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How Does a Smoke Detector Work?

Posted on: September 18, 2017

Have you ever wondered how a smoke detector actually detects smoke? They’re in almost every home, along walls, on ceilings—but most of us don’t even know the basics of what makes one tick! Knowing the how and why of detector systems can help you choose the ideal types and layouts to suit your home safety needs. That’s why today the Kolb Electric installation team is going to give you the rundown!

Do you have smoke detectors and alarms in your home? If not, you need to! Contact the experts at Kolb Electric today to find out more about our residential fire and smoke alarm installation service.

Did You Know There Are Different Types of Smoke Detectors?

There are actually two major types of smoke detectors that can be commonly found in many homes and or businesses: ionization detectors and photoelectric detectors. Both types are fairly effective overall, but they operate in considerably different ways that can influence which you might choose.

An ionization smoke detector carries a very small amount of a radioactive material (americium-241 to be specific) that rests in a chamber between two metal plates. These plates carry a minor electrical charge back and forth at a constant rate. When smoke drifts up and enters the open chamber it disrupts this electrical charge, which kills the current and subsequently sets off the alarm.

Photoelectric smoke detectors, sometimes called optical smoke detectors, utilize a tiny beam of light from a diode. This beam travels from the diode to the sensor chamber, and simply enough when smoke comes in it shifts the beam of light into the sensor, triggering the alarm. Think of tossing some dirt into the path of a flashlight’s beam and you’ll get the idea.

Is One Better Than the Other?

Yes and no? Neither option is bad but since they both use different technology and respond a bit differently overall, they both are better at detecting different kinds of fires. For fast, hot fires (often called “flaming fires”) an ionization detector is more effective because it is very sensitive. On the other hand the photoelectric sensor is better at detecting what are called smoldering fires.

In the end it’s best to have both types of smoke detectors, interspersed and fitted throughout the whole home. This might sound like a pain, but smoke detectors are fairly cheap overall, and far cheaper than extensive damage to your home or health.

Electrical Installation Services in Maryland

Looking for specialists that can help you install and choose the ideal smoke alarm and detector systems for your home? Our experts carry the skill and experience needed to get the job done right. Contact the team at Kolb Electric today to discuss your needs with our certified and licensed professionals!

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