FAQs: Identifying, Finding, and Buying Smoke Alarms
The descriptions on smoke alarm packaging can be confusing. We will take you through them but first and foremost, remember, choose a photoelectric smoke alarm! It is identified on the packaging by the word "Photoelectric" or the "P" symbol.
Here are the options, their descriptions and Earl Lee Warning's recommendations.
- Dual-Sensor (Photoelectric & Ionization): Not recommended. The ionization sensor will make this alarm more prone to nuisance false alarms. It isn't necessary, but if you prefer to use ionization alarms in conjunction with your photoelectric alarms, purchase separate ionization alarms and mount them next to your photoelectric alarms.
- Combination Photoelectric & Carbon Monoxide Alarm: Personal preference. We do recommend that everyone have at least one carbon monoxide alarm in the bedroom area but we suggest having at least one separate carbon monoxide alarm with a digital readout. A digital readout gives the user an indication of the type of alarm the unit is experiencing & the approximate levels of carbon monoxide present. Visit neofpa.org for more information on carbon monoxide alarms.
- Escape Light: Not recommended. Remember that smoke rises and the light on your smoke alarm will be obscured quickly in a fire. It also only covers a small area. We suggest keeping flashlights in nightstands in each bedroom to take with you as you escape a fire.
- Silence/Mute/Hush Button: Recommended. In the event of a false alarm from cooking or shower steam, pressing this button will temporarily silence the smoke alarm while you clear or fan the smoke or steam away from the alarm. It will automatically reset after several minutes. Remember, never remove the battery from your smoke alarm!
- Long Life Battery (Up to 10 years): Recommended. A long life battery (up to 10 years) may be permanently mounted in the smoke alarm and the 10 year battery is designed for the life of the alarm. You never have to remember to change the battery!
- Hardwired or AC Powered Smoke Alarms (With battery back-up): Recommended. Smoke alarms are powered by the home electrical system and have a battery back-up to keep the alarm operational during power failures. This type of installation is common in newer homes but can be retrofitted into older homes. A hardwired system must initially be installed by a qualified electrician but the homeowner can easily replace existing alarms with new photoelectric alarms and when existing alarms malfunction or reach their 10 year expiration date.
- Interconnected Smoke Alarms (Hardwired or Wireless): Recommended. With interconnected smoke alarms, when one smoke alarm sounds, all smoke alarms throughout the house also sound. With voice option, the specific location of the smoke alarm in alarm can be announced to all alarms.
- Voice Alarm (Talking): Personal preference. A voice alarm option provides a pre-programmed voice or can allow the homeowner to record their own voice that will sound in conjunction with the standard warning tone. The announcement of the specific location of the smoke alarm in alarm may also be an option. Some studies have shown that young children will awaken quicker to the sound of a voice than just the standard beeping alarm.
- Look on the front, back, or inside of the unit
- Check for the word “Photoelectric” (or the symbol “P”) or the word “Ionization” (or the symbol “i”)
- Note that any indication of the unit containing radiation indicates it is an ionization alarm.
Yes. All smoke alarms have a recommended service life of 10 years. Replace your smoke alarms at this time or sooner if they are not functioning properly. Look for the manufactured date on the back or inside the alarm.
Long Life Battery: Power may last up to 10 years with a long-life lithium battery.
Hardwired: Wired to the home 110 volt electrical service (with battery back-up)
Battery smoke alarms are readily available and can be installed by a homeowner or tenant. Hardwired alarms must be installed by a qualified electrician but can be easily replaced by the homeowner at the end of their service life or if faulty.
Photoelectric smoke alarms are available in most retail stores that sell smoke alarms.