at any given moment.
The best smoke detector is a dual-sensor unit that uses both ionization and photoelectric sensor technology. The National Fire Alarm Association recommends choosing this type of smoke alarm.
Photoelectric detectors are better at detecting smoldering fires, while ionization detectors are designed to detect fast-burning fires. A dual-sensor alarm can better and more accurately detect and respond to potential fire threats using both methods.
This is why fire departments across the country recommend dual-sensor smoke detectors.
We install hundreds of smoke detectors for our customers every year, and the best ones that we like are the First Alert SA320CN battery-operated sensor and the First Alert BRK3120B Hard-wired sensor. You can buy both on Amazon.
Battery operated vs. hard-wired smoke detectors.
There are two options when it comes to how smoke alarms are powered.
Battery-operated smoke detectors use a battery to power the device, while hard-wired smoke alarms get their power from your home’s electrical wiring.
For most homeowners, battery-operated smoke detectors are the easiest option.
There’s the convenience of not having to make electrical modifications to your home, like running wiring to every smoke sensor.
Pros of battery-operated sensors
- They are often more affordable and can be easily placed throughout your home
- More convenient because they do not require being wired to the electrical system
- Easy to install in new or existing homes without messing with electrical wiring
Cons of Battery-operated smoke detectors
- Battery-operated smoke alarms are not interconnected, meaning that when one sensor detects a fire, the other sensors throughout the house don’t sound.
Pros of Hard-wired Smoke alarms
- Hard-wired sensors are interconnected
- When one sensor trips, all the other smoke detectors sound an alarm
- Battery backup in case you lose power
Cons of Hard-wired smoke detectors
- must be installed by a licensed electrician
- More expensive to install
- Difficult to install in existing homes
Where should you install smoke detectors in your home?
A smoke detector can’t detect a fire unless smoke enters its air chamber.
Having enough smoke detectors in your home is critical for early detection because a fire can grow out of control within a matter of minutes.
Best places to install smoke detectors
- In every bedroom in the house
- One outside every bedroom
- At least one on each floor of your house, including the basement
- Outside of the kitchen, at least ten feet from cooking appliances
- Any room in which there is an attached garage or furnace room
- The laundry room
- In any room in which there is an open fireplace
- Inside the furnace room but keep it at least five feet away from the furnace
Places where you should not install a smoke detector:
- In your bathroom because the moisture from showers could damage them and render them useless
- Attics are dusty and also very hot and cold. It’s not a good idea to use smoke alarms in the attic because of constant false alarms.
- In your garage because the exhaust from your car will set off the smoke alarm
- In your kitchen
Smoke detector maintenance is essential because it ensures your device is in good working condition, so if a fire does occur, you are properly alerted.
- Test your smoke detectors once a month
- Change the batteries once a year
- Clean your smoke detectors by using a can of compressed air to blow out the dust inside the air chamber
- Replace your smoke detectors every ten years
Keeping your family safe with the proper home fire alarm equipment is essential. Installing two types of smoke detectors – one that detects flames and another that detects smoldering fires is critical for effective detection systems.
A dual-sensor detector will pick up both flaming (fast-growing) and smoldering (slow-growing) fires by utilizing two technologies to detect different forms of smoke and flame.