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Home > Ideas & Tips > Carbon Monoxide & Smoke Detectors Buying Guide

Carbon Monoxide & Smoke Detectors Buying Guide

Carbon Monoxide &
Smoke Detectors Buying Guide

Carbon Monoxide & Smoke Detectors Buying Guide Carbon Monoxide & Smoke Detectors Buying Guide

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 Detectors Smoke Detectors

Why do you need a smoke detector?

  • A working smoke alarm is constantly on alert, scanning the air for fire and smoke.
  • A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm is the only thing in your home that can alert you and your family to a fire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether you're awake or asleep.
  • A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.

How To Choose The Best Alarm:

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 Sensor

Ionization 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 Sensor

Photoelectric Sensor

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

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.

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Where to Install Your Alarm

  • It is important to ensure that any smoke alarm is installed away from bathrooms, heating appliances, windows and ceiling fans. If ionization smoke alarms are installed, it is recommended they be installed over 10 feet from a kitchen. If this is not possible, consider installing a photoelectric smoke alarm.
  • The smoke alarm should be installed between each sleeping area, living area, and hallways outside sleeping areas. Always install the smoke alarm in accordance with the manufacturer's installation instructions.
Installation Installation
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  • To keep your smoke alarms in full working order, it is important to test and clean your alarms regularly. To test the alarm, simply press the "test / silence" button on the side or bottom of the alarm.
  • If your alarm is battery operated, or includes emergency battery backup, it is important to replace the batteries at least once a year. All battery operated smoke alarms are required to emit a warning sound, usually an intermittent "chirp" when the battery power is low and batteries need replacement. When the warning chirp sounds, replace the batteries immediately. A good reminder is to change your smoke alarm's battery when you change your clocks each spring and fall.
  • Dust can render your smoke alarm less effective so it is important to keep alarms clean. Gently vacuum smoke alarms every six months using a soft brush. Never vacuum hardwired alarms unless the power to the alarm has been shut off. Once finished cleaning it is important to test the alarm ensuring it is in good working order.
  • Smoke alarms do wear out. Be sure to replace any alarm that is approaching 10 years old. If the alarm is not replaced it may leave your home without protection.
  • When installing, testing, and maintaining smoke alarms, make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions.


  • Smoke alarms are powered by battery or they are hardwired into the home's electrical system. If the smoke alarm is powered by battery, it runs on either a disposable 9-volt battery or a non-replaceable 10-year lithium ("long-life") battery. A backup battery is usually present on hardwired alarms and may need to be replaced.
  • Batteries are recommended to be tested weekly to ensure you are protected. Batteries should be replaced annually with the exception of 10-year "long-life" lithium batteries.

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

  • Replace the batteries at least once per year.
  • The entire smoke alarm unit should be replaced every 8-10 years.

Smoke alarm powered by a 10-year lithium (or "long life") battery

  • Since you cannot (and should not) replace the lithium battery, the entire smoke alarm unit should be replaced according to manufacturer's instructions.

Smoke alarm that is hardwired into the home's electrical system

  • The backup battery should be replaced at least once per year.
  • The entire smoke alarm unit should be replaced every 8-10 years.
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Smoke Detectors Smoke Detectors

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.


Combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector
Two-in-one protection that alerts you to carbon monoxide and smoke. These alarms are equipped with both an electrochemical sensor for accurate detection of CO, and either a photoelectric or ionization sensor for detection of smoke and fire.
Battery powered
Powered by AA, 9V or long life lithium batteries, these alarms are easy to install or replace but must be tested monthly, and batteries should be replaced every six months.
Hardwired to your home's electrical system
Hardwired detectors require some installation; but can offer interconnection features to alarm systems or other devices. All hardwired alarms also include battery backup for protection during power outages.
Plug-in to electrical outlet
Plug in alarms are ideal for areas where wall or ceiling installation would be difficult as they plug directly into any standard outlet, and many are equipped with a battery backup for protection during a power outage.
Voice alarm / smart phone connected
Voice alarms provide additional features such as a voice alert to smoke and information on where the alarm has been activated in your home.
Shop Detectors

How to Care for Your Alarm

To keep your CO alarm in good working order, follow these simple steps:

  • Test the alarm once a week by pressing the Test/Reset button
  • Vacuum the alarm cover once a month to remove accumulated dust. Use the soft brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner, and unplug the alarm from the electrical outlet before vacuuming.


• 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.

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