Tips for Finding the Right Smoke Detector for Your Home
You do not have to experience any kind of fire or anything that causes excessive smoke in the house to understand how important smoke detectors are. People do not often take note of these small circular devices attached to the ceiling or square ones on the wall. These are devices that you probably have not touched at all, except when you needed to change the batteries. Or when you needed to check whether it was working or not.
Whether you know what they are there for or not, smoke detectors are actually life-savers. They are usually connected to a fire alarm that sets off an audible warning when triggered, or to the automatic sprinkler system if you happen to have one installed in your house. In countless instances, smoke detectors have given ample time for home or office occupants to escape before the fires could do greater damage. They have certainly saved lives.
Having a smoke detector warns a house occupant early on that something is burning and needs to be put out. Now, the saving part depends on whether or not you have the tools and equipment to put the fire out or whether your fire department is quick to respond to such an alarm. You also have to be alert enough to either try to put out the fire yourself or call the fire department immediately.
Smoke detectors are made with different kinds of sensors that detect excessive smoke when it is present and gives out the alarm, or triggers the automatic fire-control system. It is best that homeowners are able to see the difference among these different types and see how they work, before deciding on which ones to buy and install in the house. The type of sensor installed in a smoke detector may also dictate the price range, since there are sensors that have more expensive components than those of the other types.
Among the types of sensors presently used by several manufacturers of smoke detectors are the ionization type, the optic sensor – also called photo-electric sensor, the air-sampling sensor, and combination-type sensors.
A smoke detector with an ionization-type sensor uses what is called radio-isotopes that produce ionization in the air. The process is quite technical, but what this type of detector contains is ionized air molecules in a chamber inside the device. The ionized air carries electrical current and maintains that current, until something disrupts the air molecules. When the air molecules are disrupted, usually by smoke, the current drops, and an electrical circuit sound the alarm.
Ionization smoke detectors are said to be cheaper to manufacture, but the downside is that they are prone to false alarms. They sound the alarm at the slightest degree of disruption in the ionized air, even from ordinary smoke in the kitchen.
Photoelectric or optical sensors are triggered by smoke disturbing an existing beam of light inside the detector. When smoke is not present, the beam from a light source inside the device travels in a straight line to a detector, but when smoke particles enter, some of the light is scattered and triggers the electrical circuit that sounds the alarm.
Air-sampling detectors have sensors that are capable of detecting microscopic smoke particles in the air. They actually draw air into the detectorand passes it into minute pipes that lead to a laser optical device that has the capability to detect minute particles of combustion. When the laser detects the unusual content, it triggers the alarm.
Combination-type detectors use both ionization and optical sensors, as mandated by some states. Ionization detectors tend to react slower, and may not warn people inside the house or commercial buildings adequately enough to be able to make it to the exit. So fire departments and legislative bodies recommended installing photo-electric smoke detectors, or combination-type detectors.
The other feature that one may consider in a smoke detector is its gas-detection capability. Incorporated in many of the newer models are carbon-monoxide and carbon dioxide sensors that trigger an alarm when there is a high level of these gases present in the air. As stand-alone detectors, they may be useful as alarms against dangerous gases, but may not be able to detect smoke out of ordinary fires early enough. You’ll see that these wouldn’t be good fire-prevention devices if that’s what you were looking for.
It is recommended that the individual homeowner find out what possible hazards could emanate from various areas of the house before deciding on what kind of smoke detector to install. And when you think about the price, most times it becomes a trivial factor especially if you have to consider that you’re actually buying protection and peace of mind.
Having mentioned price, you might as well consider testing one of these so-called smart smoke detectors. Some of these can be turned off by waving your arm at it in case it is accidentally set off. These smart detectors also give out a preliminary warning tone that tells you there’s smoke somewhere in the house, and gives you a chance to act. Other than that, smart detectors are also connected in a wireless network, and are able to talk to each other. So if a fire occurs in the basement and you’re in the bedroom, these smart little things will still sound the alarm wherever you are in the house.
Stopping the alarm by waving however won’t work wirelessly. You’ll have to wave at the smoke detector that actually detected the presence of smoke before you could stop it. Which is, again, smart because you have to go down there and check the problem out visually.
You’ll surely have no trouble looking for the right safety device with this bunch of information about how they work and what kind of features they present. Again, the price range may be wide – ordinary detectors can cost as little as $15 per piece, while the smart smoke detector retails for an average of $130 depending on the model – but remember, you’re buying protection and safety for you and your family.