Smoke Alarms – Which Ones to Choose?

Should they be ionization or photoelectric – or both?
Over the years we have learned that those with ionization sensors do react faster to flaming fires than those with photoelectric sensors.   At the same tim those that are photoelectric react faster to smoldering fires.  So obviously the fires are different when it comes to detection.
In terms of most home fires – flaming fires are the cause of the most home fire deaths.  Take a look at a youtube video from the Underwriters Laboratories that shows the difference in fire with modern furniture vs older furniture.  It is pretty interesting ( – maybe even a little scary.
You will find much information out there claiming one alarm is beter than the other, mostly from companies trying to sell their product.   Since, in reality every fire is different, perhaps we should take heed with what fire researchs and safety experts say – and that is that both types provide valuable safety to us, the consumer.  Read the white paper provided thru the government agency FEMA ( and make your own decision.
Since there is no way to know what type of fire may happen in your home and since together they provide better safety for you and your family,  the USFA recommends the following in every residence and place where people may sleep:
• Both ionization AND photoelectric smoke alarms, OR
• dual sensor smoke alarms, which contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors
At their website, you will also find more information about the proper installation of home smoke alarms (
Also check with your local fire department.  When homes change hands, one of the requirments to close on the sale is smoke detector certificate fom the fire department.  But why wait that long?  Check now and protect your family.
The whole issue of smoke alamrs is so important to the safety of the consumer that the US Fire Administration (USFA) is working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory on research as to future improvements of home smoke alarms.  Their first report on this project can be downloaded at
Remember – also important = be sure your smoke alarms are installed correctly and are in working order.  Your family’s life may depend on it.
Joan Parcewski  

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