Smoke Alarm Basics

Rum River Construction Consultants understands the importance of the life safety provisions within the code to help protect our residents and their visitors.

After reviewing the content available regarding Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms, you will be better equipped to make the right decisions for your project.

As always, if you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Blue Smoke

Ionization Smoke Alarms

Ionization smoke alarms use a small amount of radioactive substance, Americium 241, in a small chamber that senses the flow of ions. When smoke is present, the flow of ions is disrupted which sounds the alarm.

These alarms are advantageous for fast/flash type fires.

Blue Smoke

Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

Photoelectric smoke alarms apply a newer technology that uses a small beam of light that travels across a short distance. When that beam of light is disrupted, the alarm sounds. It is similar technology that is used at your garage door for the "safety eye-beams".

These alarms sense slow, smoldering fires, which are the more common type of house fire and are slightly more expensive than ionization smoke alarms.

The Best Option for My Household?

What is the difference?  About 20 - 40 minutes and $20 - $40...

The type of fire that each smoke alarm senses may impact where you put them in your household. Ionization smoke alarms recognize fast-flash fires and photoelectric smoke alarms sense slow, smoldering fires, which are the more common type of house fire.  They are slightly more expensive than ionization smoke alarms.

Back in the 1970's, a study was completed and found that an individual typically had 17 minutes to evacuate the house after the smoke alarm sounded.  This same study was recreated in the 2000's and found that now an individual has less than 3 minutes to escape! 

Why the drastic change?  The difference is not the building materials we utilize today, but what we put in our homes, such as carpeting, furnishings, clothing, and other treasures.  Many of these items use synthetic materials made with petroleum products, which in turn produce thick, black, toxic clouds of smoke when burned.

Rum River encourages you to view the following videos that illustrate this point, therefore allowing you to choose the best protection for your family and your property.  

The Dramatic Difference a Door Can Make

Explanation of the Study begins near the 1:20 mark.

Ionization vs Photoelectric Smokes

Ideally, you would have a smoke alarm that has both sensors in it, or you'd have some of each installed in your home.  However, any working smoke alarm is better than no smoke alarm.

Please keep in mind smoke alarm manufacturers require their smoke alarms to be tested weekly and they typically expire in 10 years.  Many people replace their batteries once a year, however, some manufacturers suggest you replace them every six months.  Lastly, with 10-year sealed lithium types, replace the entire alarm at the ten-year mark.