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Not All Smoke Detectors Are Created Equal. Get To Know Yours.

You've heard it a hundred times: change the batteries in your smoke detector! So, have you done it yet? We won't nag you about it (though it is important), instead we'd like to ask you something you may not have heard a hundred times: do you know what kind of smoke detector you have? The answer is, for most home owners, probably not. Moreover, is it important to know? Well, yes, it is because the type of smoke detector you have, and the sensor it contains inside, detects fire differently than other smoke detectors based on the origin of the fire. And, during this time of year when the weather turns cold and fireplaces beckon family members to get cozy with a cup of hot cocoa and watch the dancing flames, you might want to know if your smoke detector, such as the one typically placed in the hallway outside of the bedrooms, is efficient at detecting the origin of a fire should a fire start outside of your fireplace.

The bloggers at give an easy rundown and a quick read on the most common types of smoke detectors found in homes and why they differ.


There are two main smoke detector types, and to recap, each has a sensor that detects smoke and fire differently, depending on the origin of the fire.

(1) Ionization Smoke Detector

The first smoke detector type, ionization alarms are generally more responsive to a flaming fire (for instance, when a lit candle tips over and ignites a curtain), according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). These alarms use “ions,” or electrically charged particles, to help detect smoke in the air.

Image source: NFPA “Reproduced from NFPA’s website, © NFPA.”

(2) Photoelectric Smoke Detector

The second type of smoke detector is photoelectric, which uses a light beam to help detect the presence of smoke. According to NFPA, these alarm types are more effective at sounding when a fire originates from a smoldering source, like a lit cigarette that falls into a couch cushion. Smoldering fires may fill a home with dangerous gases before a fire ever erupts.

Image source: NFPA “Reproduced from NFPA’s website, © NFPA.”


So, which alarm to choose? While both types of smoke detectors are designed to help detect any house fire, no matter the source, each technology has its advantages and can offer an earlier warning over the other, depending on the origin of a fire.

The challenge is that it’s impossible to predict which type of fire could erupt in your home, which is why the NFPA says the best protection is offered by having both alarm technologies in your home.

There are a couple of ways to get this done.

If your existing detectors are ionization smoke alarms, you can purchase photoelectric smoke alarms and install one next to each ionization unit. If you don’t know what type you have, check your owner’s manual. (Or, try this tip from the North Eastern Ohio Fire Prevention Association: Take the smoke alarm down and look at the back for either the word “Photoelectric” or “Ionization.” You might also see a symbol with the letter “P” or “I” on the back.)

Another option: If budget allows, consider replacing all of your existing smoke alarms with dual-sensor devices, which combine both ionization and photoelectric technologies in a single unit.


Knowing the type of smoke alarm you have is clearly an important part of fire safety, but experts also warn that, regardless of type, smoke alarms won’t protect you if they’re not working properly.

According to NFPA, an estimated 24 percent of smoke alarms failures were caused by dead batteries between 2009 to 2013.


Source: NFPA report on Smoke Alarms in US Home Fires

So, start by making sure you have the right number of smoke alarms in the right places and each alarm has fresh batteries. The NFPA recommends a smoke detector in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of your home (smoke rises, so install them high on the walls).

Read the original article at The Allstate Blog.

Read the full NFPA report on smoke alarms in US house fires.

You see now why professionals like us are so adamant about reminding the public about changing the batteries in your smoke detectors.

GenX Security has helped hundreds of customers have better fire safety at home and at business locations. We carry only the best products in the industry. Today, you can even get integrated smart smoke detectors installed that can be checked and monitored (with alerts) right from an app on your phone. This short video shows how smart smoke detectors from saved this man's pets from a house fire.

Additionally, smoke detectors have advanced to the point that they can even tell the difference between cooking smoke in the kitchen and actual, life-threatening, fire smoke. If you'd like to find out more, please contact us for a free assessment and investment quote. Giving you peace of mind is our specialty.

P.S. Change your batteries!

For our commercial customers, you'll want to stay abreast of the recent important changes for audible and visual fire and other alarms. Click to find out more:


Experience the next generation of interactive security services and solutions with GenX Security.

With custom security integration solutions come custom quotes designed for your needs. Please contact us by clicking here or calling 866-598-4369.


#firelifesafety #firealarms #smokedetectors

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