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Smoke Alarms

Install Both Kinds of Smoke Detectors

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Updated January 24, 2014

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
Below is a list of recommended smoke alarms.

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.
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Ionization Only Smoke Alarm

Kidde Smoke Detector w/Hush Button
Basic, battery-operated smoke alarm that includes a "Hush" button to silence false alarms.
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Kidde Smoke Detector w/Exit Light, Ionization
Battery-operated unit lights the way when activated. Includes the "Hush" feature.
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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.
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Photoelectric Only Smoke Alarm

Photoelectric 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.
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Combination Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

See Carbon Monoxide Detectors for information on combination units. Combination units almost always use ionization sensors.

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