Fire Alarms

Posted by: on July 18, 2014

The two most predominant types of smoke alarms in homes today are ionization and photoelectric alarms. It is important to know the difference between these two and then determine which alarm best suits your needs. You can tell which type of alarm you have by looking at the owner’s manual or looking at the back – ionization alarms will be labeled with a warning for the trace amount of Americium 241 they contain.

Ionization Alarms:


  • Cons
    Give off too many false alarms near kitchens and showers
    Slower at detecting smoldering fires


  • Pros
    Inexpensive – easy to find/procure
    More responsive to smoke and flaming fires
    Best suited for rooms that contain highly combustible items like paper and chemicals

Photoelectric Alarms:


  • Cons
    Slightly more expensive than ionization alarms
    Slower at detecting flaming fires


  • Pros
    More responsive to smoldering fires
    Best suited for rooms such as kitchens, living rooms, and bed rooms.

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Tennessee Fire Marshall’s Office strongly recommends placing alarms in all sleeping areas, corridors outside sleeping areas, and at least one alarm on every level of the home. Look for features like a missing battery indicator, alarm “hush” or “silence” for false alarms, tamper proof, hardwire/battery back-ups to make your chosen model even more effective. To get the best of both worlds install dual alarms which incorporate both ionization and photoelectric technologies into one unit.

The most important thing you can do though is to check your alarms regularly. If the battery is dead or you have forgotten to reconnect it after silencing a false alarm, you are only putting your family in danger. We see many homes each year damaged by fire, and it is always a relief to know that everyone got out safely.

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