Buying a Smoke Detector
As a consumer, you automatically consider cost, design, and quality in making purchases. When you are in the market for a smoke detector or fire alarm however, you also need to consider other factors to ensure your safety:
There are different kinds of fires and they are best detected by specific technologies. You may want to chose a device that combines more than one technology.
Make sure the smoke alarm meets fire codes and any other certification requirements established by your city, county and state. Your local fire department will know these.
Insurance policies may also require the product to be certified by an organization that tests and evaluates products, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
Reliability of the Power Source
Some detectors are battery operated, others rely on electricity. Neither will work without power, so look for a battery backup features in electrical systems and low battery reminders in battery operated models.(Longer life lithium batteries have been added to some models to extend the life of the alarm.)
Most detectors rely on audible signals. Smoke alarm products are currently available for the hearing impaired. If you are out of town frequently, you may want to consider a model that notifies someone
Buying a Smoke Detector
It is important to read the consumer packaging before you purchase your smoke alarm and to follow any User Guide or warranty once it has been purchased. The User Guide will provide information for how to properly install, operate and maintain your smoke detector and the power unit (electric or battery). Also be sure to write down the company, brand name, model number and date of purchase and keep this information in a safe place away from fire damage. Various companies have recalled smoke alarm models because the product failed to provide an alarm during a fire. The Consumer Product Safety Commission keeps track of smoke alarms and other products that have been recalled.
Several types of fire and smoke alarm technologies are available. Each is suited to particular kinds of fires:
- Metal heat detectors
- Photoelectric sensor technology relies on an electric current that produces a beam of light. Photoelectric technology is faster at detecting slow, smoldering, smoky fires.
- Ionization sensor technology contains a small amount of radioactive material encapsulated in a metal chamber. Ionization technology is faster at reacting to fast flaming fires that give off little smoke.
- Laser technology is an emerging smoke and fire detection technology. It is used in some industries and large building systems for detecting fires.