When it comes to buying new smoke alarms for home, whether you’ve just moved, are redecorating, or simply replacing an old model, it’s helpful to select the right one. A smoke alarm which is suitable for one room may not be as reliable in another part of your house.
Of course, having any type of smoke alarm is better than none because at least it gives you some level of protection, and could still save your life.
On the other hand, a badly chosen smoke alarm may be prone to regular false alarms which will quickly get annoying, or it might not be as quick to detect certain fire types.
So here’s some help with selecting the right smoke alarm for the rooms in your home.
With steam and cooking fumes regularly present in your kitchen, the average smoke alarm is going to let the cat out of the bag every time you burn the toast. The most common choice for the kitchen is a heat alarm.
Rather than keeping an eye out for smoke, it is activated by a rise in temperature. Domestic alarms will usually raise the alarm when temperatures rise above a pre-set temperature (around 57°C), but others can be triggered by a rapid rise.
The alternative is a dual-sensor which reduces the risk of a false alarm. An optical smoke alarm combined with either a heat or carbon monoxide detector uses the two sensor types to determine whether a hazard is present.
The Bedroom and Living Rooms
Optical smoke alarms (sometimes known as photo-electric alarms) are less prone to false alarms than ionisation alarms and are quicker at detecting slow smouldering fires which produce lots of smoke. These fires are commonly caused when upholstery and other soft furnishings catch alight.
They work by effectively ‘seeing’ the smoke, as when it enters the smoke alarm it blocks an infra-red light from being fully received by a sensor.
In the rooms where you spend the most time, especially if they contain an open fireplace or gas boiler, you should have a carbon monoxide alarm too. This will alert you to the presence of ‘the silent killer’ before it reaches dangerous levels.
The Hallway and Other Rooms
Generally speaking, ionisation smoke alarms are the best to have elsewhere in your home as they react quickest to fast flaming fires which are mostly associated with paper and clothing. They work by reacting to the small particles.
Because of that, it is prone to false alarms from cooking fumes and steam, and therefore shouldn’t be placed near kitchens or bathrooms to prevent nuisance alarms, in which case an optical smoke alarm is best.
Installing Smoke Alarms
Because smoke and hot air rises, smoke alarms are most effective when installed on the ceiling, usually in the middle of the room. Particularly with heat alarms, take care not to position them directly near something which is likely to set them off, such as above the oven or hob.
With a carbon monoxide alarm, the optimum position in on the wall at head height, and at least 1-3 metres away from an appliance which could potentially be a source of the dangerous gas.
Before installing any alarm, check the provided instructions first for the manufacturer’s recommendations, and once installed, remember to regularly test that it is still working correctly.
As a minimum, you should have at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your house. However, for optimum protection, you must consider installing them additionally in the rooms where your family spend most of their time.