What is the best smoke alarm choice for my home?

This one will require a little explanation, as there are several factors that may influence your choice:

  • Internal components: Smoke alarms available in the U.S. contain two different smoke sensing technologies, ionization and photoelectric. Both are independently tested and certified to be effective at detecting smoke. However, one is better at detecting fast-flame fires (ionization) and the other is better at detecting smoldering fires (photoelectric). The State of Vermont requires all new construction (PDF) to have photoelectric smoke alarms installed. New Hampshire allows the installation of either photoelectric or ionization smoke alarms (PDF). There are devices available that use both sensing technologies, which may provide the best of both worlds. If you must choose, however, research has shown that photoelectric sensors are better for detecting common household fires and they are less susceptible to nuisance activations from cooking, steam, etc. When it comes time to replace your alarms, choose photoelectric first, or a combination unit second.
  • Battery choices: All smoke alarms are required to have a battery backup. With new battery technologies, there are now self-contained smoke alarms that offer a 10-year life expectancy without having to ever change the battery. These options offer great convenience but come at an increased cost. A 10-year battery is the best option if it works for you and your family.
  • Interconnected smoke alarms are best. In some older homes, smoke alarms were not part of the original construction, and connecting a network of smoke alarms in a house can be very expensive if a broader renovation is not already underway. New technology, again, has come to the rescue offering the ability to interconnect a home's smoke alarms through Wi-Fi. If smoke alarms are interconnected, when one sounds, they all sound. This is best for alerting residents to the alarm.
  • Alert options: There are now alarms that do more than just beep! Options include strobe lights and vibration alerts (for the hard-of-hearing), and many manufacturers offer alarms that provide a verbal alert, which has been shown to be more effective at waking children. Since half of all home fires occur between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am, this functionality may be the best option for alarms located in children's bedrooms.

Show All Answers

1. Where should smoke alarms be installed?
2. Where should Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors be installed?
3. How do I know if my alarm is working?
4. How do I know if my alarm is detecting these dangers effectively?
5. What is the best smoke alarm choice for my home?
6. What is the best Carbon Monoxide detector choice for my home?