WARNING: Today’s Popular Ionization Smoke Detectors Often Don’t Even Sound Their Alarms!

smoke_detector.gifThey say that Ionization smoke detectors don’t work as well as Photoelectric smoke detectors.

Who knew?

In fact, I didn’t realize there was even a difference in smoke detectors. Period. I just figured a smoke detector is a smoke detector. But no…

Tests conducted by WTHR, local fire departments, university researchers and government scientists all show that in some slow burning fires, Ionization smoke alarms do not sound at all. Source

The sad truth is… with an Ionization smoke detector, you are more likely to die of smoke inhalation in a fire than you are if you had a Photoelectric smoke detector.

Okay then, what’s the real difference between Photoelectric and Ionization smoke detectors? And how can you tell which one you have?


Ionization vs Photoelectric Smoke Detectors

News Channel 5 here in Nashville ran a special on smoke detectors last week, and talk about eye-opening!

The biggest difference between these 2 types of smoke detectors is this:

A Photo-electric smoke detector doesn’t have a "nuisance alarm" that goes off whenever you’re cooking

whereas…

An Ionization smoke detector does have a nuisance alarm that goes off whenever you’re cooking.

So if you’ve ever had the smoke detector in your home go off whenever you were cooking, then that’s your first sign that you probably have an Ionization smoke detector — which is better than no detector at all, but nowhere near as good as Photoelectric smoke detectors.

 

What To Look For

You’ll want to look for these things on the back (or on the front) of your smoke detector.

Ionization smoke detectors have…
what-to-look-for-in-ionization-smoke-detectors.jpg

  • a lower case letter "i"
  • the phrase "contains radioactive material"
  • a "fan-looking" symbol
  • typically priced between $5 to $15
  • The biggest drawback is they don’t pick up large particles of smoke as well as Photoelectric smoke detectors do. They pick up all those small particles (…like those contained in non-fire-related smoke when you’re cooking).

An Ionization smoke detector is only going to protect you from some of the kinds of fires you’re going to have in your house," he said. "If you have a smoldering fire in your house, it’s not going to do anything for you. You can have a room full of smoke where you can’t see your hand in front of your face and the things won’t make a sound." — Jay Fleming, Boston’s deputy fire chief

 

Photoelectric smoke detectors have…
what-to-look-for-in-photo-electric-smoke-detectors.jpg

  • a capital letter "P"
  • the phrase "photoelectric technology
  • makes reference to a "dual sensor"
  • typically priced between $11 to $20
  • Seeing a statement similar to this: "good for kitchens, bathrooms & living rooms" is a clue that yours is not an ionization smoke detector because Photoelectric detectors don’t have that "nuisance alarm" that typically goes off in those situations.

 

Summary

I got the impression from this news report that no one has really been talking about the fact that Ionization smoke detectors don’t always go off — even if the batteries are fresh and the detector itself is in good working order. Therein lies the tragedy.

In fact, a number of families have won lawsuits against the makers of Ionization smoke detectors simply because of the fact that the detectors did NOT go off, and lives were lost due to smoke inhalation.

Here’s yet another reason to toss the old Ionization smoke detectors in your home: After 10 years, the sensitive material inside the detector itself that recognizes radioactive materials during a fire degrades so badly that the detector must be replaced altogether.

 

Good News:

There is currently a push to create legislation by requiring that Photoelectric smoke detectors be used in new construction and be more readily available on store shelves. This effort is being led by Boston deputy fire chief Jay Fleming.

Until then, we can all do our part to switch out the Ionization smoke detectors in our homes and replace them with Photoelectric ones.

And perhaps a "random act of kindness" is in order… If you know of someone who might have an Ionization smoke detector, checking it out for them (and helping them replace it if they do) could save a life!

More About Smoke Alarms

View the complete story from News Channel 5

Article: "Detectors Leave Victims Trapped By Smoke"

See what the experts are saying

So, how do smoke detectors work & which one is best?

What You Really Need To Know About Smoke Detectors

1/3 Of Children Aged 5 To 15 Will Wake up to Home Smoke Alarms

Don’t miss
this video!… Will A Smoke Detector Wake Your Kids? If you have children, you must watch this report from NBC’s Today Show. It proves that even when kids have been trained what to do if they hear the smoke alarm, they probably won’t awake from their deep sleep in the first place.

Lynnette Walczak

I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money -- so I frequently write about "outside the box" ideas that most wouldn't think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed several years until switching gears to pursue things I was more passionate about. I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun websites).

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  • Anonymous

    Ionization smoke alarms go off about 10 seconds faster than the Photoelectric in a flaming fire. However a Photoelectric smoke alarm can go off 25 minutes or more before the Ionization in a smoldering fire. Over 74% of fatalities are caused my the smoke, not the fire or flames itself.
    Do your own research, look up on Youtube just how many places are experimenting with the two detectors.
    Look at the Texas A&M studies.
    Some of the smoke detector companies are losing in courts because of the faulty Ionization detectors.

  • http://hubpages.com/hub/Albert-Einsteins-Photoelectric-Effect photovoltaic theory

    you should be careful. ionization detectors have a slight edge on fast flaming fires, photoelectrics have a slight edge on smoldering fires.