In this day & age, it is common knowledge that you need to have functioning smoke alarms in your home.  What is less known, is that not every fire is the same, nor are all smoke alarms created equal.  Because we don’t know when a fire will occur, & we don’t know what kind of fire will result, it is recommended that all homes should be protected by both kinds of smoke alarms.  Ionization & Photoelectric.

  There are two main categories of fires.

  •  Flaming fires
  •  Smoldering fires

Flaming fires account for the vast majority of house fires & about 3/4 of the fatalities caused by residential fires.  Flaming fires result from the ignition of paper, wood, liquids.  These fires produce a lot of flame, but less visible smoke.

Smoldering fires are often caused by unattended lit cigarettes that could smolder in couch cushions for a prolonged time, initially producing little flame but a large amount of smoke.  Smoldering fires may or may not transition into flaming fires.

There are two different methods that smoke alarms use to detect smoke.

  •  Ionization
  •  Photoelectric

Ionization smoke alarms are thought to recognize flaming fires faster due to these fires producing less visible, but charged particulates that interfere with the electrical current in the detectors smoke chamber.  These detectors are the most common found in homes.  They are less expensive to buy & are reliable.

The question is, are they sufficient for detecting smoldering fires?

Photoelectric smoke alarms are thought to detect smoldering fires sooner than ionization alarms.  The larger more visible particles that are produced in smoldering fires easily disrupt the detectors light beam.

It seems obvious, that with two different kinds of fire, & two different methods of detecting the resulting smoke,  the choice of installing dual-sensor (ionization & photoelectric) smoke alarms is easy.  A quick search online, showed a dual-sensor smoke alarm at $24.00 CAD.  Worth every penny.

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