Choosing the Right Smoke Detector

Have you equipped your home with working smoke detectors? Would you be able to explain how they work? Before taking a closer look at the two types of smoke detectors, be clear that you should have at least one kind in your home. Experts at the University of Illinois explained that the average home fire allows residents only about a two-minute window during which to exit the residence. A working smoke detector has the potential of reducing the risk of dying in a fire by about 50 percent. Let’s make sure that your home is not among the roughly 20 percent of residences with improperly functioning — or disabled — smoke detectors.

What Types of Smoke Detectors are on the Market Today?

The residential smoke detector is either photoelectric or requires an ionization chamber to work. As explained by Ohio State University experts, the ionization chamber works by generating ions to which smoke molecules attach. This reduces an ever-present electric current. The alarm sounds when the current remains low for a short time. Photoelectric detectors go off when there is sufficient smoke to deflect a beam of light. Hybrid models exist that combine both types of smoke detection into one unit.

Which is Better: Photoelectric or Ionization Technology?

Having any type of functioning smoke detector is better than not having one at all. Although both types are effective, a photoelectric smoke detector shows better results when there is a smoldering fire. Ionization technology reacts quicker to fires featuring flames. Your best bet is to buy one of teach types of smoke detectors and install both according to manufacturer guidelines.

Plug-in or Battery-powered?

You are undoubtedly familiar with the smoke detector that requires one or more batteries to operate. As the battery begins to run out of the current, the alarm emits a periodic beep and perhaps flashes a warning light. Ignore the warning and the smoke detector becomes useless. The scheduled battery replacement during daylight savings time changes counteracts this common user error.

Avoid the plug-in models. Outlets are close to the ground but, as any high school physics student will tell you, smoke rises. By the time a plugged-in smoke detector chimes, you will have lost valuable time. Remember also that sometimes wall switches control certain outlets. If you flip the switch to the off position, your plugged in smoke detector is cut off from its power source.

A third option is a wired-in model. If it has a battery backup to operate during times of power failure, this may be your best bet.

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