How to buy the best smoke alarms

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Which smoke alarm should you buy – ionisation, optical or heat alarm? Find out how to choose the best smoke alarm for your home.

Good smoke detectors warn you early when there’s a real fire and give you time to escape, but shouldn’t go off every time you burn the toast.

There are three types of alarm – including two varieties of smoke alarms, and a heat alarm. Read on for more information about the different types of alarm and how to decide which is best for your home.

How much do you need to spend to buy a good smoke alarm?

According to Which? Best Buy tests of smoke alarms show that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get great value. However, you will get some extra features if you buy a pricier model, such as a 10-year battery, an emergency light or even smoke alarms that link wirelessly to each other.

What’s the best type of smoke alarm for my home?

Ionisation smoke alarms

Ionisation alarms ionise the air between two electrodes. These are positively and negatively charged, creating a small current inside the chamber. Smoke particles change the balance of the current. When this happens, a signal is sent to the integrated circuit and the alarm sounds.

These alarms are more sensitive to smaller particles of smoke produced by the flaming stage of fires than optical alarms, and more easily triggered by cooking – causing false alarms.

Pros: Can suit dustier areas, such as lofts, the area near your bathroom or rooms where people smoke.

Cons: They shouldn’t be placed too near to kitchens because of false alarms.

Optical smoke alarms

Optical (or photoelectric) alarms are light sensors. They contain an infra-red LED which, every few seconds, pulses a beam of light into the sensor chamber to check for smoke particles.

As smoke enters, the infrared light is scattered onto the photodiode light receptor, triggering an alarm. They detect the larger smoke particles from slower smouldering fires.

Pros: Good for bedrooms, landings and hallways, and near to kitchens as they aren’t as prone to false alarms from cooking.

Cons: Not so good for dusty areas, such as lofts, or steamy areas such as bathroom landings.

What are the other types of safety alarm available for the home?

Heat alarms

Heat (thermal) alarms detect heat (hot air) instead of smoke. The alarm is triggered when the temperature within the sensor chamber reaches over 58 degrees Celsius – generally when a fire is well established. You can put them in kitchens and garages because they’re not prone to false alarms from cooking or exhaust fumes. But they are slower to respond than smoke alarms .

CO Alarms

A carbon monoxide detector or CO detector is a device that detects the presence of the carbon monoxide (CO) gas in order to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

In order to ensure that your home has maximum protection, it’s important to have a CO detector on every floor, make sure they are installed at least five feet from the ground.

Flood/Water Alarm

A flood detector a device used to help prevent water damage within your home, when a leak occurs and the water comes in contact with the flood sensors, an alarm is triggered. These are best placed near washing machines or similar appliances as well as water pipes.

What battery should I put in my smoke alarm?

If you buy a battery-powered smoke alarm (rather than a mains-powered one), you’ll need to decide whether you want one with a replaceable 9-volt battery, or a ‘long-life’ or 10-year battery. The latter are pricier when you buy for the first time, but you won’t have to factor in the expense of replacement battery costs. You should replace a 9-volt battery in your smoke alarm whenever you need to, or at least annually.

What additional features do smoke alarms have?

  • Mains-powered alarms offer peace of mind, as they don’t need batteries. They do need to be installed by a qualified electrician.
  • Inter-connect ability – when one alarm goes off, all the connected detectors are activated. This can be particularly useful in a larger house.
  • Wireless devices communicate with each other and other devices without the use of connecting wires.
  • Strobes and vibration pads alert people with a hearing impairment in a fire.

CAVIUS manufacture  a wide range of fire safety products, including smoke and heat alarms. For more information on our safety products, click here.

References:

Which?

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