Choosing Domestic Fire Alarms
We’ve outlined each type of domestic fire alarm to help guide you on the best type you can buy to protect your home.
Some detectors, as the name implies, pick up smoke particles in the air. There are two types of sensors (or both) that they could have:
1. Ionisation sensors
Ionisation smoke detectors have sensors that are sensitive to small smoke particles. These are produced by fast, flaming fires.
Fast, flaming fires spread quickly – think of chip fan fires. An ionisation detector will give you early warning of these.
Ionisation detectors are, however, are very sensitive to steam and airflow, so make sure you never position them in kitchens, washrooms or bathrooms.
2. Photoelectric sensors
Photoelectric detectors respond to large smoke particles, which are emitted by slow, smouldering fires.
These smoke detectors will quickly alert you if there’s a slow burning fires (such as fabric fires).
They’re more expensive to buy, and less sensitive to fast burning fires than ionisation smoke alarms are.
Combined detectors will use both sensors. They sometimes even have heat detector sensors in them.
You only really need heat detectors when smoke detector is unsuitable.
Smoke travels faster than heat rises, so a smoke detector will alert you of a fire sooner than a heat detector will. However, a smoke detector isn’t always suitable. Having one in dusty, dirty, or smoky rooms could lead to false alarms.
Think of your shed, attic, garage…in these rooms you’ll need a heat detector.
Carbon monoxide detectors
Carbon monoxide is colourless, odourless and tasteless. You have no way of knowing it’s there unless you have a carbon monoxide detector installed. This is why carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer.
Carbon monoxide can be emitted from heating devices if they’re poorly maintained or badly fitted. For this reason, you should ideally have a smoke detector fitted in any room that contains a fuel-burning appliance.
Positioning smoke alarms
You should have at least one smoke alarm:
- On every level of your home
- In every sleeping area
- Outside sleeping areas
In high risk areas, such as workshop. Don’t place them in areas where they could be falsely activated. You should never, for instance, but them in bathrooms or in kitchens.
Part of the hype that surrounded the Google Nest detectors was that alarms and the thermostat could be linked together.
Linking alarms means that if one alarm is activated, they will all sound. So if there’s a fire in the kitchen, you’ll know about it when you’re in the bedroom.
This is incredibly important, given than detectors don’t always wake us up (children are even more likely to sleep through them). What chance have you got when the detector isn’t even in the same room that you are in.
Many other alarms can also be linked via an interlink base. Many domestic smoke detectors are supplied with them – check when you buy. Alternatively, you can buy the base separately.