Home Smoke Detectors

Home smoke detectors are a necessity in your home and time after time have been proven to both save lives and prevent property damage.  A fire can spread to devastating levels in minutes and the danger is increased when home occupants are sleeping and unaware of the fire in their home.  If you have children, time is even more precious because you are responsible for getting them to safety as well. 

A fire presents the obvious burning hazard but is also accompanied by toxic gases including the silent killer, carbon monoxide.  The deadly poisonous gas is a byproduct of a burning fire and since it is colourless and odourless it can go undetected until it's too late.  

There is no substitution for education and diligence when it comes to fire safety but in some cases preventing a fire is impossible.  The importance of having a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in your home can't be emphasized enough.  In North American home smoke detectors are required in dwellings by law and carbon monoxide detectors are heading that same direction. 

We'll discuss the difference between ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms and why it's important to know the difference.  It's also important to know where to locate smoke detectors in your home for maximum effectiveness and to help prevent false "nuisance" alarms.  We will also provide a list of our top picks for home smoke detectors so you can be confident you are making the right choice. 

Types of Home Smoke Detectors

There are a few important things you need to know about smoke detectors and the difference between Ionization and Photoelectric detection is an important one that could save your and your families life.  

Ionization Smoke Detectors

Ionization technology is found in most home smoke detectors and is great for detecting smoke from flaming fires.  They are also great at detecting smoke from flammable liquids like kitchen grease or oil.  The downside is that they don't detect slow burning, smouldering fires well that usually produce a lot of smoke with not much flame.  

Photoelectric Smoke Detectors

The photoelectric process is great at detecting fires that haven't reached the level of flaming and are producing smouldering smoke.  This type of fire is often found when cigarettes start upholstery on fire or in fireplaces when they aren't put out completely.  A smouldering fire can become deadly in minutes so it's equally important to detect. 

Both types of detectors are approved by UL (Underwriters Laboratories) in the USA and Canada but it's recommended that both technologies are used in the home for increased safety.  This can be done by having separate units or by using a combination smoke detector (see below) that utilizes both technologies. 

If you would like more technical information be sure to check out the National Fire Protection Association's - Ionization vs Photoelectric article on their website. 

Portable vs Hardwired Smoke Alarms

Hardwired smoke detectors are powered by the electricity in your home.  They are usually designed into the plan of your home before it is built and can not be moved without some major electrical alterations.  This type of detector is almost always found on the ceiling which is ideal for detecting smoke since heat rises. 

Portable smoke detectors are available that operate on battery power only.  They will often use a single 9-volt battery or multiple AA batteries to operate.  An industry standard with this style of detector is a low-battery alert or "chirp" so you have uninterrupted detection.  This style of detector is ideal for adding additional units to your home without the need to do a time intensive hardwire installation. 

Wireless and Remote Smoke Detectors

A remote smoke detector is a relatively new addition to the smoke detector industry and has some pretty handy features.  There are two distinct variations of remote detectors and each are quite different in how they use the latest wireless technology. 

A remote operation detector like the First Alert SA302CN Smoke and Fire Alarm can be operated with your television remote control by simply using the volume or channel buttons - no programming required.  It's a quick way to silence a false alarm and test the unit without needing to climb a ladder or stand on a chair.  

The Kidde RF-SM-DC Wireless Interconnected Smoke Alarm utilizes wireless technology to transmit and receive messages from one alarm to another.  If a fire is detected by one alarm it will wirelessly communicate to the other alarms and they will all be activated.  This feature is very useful in larger homes and buildings or where there are separated rooms like a workshop or recreational area. 

Interconnected smoke alarms could possibly be required by law in the future and are highly recommended.  Multiple unites can be installed without any need for hardwiring and will provide excellent fire protection. 

Best Home Smoke Detectors

We've compiled a list of the best home smoke detectors in each category based on safety ratings, customer reviews and overall quality and reliability of the product.  All of these alarms have passed strict regulations and are a great option for use in your home. 

  1. Interconnected
  2. Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide
  3. General Use

1.  First Alert SA501CN2 Interconnected Wireless Battery Operated Smoke Alarm 2 - Pack

This 2 pack is not only affordable it has the best of all the features in modern home smoke detectors.  It uses sensitive photoelectric technology that will detect small smouldering house fires.  With the latest in wireless technology these devices stay interconnected.  If a fire is detected by one alarm it will communicate and sound the alarm on all other connected units.

It's portable and can be placed strategically in your home and operates on AA batteries.  A 10 year warranty will add some peace of mind to this overall great product. 

Kidde RF-SM-DC Wireless Interconnect Battery-Operated Smoke Alarm

The Kidde Wireless Interconnect is battery operated so no hardwire is required during installation.  The smart touch technology allows for quickly silencing nuisance alarms. 

The wireless technology sets this unit ahead of the others.  It seamlessly communicates with other units by transmitting radio signals so you will be notified of a fire wherever any of the detectors are located. 

A 10 year limited warranty makes this a one of our top picks in home smoke detectors. 

2.  Kidde KN-COSM-BA Battery Operated Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Voice Warning

This unit from Kidde is absolutely amazing and it's reputation for being the best combination detector isn't a fluke. 

This unit features a talking alarm to save you valuable time in the event of an emergency.  It's portable and battery operated so you can place it in the ideal location and instead of two units you only need one. 

This device is UL compliant and backed by a 10 year limited warranty. 

3.  X-Sense DS51 Battery Operated Smoke and CO Alarm with Photoelectric Sensor

If you are looking for general purpose home smoke detectors this unit is a must consideration.  It features photoelectric sensing, carbon monoxide detection with unique sounding alarms.

The latest technology provides earlier warnings and simple to operate interface means less hassle for the end users. 

The extra long battery life operates on two AA batteries and is easy to install. 

Tips and Advice

After you have decided on your best option for home smoke detectors it's time to think about location.  The location is extremely important to increase safety and prevent the hassle of false alarms. 

  • An alarm should be installed on every level of your home
  • Sleeping areas should have priority followed by common living areas
  • Kitchens, bathrooms and garages should be avoided - a detector should be placed within proximity of the kitchen due to the high hazard level
  • Windows and areas that experience drafts should be avoided
  • Alarms should be placed on the ceiling or as high as possible
  • Alarms should be tested at least once a month 
  • Batteries should be replaced every year unless otherwise stated by the manufacturer
  • Home smoke detectors should be replaces every 10 years and immediately if they stop working

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