Updated: Aug 27
As most homeowners know, smoke detectors are a vital part of your home's security system and help to ensure that you are alerted in the case of smoke or a fire in your home. As such, it is important to keep up with regular maintenance and to be aware of the pros and cons of different smoke detectors on the market. As we always say, safety first!
Types of Smoke Detectors
The two types of smoke detectors on the market today are photoelectric and ionization detectors. Both are effective, but they rely on different technologies and
sense the presence of smoke differently. Ionization smoke detectors contain two electrically charged plates that hold a small bit of radioactive material. These materials react to one another, resulting in ionized air that creates an electrical current between the plates. The presence of smoke from a house fire disrupts this electrical current and causes the alarm to sound. Ionization detectors are best known for their ability to detect aggressive, flaming fires.
Smoldering fires, on the other hand, are more effectively detected by photoelectric smoke detectors. These work via a beam of light and a light sensor within the
detector. The presence of smoke blocks this beam of light, alerting the sensor and thus causing the alarm to go off. Some view photoelectric detectors as a better option for homes, because most house fires start off generating smoke before progressing to the stage of a flaming fire. The absolute safest option, however, is to have both an ionization AND a photoelectric detector in all main areas and bedrooms of a home.
Battery-Powered vs. Hard-Wired Smoke Detectors
Most homes today have battery-powered detectors that have long-lasting batteries and require very little maintenance on a regular basis. These are a great, cost-effective and easy-to-install option for responsible homeowners who are vigilant about making sure that batteries are replaced as needed. Perhaps a safer option for those who want a zero-maintenance solution is hard-wired smoke detectors. These are wired directly into your home's electrical system and also contain batteries as a back-up power source in the event of a power outage in your home.
Smoke Detector Life Span(s)
A question many homeowners often ask is how often they should replace the smoke detectors in their homes. As a general rule, it's best to replace all smoke detector batteries once a year. Additionally, in order to ensure the safety of your home and its occupants, it is a good idea to fully replace all detectors every ten years. If you are unsure of the age of your smoke detectors, you can almost always find their manufacturing dates printed on the back side. Although most smoke detectors have a life of ten years, if a smoke detector is making strange sounds or has suddenly become more sensitive, it is a good idea to go ahead and replace it. It's always best to play it safe when it comes to smoke and fire precautions in your home!