Follow our Carbon Monoxide & Smoke Detectors Buying Guide to protect your family in case of an emergency. Choose, install, and maintain the right detectors.
Smoke Alarm Sensors
While each smoke alarm has its own unique features, perhaps the most important is the sensor. The sensor is what detects the danger and sounds the alarm in an emergency situation. There are two different types of smoke sensor:
Ionization sensors use a small amount of radioactive material to charge the air between two plates causing an electrical current to flow within the sensor. When smoke enters the chamber, it changes the flow of the current. This change is detected and activates the smoke alarm. Ionization sensors are most sensitive when detecting fast flaming fires.
Photoelectric sensors use a light source that is aimed away from the sensor in a sensing chamber. When smoke enters the chamber it reflects light onto the sensor and activates the alarm. Photoelectric sensors are most sensitive to smoky smouldering fires, and are less likely to sound false alarms for shower steam or regular cooking smoke.
Combination Ionization / Photoelectric Smoke Alarm
These alarms combine both Ionization and Photoelectric sensor types to detect both fast flaming fires and smouldering fires which cause a large amount of smoke. A combination Ionization / Photoelectric alarm gives you the benefits of both sensor technologies.
Depending on how your smoke alarm is powered (9-volt, 10-year lithium, or hardwired), you'll have to maintain it according to manufacturer's instructions. General guidelines for smoke alarm maintenance:
Smoke alarm powered by a 9-volt battery
Smoke alarm powered by a 10-year lithium (or "long life") battery
Smoke alarm that is hardwired into the home's electrical system
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless gas that can cause accidental poisoning or even death if not quickly detected. A working Carbon Monoxide Alarm will sound when the gas reaches an elevated level, alerting you and your family to the danger.
To keep your CO alarm in good working order, follow these simple steps:
• Smoke Alarms with Photoelectric Sensors are less likely to trigger nuisance alarms from hot showers, or burnt toast.
• Smoke alarms are the easiest, most cost-efficient way to alert your family to a developing fire.
• Most fire fatalities occur between 2am and 6am when most people are sleeping. The piercing sound of a smoke alarm may be your only warning to the danger.
• When installing a smoke alarm, keep the alarm away from drafts created by fans or air ducts. The moving air can blow smoke away from the sensor.
• Studies have shown children wake up to a voice smoke alarm more than a standard beeping alarm. Consider an alarm with voice features for children's bedrooms.
• Fire can spread rapidly through your home, leaving you as little as two minutes to escape safely once the alarm sounds. Smoke Alarms will alert you to the danger, making every second count.
• Smoke Alarms, like any electronic, wear out. If your smoke alarm is 10 years old or older it is time to replace with a new model.
• It is recommended that CO alarms be installed outside each sleeping area, with at least one alarm on each level of the home.
• Carbon Monoxide is NOT heavier than air. Carbon Monoxide can circulate evenly throughout a room and house. It is a myth that CO alarms must be placed low to the ground.
• Carbon Monoxide alarms with digital displays can visually show the peak level of CO in the air, which could be helpful to the Fire Department in the event of an emergency.
• Carbon Monoxide alarms should be placed on each level, of your home including the basement (15-20 feet away from the furnace of fuel burning heat source).
• Most Carbon Monoxide alarms have a life span of 5 years. If your alarm is 5 years old or older, it is time to replace with a new model.