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Smoke Alarm Buying Guide

Smoke alarms are one of the most useful items you can keep in your house. They can save your life and the lives of your family members (it also happens to be illegal to not to have them installed in your house or property). Smoke alarms are a must for any household, and carbon monoxide alarms are a must if you have any fuel burning appliances in your house (water heater, furnace, stove, grill, etc.). Even if you live in a house without any fuel burning appliances, it is still recommended that you install at least one CO alarm, since carbon monoxide can seep in from other sources, like the garage, or a backup generator. So, if for some reason you do not already have a smoke alarm system installed, or you are interested in upgrading, then you may be interested in reading this comprehensive smoke alarm buying guide that will tell you everything you need to know about smoke alarms.

Different Types

You may not know it, but there are actually two main types of smoke alarms out on the market. This smoke alarm buying guide is a defining and helpful way to help you make the choice of what you want installed in your home.

Ionization Smoke Alarms

These are the traditional smoke alarms used in most homes. They detect the particles released by fast, flaming fires (the types usually created by fast-burning materials like clothing or paper). They are extremely sensitive to small particles. These smoke alarms work best at detecting fires with little smoke and with a rapidly burning fuel source. If you are unsure about whether you have an ionization smoke alarm or not, you can always check by looking on the smoke alarm and seeing if there is a radioactive symbol somewhere on the alarm. Ionization smoke alarms require a bit of radioactive material for the ionization to work. However, these are bad smoke alarms to keep around a kitchen or a bathroom; the reason being that ionization smoke alarms are extremely prone to false positives. So, the smoke from a kitchen, or the steam from a bathroom is very liable to set off the smoke alarm. The best places for these smoke alarms are in stairwells, offices, and living rooms, in general, they should be kept as far away from bathrooms and kitchens as possible.

Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

These are not as popular as ionization smoke alarms, but they are slowly being introduced into homes; Queensland for example, just passed a law requiring all homes to upgrade to photoelectric smoke alarms within a year. So, you will probably start seeing more and more photoelectric smoke alarms as time goes on. The main difference between the two smoke alarms, is that photoelectric smoke alarms are better detecting fires originating from slow burning sources. Fires created from over-heated wiring or upholstery, tend to be very smoky and slow burning; photoelectric smoke alarms are better at detecting these types of fires. They are also less likely to cause false alarms, and won’t get triggered by toast or steam from a shower. You can install these fire alarms by kitchens and bathrooms; you should also install them in bedrooms, living rooms, or anywhere with a lot of fabrics and wires.

Mixed Smoke Alarms

If you cannot decide which smoke alarm system you want; then you can always get smoke alarms that combine the two. These are probably the most efficient (but also most expensive) smoke alarms you can get. But, they can also be placed anywhere and will pick up any type of fire instantly, so they definitely are worth the extra money.

Heat Alarms

These types of alarms are very uncommon, so uncommon, that many will not have heard of these types of alarms. These alarms are radically different from smoke alarms in that they respond to changes in the room’s temperature as opposed to detecting smoke. When the temperature reaches a certain point, then the alarm is triggered. The main advantage here is that they do not react to smoke, so the chances of false alarms is pretty much zero. But, because they work off temperature, they are really only suitable for installation in the kitchen. Install them anywhere else, and they are useless.

Something to note is the fact that none of these also detect CO; so make sure you get some CO alarms in addition to smoke alarms.

Features To Look For

Connection Ability

This is probably the most important feature to look for in my opinion. Setting up your smoke alarms and CO alarms so that if one goes off, all of them go off. If you live in a newer house, than chances are that the wiring has already been configured so that if one alarm goes off, all of them will go off. If you have a small home, then this probably is not high up on your list of “must have features,” but for bigger houses, with lots of people in them, it is a must have feature.

Mute Button

Sometimes smoke alarms malfunction (often because of a power outage) and the constant sound can be very annoying. Mute buttons (often called hush buttons) allow you to quickly silence a malfunctioning smoke alarm, without forcing you to disable the unit. Disabling the smoke alarm entirely is not only a hassle, but it can also be dangerous (if someone forgets to enable the smoke alarm after disabling it).

Digital CO Displays

All licenced CO monitors are set to go off once the CO levels reaches a certain threshold. But, even lower CO levels can be harmful for kids, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with heart conditions; so having the ability to physically see what the CO level is can be helpful. It is also helpful to know if your CO levels seem to be rising dangerously high.

For The Hearing Impaired

If you live with someone who is hearing impaired, you can get smoke alarms that also have strobe lights attached; so that someone who cannot hear the smoke alarm, can at least see it going off.

Voice Commands

Some smoke alarms use voice commands instead of the usual smoke alarm sounds. This is meant primarily for children and deep sleepers, since some research suggests they wake faster at the sound of voice as opposed to loud beeping sounds.

After reading this smoke alarm buying guide you should know everything that you need to get your home’s safety up to scratch.