Selecting the Right Smoke Alarm for You
In addition to effective coverage, it’s important to select the right alarm type for each area. There are several types of smoke alarm, each of which is better at detecting certain fires.
The cheapest kind of smoke alarms are ionisation models, which produce a small current that is affected by smoke, triggering the alarm. These are sensitive to the tiny particles of smoke commonly produced by fast-flaming fires, which begin when flammable material like paper or wood quickly catches. Unfortunately, they’re also easily set off by burnt toast, so aren’t ideal for the kitchen. Your best bet is to place these in your loft, dining room or lounge for protection against accidental fires caused by items like candles, Christmas lights, Christmas trees or matches.
Optical or photoelectric smoke alarms are slightly more expensive and, as the name suggests, produce a beam of light that triggers the alarm when affected by smoke. These are more effective at detecting larger smoke particles produced by smouldering fires, making them better protection against fires caused by PVC wiring, chargers or cigarettes. However, they are marginally less sensitive to smoke from free-burning fires. Optical or photoelectric smoke alarms are best placed next to kitchens, in hallways and landings, and in bedrooms. Having fire alarms in a bedroom is particularly important for children and the elderly who are less likely to wake up when alarms sound.
While not strictly smoke alarms, heat sensors are useful as they detect a rapid rise in temperature. This means they’re an excellent option for the kitchen, where fat fires can rapidly burn, and as they don’t detect smoke, they are not susceptible to false alarms. Heat alarms are also useful for smokers who don’t want to set off alarms in the lounge, for rooms with open fires, or for a room that has a barbecue on a nearby patio.
You can get the best of all possible worlds, though, as combined ionisation and optical (and sometimes heat) alarms are available. They’re a particularly wise investment for those living in a smaller home with fewer rooms, or smokers keen to cover every risk in the main areas of their home.