Fire Safety Week is from October 6th through the 12th, so in the spirit of the week we thought it best to give everyone more information on smoke alarms. You never know when or where a fire will start, or even what kind of fire it will be, so it is important to cover all these aspects when protecting your home. While both photoelectric and ionization alarms both have different benefits, organizations like the International Association of Fire Chiefs recommend having both types in your home or a combination alarm (Use of Residential Smoke Alarms). There is no universally accepted best alarm, but among experts it is universally agreed that a home without enough functioning alarms is under-protected.
Ionization smoke alarms function by alarming when electrically charged particles disrupt the electrical currents inside the alarm's detection chamber. While this type of alarm has a higher incidence rate of nuisance alarms, with proper placement these are largely eliminated. Because of its sensing technology, ionization alarms function better at detecting large flaming fires.
Photoelectric smoke alarms function by alarming when smoke particles block light beams inside the alarm's detection chamber. Because of this, these alarms are better at detecting large smoldering fires.
Both alarm types should provide adequate escape times, but it is better to utilize both ionization and photoelectric alarms to make sure you catch a fire as early as possible. After installing alarms throughout your home, it is also important to check and make sure your alarms are functioning. Test your alarms monthly by holding the test button on the alarm until it beeps, and make sure to replace batteries as they drain or at least yearly. Even the best alarms are useless when they can't work!
Finally, make sure to create an escape plan! Everyone in the family should know where to exit the house in case of different fire, and where to meet after leaving the building. Make sure to practice the plan every few months to make sure everyone is prepared in the event of an alarm going off!