Recent statistics show that over 90 percent of homes in North America have one or more smoke detectors. At the same time, the frequency of residential fire deaths has dropped nearly 50 percent.
However, there is a growing concern that the number of inoperable smoke detectors are on the rise, which poses a threat to all those thinking they’re living safely. Experts estimate that one in three homes have an inoperable smoke detector, which could reverse the trend of fewer fire deaths.
So, what should you be looking for when purchasing smoke detectors? Have there been any upgrades within recent years that you should look out for?
1. Type of smoke detection mechanism
If you look at the back of a smoke alarm packaging, you should find a warning about the different types of technologies used for fire alarms. The two types are Ionization alarms (“I”) that detect fast-flaming fires quicker, and photoelectric detectors (“P”) that detect smoldering fires earlier. Most consumers don’t know about the different types, and often end up buying the Ionization alarms because they are cheaper.
The big difference is that photoelectric alarms seldom trigger accidentally. Ionisation alarms will respond faster to fires that ignite quickly and release tiny smoke particles, like paper and grease fires, or those caused by arsonists. Some also come with integrated carbon monoxide detectors. Photoelectric alarms, on the other hand, respond faster to slow fire that release larger some particles, like electrical fires or those that catch upholstery or beddings.
Many manufacturers suggest that you buy both for maximum protection from multiple types of fires. You can buy them separately, or combined as dual-sensor smoke alarms, though the combo is quite expensive.
2. Degree of smoke detection required
You can easily choose the best smoke detector for each of the rooms in your house. But for more sensitive environments, like businesses, warehouses, and laboratories, you require a higher degree of smoke sensing that can only be provided by the air-sampling smoke detector.
This alarm uses a sensor in a network of pipes via which air is circulated to check whether it contains any smoke. It uses a similar concept to the ionization detectors, though it is more sensitive.
3. Power supply
Some smoke alarms are battery powered; though some can be connected to your home’s wiring system by a skilled technician. Many cases of smoke alarm failure are usually caused by drained, disconnected, or missing batteries, so mains-powered smoke alarms can give you peace of mind.
If using battery-powered alarms, remember to replace the batteries as part of your routine home maintenance, or they will begin to chirp which will likely disrupt your peace.
You can also connect your alarm to the household wiring with battery back-up so you’re protected even during power outages.
Larger houses could benefit from inter-connectability, whereby all the connected alarms are activated the instant one of the alarms goes off. Interconnected some detectors are usually linked using a wire, though newer wireless technology is available for the devices to communicate with each other, and other devices, without connecting with wires.
All in all, there haven’t been many extreme advancements in smoke detectors, but the importance to have a working one in your home remains high. As a precautionary measure, only buy smoke alarms that have passed certification by a notable testing authority.