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Tips for Selecting a Smoke Alarm

Most people are more concerned about fire, but smoke is a dangerous thing. Smoke from the recent bushfires killed an estimated 445 people — and that was outdoors! Imagine what that billowing smoke will do to you trapped inside a burning building.

This is why smoke alarms are a vital piece of equipment to have in every home and business. You need to be able to breathe and since humans start experiencing severe brain damage at only 3 minutes without oxygen, every second counts.

Check out how to pick a smoke alarm here.

Types of Smoke Alarms

Most smoke alarms use one of two main types of technology to detect fires. They’re called either ionisation or photoelectric smoke alarms.

Ionisation Fire Alarms

Ionisation alarms contain small amounts of radioactive material that react with particles released by a fire. These alarms are great for detecting hot and fast-burning fires that don’t produce a lot of smoke. However, protection can be incomplete since house fires often burn slowly and expel a lot of dangerous smoke long before the fire burns enough to set off the alarm.

Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

Photoelectric alarms use different technology to detect the exact opposite type of fire. Inside the alarm there is a photocell with a beam of light. Smoke particles drift inside and scatter the light beam, causing light to strike the photocell and the alarm to go off. This type works perfectly for smouldering fires that give off a lot of smoke.

You can also get dual-sensor alarms that combine both technologies to get the fullest protection for your home.

Best Smoke Alarm

Which type of smoke alarm is best? Most experts recommend (and many laws require) photocell smoke alarms for residential use. Since house fires are likely to smoulder for a long while before an ionisation alarm would go off, residents lose that time to escape or put out the fire to minimize damage.

Smoke Alarms vs Smoke Detectors

Though many people use these terms interchangeably, there is a key difference between smoke alarms and smoke detectors. Alarms are self-contained systems (though there can be more than one alarm in the system). Detectors are an interconnected system that is often monitored from a remote location. Alarms are often used in homes whereas detectors are typically used in commercial settings.

Smoke Alarm Features

What you should look for when buying a smoke alarm? Be sure it has the following features:

  • * Test button: to ensure it is working properly

  • * Hush button: to silence false sirens

  • * 10-year lithium battery: in cases where hard-wired alarms are not possible, make sure they have batteries rated for 10 years

  • * Interconnectability: allows a setup where all the alarms sound to alert the entire building when one alarm is set off

  • * Escape light: a handy feature to light the exit path in case of a power outage

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