Smoke alarms come in two types - ionization and photoelectric. These two kinds of smoke alarms detect smoke particles differently, which means they detect different types of fires. To be truly safe in case of a fire, it's vital to have both types of smoke alarm installed in your home. About's Guide to Chemistry, Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D., provides an in-depth understanding of the difference between ionization and photoelectric smoke detectors.
Currently, standard smoke alarms sound an 85 dB tone to wake occupants. Researchers have found evidence that a parent's voice may be better at waking kids than smoke alarm tones. There may soon be some changes to smoke alarm design as a result of this type of research.
In addition to the type of sensor used to detect smoke, smoke alarms come with many other options.
- power supply (battery or AC current)
- interconnectivity (one alarm can trigger others)
- combination smoke/carbon monoxide detector
Dual Sensor Smoke Alarm (Both Ionization and Photoelectric)I was only able to find one model smoke alarm that uses both methods of smoke detection. This is the ideal, but because most building codes only specify the need for a smoke alarm - rather than a specific type of smoke alarm - there is very little incentive for manufacturers to offer the hybrid models.
First Alert DC Dual Sensor Remote Control Smoke Alarm - SA302CN
This model runs on a battery and is not capable of attaching to home AC current. It has a remote control to test the alarm without having to climb to the ceiling. The remote can also be used to silence false alarms.
Ionization Only Smoke AlarmKidde Smoke Detector w/Hush Button
Basic, battery-operated smoke alarm that includes a "Hush" button to silence false alarms.
Kidde Smoke Detector w/Exit Light, Ionization
Battery-operated unit lights the way when activated. Includes the "Hush" feature.
FireX 428 AC powered Smoke Detector
This unit wires into home AC current. It interconnects with up to 12 total units - allowing all to sound simultaneously when one is triggered.
Photoelectric Only Smoke AlarmPhotoelectric smoke detectors are typically more expensive than ionization only models.
First Alert DC Photoelectric Basic Smoke Alarm w/Silence Feature - SA710CN
Battery-powered model with a silencing feature for false alarms.