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Ionization vs Photoelectric Smoke Detectors What you Need to Know

by Mario Traina and Amber Traina, Owners, Allied Electric

All of us know how important it is to have working smoke detectors in our homes. Especially when living in a dry community like Prescott, where at times the fire danger warning for our area can rise to a high threat level.

Or even for the simple fact of alerting occupants of any fire in the home.

But did you know that it’s just as important to be aware of what kind of smoke detector you have? We’re talking about the differences in ionization smoke detectors compared to photoelectric smoke detectors.

Ionization smoke detectors can be found at your typical big box home improvement store and at a relatively low price. They detect fires with fast flames and are some of the most commonly used smoke detectors.

However, in a harrowing investigation conducted by reporters on the Today Show, it was discovered that ionization technology alone does not signal an alert fast enough to evacuate your home. A mother interviewed on the show shared that she had new, working ionization smoke detectors in her home. But sadly, the house caught fire, the ionization smoke detectors never went off, and her four children did not survive, due to smoke inhalation.

Scientist Dr. Russell at Texas A&M conducted his own study with firefighters setting fire to a room with three ionization smoke detectors. As the room filled with smoke and a sofa caught fire, one of the three smoke detectors finally went off. This was after 36 minutes. Russell explained that is way too late and not enough time to safely evacuate.

The solution? Photoelectric smoke detectors. This technology detects smoky smoldering fires — the deadliest kind — faster. Russell repeated this same test, this time adding a photoelectric smoke detector to the room. The photoelectric smoke detector went off after 17 minutes, and the room barely had any smoke. This gives a household enough warning to evacuate safely.

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