What’s the Best Smoke Detector to Buy?

When looking for smoke detectors, you have a few options to choose from, including:

  • Ionization smoke detectors
  • Photoelectric smoke detectors
  • Dual sensor detectors with photoelectric and ionization sensors
  • Dual sensor detectors with photoelectric and heat detectors
  • Heat detectors (not technically a smoke detector, but serves a similar purpose)

Of these options, the “best” depends on where you’re placing the detector. But let’s focus on bedrooms and the hallway outside of the bedrooms. 

The best smoke detector for these areas is the dual sensor smoke detector with photoelectric and heat sensors.

Why is that the best type of smoke detector? 

Two reasons:

  1. It quickly alarms you to both slow, smoldering fires and fast, flaming fires
  2. It minimizes false alarms by not confusing various particles (humidity, dust) with smoke.

Let us explain how this work by breaking down the two sensor technologies in this type of detector:

Photoelectric sensor: Detects smoldering fires

The International Association of Fire Fighters’ (IAFF) highly recommends photoelectric smoke detectors. 


Because their sensors can quickly detect large particles found in the billowing smoke of ‘smouldering fires’, which burn very slowly without flames (like a cigarette left on a couch or bed). 

Smoldering fires are deadly because they create smoke, carbon monoxide and other poisonous gasses WITHOUT creating noticeable flames. 

In other words, if a smoldering fire develops while you’re sleeping, you could die due to smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Of course, you also need to quickly detect those fast-flame fires, too. Which is why you need a...

Heat sensor: Detects fast-flame fires

Heat detector sensors quickly detect fast flame fires. These fires rapidly consume combustible materials—cooking oil, combustible liquids (gas), paper—and spread quickly,

While the smoke from these flames could be detected by a photoelectric-only smoke detector, it wouldn't do so as quickly as a heat detector. 

That’s why, for bedrooms, you should get a detector that has both photoelectric and heat sensor technology. You get the best of both worlds and are safer because of it.

Now, let’s talk about the redheaded stepchild of the bunch: ionization smoke detectors.

Ionization smoke detectors: Don’t buy!

Even though ionization smoke detectors are in 90%-95% of homes, they’re the most unreliable smoke detector technology.

For one, they don’t detect smoldering flames quickly. This mother lost 3 of her children because her ionization smoke detectors did not go off until it was too late. 

According to this study, for smoldering fires, ionization alarms respond an average of 15 to 50 minutes slower than photoelectric alarms.  And several other several studies indicate that they will outright fail to activate up to 20-25% of the time.

Also, ionization detectors cause too many false alarms.

According to this study
“...92% of homes with ionization smoke alarms experienced nuisance alarms compared with only 11% of homes with photoelectric smoke alarms, a ratio of more than 8 to 1. After six months, 19% of the installed ionization smoke alarms had been disconnected compared to only 4% of the installed photoelectric smoke alarms.”

This false alarm issue is also why you shouldn’t get dual sensor detectors with photoelectric and ionization sensors. 

Why pair a superior technology with an inferior one that will cause false alarms?

Need a smoke detector installed in Minnesota?

Even if you get the right smoke detector, it’s only as reliable the person who installs it.

If you need a professional electrician to install the best smoke detectors in your home, contact Mr. Sparky for help.

Mister Sparky’s electricians serve Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas, including  Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater.

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