Smoke Damage Cleanup Archives - Pursuit Restoration

Ionization Vs. Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

What Are The Differences?

Smoke alarms typically come in two kinds: Ionization and Photoelectric. Depending on the source of the smoke, one of the alarms gives a faster warning compared to the other. Do you know which type of smoke alarms your home is equipped with? 

Read on to learn the differences between Ionization and Photoelectric smoke alarms, and why it is recommended to have both types installed in your home. 

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Ionization Smoke Alarms

  • These type of smoke alarms respond faster to flaming fires, meaning those that produce a high amount of heat.
  • An example would be fires started when an oil wax burner tips over and ignites a comforter or bed.
  • Ionization smoke alarms work best in rooms where you have highly flammable items like paints, grease, papers or storage areas. 
  • Ionization smoke alarms have a small amount of radioactive material (Americium-241) between two electrically charged plates. When smoke enters the alarm chamber the radioactive material reacts in such a way that it triggers the alarm. 

Photelectric Smoke Alarms

  • Photoelectric smoke alarms respond faster to smoldering fires, Meaning fires that burn slowly and cause less heat.
  • One type of fire that could occur is when a cigarette falls onto a couch cushion. The slow burn of the cushion could cause significant smoke which triggers the alarm.
  • Photoelectric smoke alarms have a different mechanism for detecting smoke.  The alarm chamber has a light that is reflected onto a sensor when smoke enters the chamber, it activates the sound of the alarm. 

Why Use Both in Your Home?

  • Both types of alarms have their advantages as both types of fires occur in residential and businesses alike. 
  • If you have ionization alarms in your home you should install a separate photoelectric alarm or vice-versa. If you don’t know which type of alarm you have, check the owners manual. (typically tucked inside the alarm). It should also say on the back of the alarm. You should see “Photoelectric” or ” Ionization”, or possibly  even “P” or “I”.
  • While an Ionization alarm will eventually detect a smoldering fire, it will do it at a much slower rate than a photoelectric alarm. Thus,its recommended to use a combination of both smoke alarms. to receive the fastest warning.
  • Alternatively replace your existing alarms with a combination alarm that includes both of the technologies in one single device.
  • Make sure to have smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, including the basement, and every level of the home. 

Pursuit Restoration is here 24/7 for your fire or smoke damage restoration needs. We are available to respond to an Emergency in less than an hour. Contact us at 208-515-6503

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