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Differences in ionization and photoelectric smoke detectors

By Laura Halm
Published On: Oct 11 2012 05:13:08 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 12 2012 04:55:22 PM CDT

Did you know there are two types of smoke detectors? Both can save your life but they function differently. News 5 checked with firefighters and learned the most important thing is putting those smoke detectors in the right place and having the right amount.

BRISTOL, Tenn. -

Did you know there are two types of smoke detectors? Both can save your life but they function differently. Those differences have sparked a lot of conversation, even in our newsroom.

News 5 checked with firefighters on the differences and learned the biggest difference is how each smoke detector is activated.

Darrell Meares has not one, but seven smoke detectors in his home. It's his first line of defense protecting his family in case of fire. Meares says he actually has two different types of smoke detectors, one ionization, the other photoelectric. "I think it's a good to have variance between the two. That way if one doesn't go off, doesn't detect, the other one will," he said.

News 5 checked with the Bristol Tennessee Fire Department about the differences between the two. Ionization smoke detectors are the most common and detect fast or flaming fires first. "Most fires that occur in homes are fast flame type fires," said Assistant Chief Jack Spurgeon.

The other type of smoke detector is photoelectric, which detects smoldering, smoky fires first. Assistant Chief Spurgeon says one detector is simply not better than the other. "Organizations such as the International Fire Chiefs have done research to say you're better protected if you have both," he said. "Not to say ionization smoke detectors should be replaced."

The key is to put detectors in the right spot, for example one in each bedroom and one for each level of your home. Also, test and change batteries regularly. "With smoke detectors that increases your survivability greatly. I mean you're looking at about 85 percent," added Assistant Chief Spurgeon.

Having both types of smoke detectors is how Meares says he feels comfortable protecting his family. "I'd rather for my girls to get out, which is number one," he said.

Firefighters say if you decide to pick up a photoelectric smoke detector the best place to put it is in your kitchen.

News 5 looked online, and you can find dual sensor smoke detectors ranging from $20 to $70.

If you have any questions about your smoke detectors, you'll want to call your local fire department.