Photoelectric and Ionization Smoke Detectors: What’s Different?

Smoke detectors are one of the most common and effective ways to keep your home or business safe. While no one wants a fire to happen at their property, these devices can help alert anyone inside to the risk and give them a chance to call for help and get out of the building. The two most commonly used types of smoke detectors are ionization smoke detectors and photoelectric smoke detectors, but what are the differences between the two?

Photoelectric Smoke Detector

These detectors are most effective at detecting fires in the earliest stages of smoldering, says the National Fire Protection Association. In these devices, a small light is aimed internally away from a light-sensing chamber. As smoke is emitted from a slow smoldering fire and enters the alarm, it causes the light to reflect into the sensor chamber, setting off the alarm and notifying everyone in the structure that smoke has been detected and fire is likely to follow.

Ionization Smoke Detector

On the other hand, fires that are flaming up are best detected by an ionization smoke detector. Inside these units, a small amount of radioactive material is placed between a pair of electrically charged plates. These plates ionize the air, and allow electrical current to freely flow and complete a circuit. As smoke from a fire enters the detector, it begins to impact the free flow of ions and diminish the current flowing between the plates. When this occurs, the detector sounds and alerts occupants to the potentially hazardous situation.

Neither detector is better or worse than the other, but they each have specialized benefits. While both can detect smoke, you should consider using a blend of both types of detectors at your property. There is no way to predict if a fire will occur or what kind of fire it might be, so having both types of detectors in your home or business will allow you to be fully prepared for whatever might happen.

As part of the inspection process, Pristine Inspections & Testing can check your property for proper placement of smoke detectors and help ensure that your selections of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are working as effectively as possible to keep your home safe. To learn more about our services or to schedule an inspection, call us today at 217-352-3743.