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How does a smoke detector work?

On Behalf of | Jun 28, 2021 | Firm News

One of the best forms of protection you have in a house fire is to have a working smoke detector. Early warning of a fire allows you to get away and avoid burns and other injuries.

It is a good idea that you understand how a smoke detector works. This will enable you to know if your detector is working properly and help you address any issues that may occur, such as false alarms. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are two main types of smoke detectors: photoelectric and ionization.


A photoelectric smoke detector is best at catching smoldering fires with lots of smoke. They use a light sensor technology. When the smoke enters the detector, it causes light reflections to occur that trigger the sensor.

Potential issues would be a faulty sensor or an overreactive sensor. This type of smoke detector can give false alarms if there is smoke from cooking or heavy condensation from a dryer or that which occurs in a bathroom after a hot shower.


Ionization smoke detectors work best for fires with flames. They use a radioactive material between plates charged with electricity. In normal settings, the electric current runs properly between the plates, but if there is smoke, it interrupts the flow and sets off the alarm.

Electrical flow issues could make such an alarm faulty. Again, it is susceptible to any type of disturbance that could mimic smoke and trigger the current to stop flowing.

Either type of detector is a good choice as an early warning system. The most important thing is that your home has them and that you put them on every floor and in critical areas, such as bedrooms where they can properly alert you to a fire.