Smoke Detector Reviews
Smoke detectors are one of the essentials in any home or apartment. This inexpensive lifesaving product can detect smoke and warn a family of a fire or impending fire. It is very important to have a battery operated smoke detector in the event of loss of power, in addition to a fire. It is recommended that a battery operated smoke detector be on each floor of your home. Finding the right product to protect your family can be difficult with so many reports finding the weaknesses in this life saving device. Smoke alarms that never go off, ones that go off too frequently due to false alarms, can create a challenge in finding a good quality alarm. We have selected alarms that have been tested and proven to provide the protection your family needs.
Smoke Detector Buying Guide
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 therefor 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.
Types Of Smoke Detector
Photoelectric smoke detectors or optical smoke detectors
They are widely available, but recently smoke detectors using ionization technology and laser technology are making an introduction in the market.
Photoelectric smoke detectors can detect slow, smoldering smoke the fastest, like the thick smoke when a couch or mattress is one fire. In comparison to smoke detectors using ionization technology, photoelectric smoke detectors set off an alarm earlier on slow burning materials. It can detect smoke faster in a large area or in a room with a high ceiling or rooms subject to temperature extremes. On the other hand the ionization type smoke detector is more sensitive to flames than to smoke. It sets off an alarm faster than a photoelectric or optical beam smoke detector once it detects fire. Therefore it is best used to detect smoke from fast flaming materials like paper and wood. It is also cheaper to manufacture. Compared to photoelectric smoke detectors, it consumes less power so a small battery can power it for month and is independent of external wiring. Since ionization type smoke detectors can detect particles smaller than smoke particles, they are prone to false alarms. Ionic smoke detectors use a radioactive isotope americium-241, and rules on proper disposal vary in each region. Some European countries have banned ionic smoke detectors.
Aspirating smoke detectors (ASD)
These are lesser known compared to ionic and photoelectric smoke detectors. It is best for rapid smoke detection is crucial like in a room filled with combustible chemicals and gases, and even tobacco. Pipe networks can be constructed leading to ASDs that can easily be hidden. This works well in hotels & posh offices where smoke detectors may look aesthetically displeasing.
The National Fire Protection Agency recommend that people install combination alarms, that is, a combination of photoelectric and ionization technology. However few alarms combine both kinds of detection. Combination alarms rarely carry a built-in carbon dioxide detector. Combination alarms run on AA batteries and cost around US$23 each.
Most photoelectric smoke detectors run on AC power circuits meaning the users have to install the wirings around the house. Such smoke detectors also have a backup battery aside from the 120-volt power it needs to function. Smoke detectors should be placed where smoke isn’t supposed to be. Avoid installing them in kitchens or rooms that have steams like saunas and bathrooms to prevent false alarms. Do not install smoke and carbon dioxide detector in breezy and ventilated areas like in front of electric fans, air conditioners, windows and doors. They may pick up smoke that originated in other places or the fresh air might obscure the reading, preventing the device from setting off when it should. Install them on a high wall or in the ceiling because smoke and fire rises.
What if you have a big house and there’s a fire starting somewhere in the basement and you’re asleep in your bedroom on the third floor? Fortunately photoelectric smoke detectors can be interconnected, meaning if a smoke detector sets off in the basement, all smoke detectors in the residence would alarm. This is effective in alerting the entire family. Installation and wiring, however, requires supervision.
As maintenance, make sure to vacuum your smoke detectors monthly and test them weekly by burning a small material so it could detect smoke. As convenient as it sounds, smoke and carbon dioxide detectors do not last forever. It is best to replace smoke detectors every 10 years.
Like most devices, the store or company should allow a return policy and issue warranty when buying smoke detectors. Limited warranties range from 2-10 years and return policies are permissible up to 90 days. Smoke detectors must indicate that it has met Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Standard 217 and carbon dioxide detectors must meet UL Standard 2034. UL conducts certification training on every electrical appliance.
Smoke detectors can only alert you if there’s fire. The rest depends on the homeowner’s preparation and other fire prevention safety measures. Equip yourself with fire extinguishers and sprinklers, too, if necessary.
Photo-Electric or Optical Sensors
They 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.
These have sensors that are capable of detecting microscopic smoke particles in the air. They actually draw air into the detector and 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.
It 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.