Fires are still among one of the most common cases of emergency interventions in households. Be it a cooking fire that went out of control or a forgotten lit-up cigarette, it is obvious that smoke detectors can save our lives, and having a smoke detecting system around your house is absolutely crucial.
There is a great number of smoke detectors to choose from nowadays. And although there are still only three basic technologies used for smoke sensors, producers use the latest smart solutions to provide additional features and create the ultimate product that will increase the safety of our homes.
There are four main types of smoke detectors: hardwired or battery operated; multifunctional (detecting more than just smoke); and those using the latest smart technologies. The most important parts of all these types are smoke sensors.
The two most common smoke sensor technologies used in smoke alarms are ionization and photoelectric. The distinction between these two is based mostly on the type of fire they are designed to detect most successfully.
Generally, it is said that ionization detectors respond best to fast-burning fires that produce a lot of flames but very little smoke. Such devices contain a very small amount of radioactive substance americium-241 to ionize air, so when smoke passes through the sensor, ionization is interrupted and electric current created between two metal plates of the ionization chamber sets the alarm off. These sensors are mostly used in kitchens, as they quickly detect fires caused by cooking or fueled by paper and flammable liquids (like cooking oil for example).
Photoelectric sensors on the other hand, tend to be better at detecting smoldering fires that generate a lot of smoke, but hardly any active flames. The smoldering stage can last for quite some time if unnoticed, and not only damage your property, but also emit toxic substances that can cause some serious harm to your health. These fires tend to occur mostly during the night, when people are asleep. Devices with photoelectric sensors can detect fire in this early stage before it bursts into flames. The technology is based on a source of light built into a light-sensitive sensor. Normally the light from the light source goes straight across and does not hit the sensor. But when smoke is present in the room, it scatters the light and makes it hit the sensor and trigger the alarm.
Naturally, there are also devices that combine these two technologies. Such dual sensors are considered the safest option, as they can detect both smoldering and flaming fires. However, many experts point out that since there are no standards of setting the individual sensor sensitivity in dual sensor alarms, so it might happen that one of the sensors might not work properly, but the device will still stay in working mode and will pass any standard inspection. For this reason, many specialists recommend placing a combination of both photoelectric and ionization sensors within your home or office to provide optimal safety system.
The best options available on the market at the moment are wireless interconnected smoke detectors. Interconnectability means that you can connect the device to your home’s electrical system. If one alarm goes off, all the connected alarms do the same, which results in quicker fire detection. Such cutting-edge devices can also communicate within the system to give you precise information on where the smoke comes from.
The wireless connection can give you even more options. Top producers offer applications that connect the detectors to your phone. In case of fire alarm, you will be alerted on your smartphone wherever you are, and have the possibility to either turn the alarms off or call for help. You will also be informed if the sensors are working properly or when the battery is low, as these smart devices test themselves automatically or/and are checked via internet up to 400 times a day. Of course, smart solutions are those more expensive ones. However, with the features they offer, it is usually well worth to invest a bit more. Check out the top models on the market today, such as Kidde PI2010 or Nest Protect Smoke Plus Carbon Monoxide, S2001BW.
In some of the devices smoke sensors are additionally paired up with a CO (carbon monoxide) detector, which makes them multifunctional. CO is a very dangerous substance, it has no smell or colour and can actually be deadly. If you have fuel-burning appliances at home, this feature might be especially important.
All in all, not only installing but maintaining smoke alarms should be a priority in every household to safeguard homes, families and ourselves.