Ionization and Photoelectric Sensing Technologies

Smoke alarms save lives. Because no one can know when a fire will occur or what type of fire they will have in their home, virtually every recognized fire authority and safety expert – including the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) - recommend having both photoelectric and ionization alarms for optimal protection against flaming and smoldering fires. Kidde supports and states this recommendation on its packaging, website and in its owner's manuals. Kidde offers photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms as well as a dual-sensor alarm that combines both technologies in one unit, all of which meet the current UL standard for smoke alarms and can be purchased nationwide at retailers or online.
 

WHAT FIRE EXPERTS ARE SAYING

United States Fire Administration:

Because both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms are better at detecting distinctly different yet potentially fatal fires, and because homeowners cannot predict what type of fire might start in a home, the USFA recommends the installation of both ionization and photoelectric or dual sensor alarms. (usfa.dhs.gov, May 2008)

The International Association of Fire Chiefs:

Since it cannot be predicted what type of fire will start in a home, it is important that both smoldering and flaming fires are detected as quickly as possible. The best protection is to have both types of smoke alarms installed, or install dual sensing technology smoke alarms that incorporate both ionization/photoelectric sensors. (IAFC “Smoke Alarms – Ionization and Photoelectric Technology” Position Paper, April 2008)

National Fire Protection Association:

Smoke alarms using either ionization or photoelectric smoke detection technologies, installed per NFPA 72-2007, are generally providing acceptable response to smoldering fires. More tests are needed regarding photoelectric alarm’s response in flaming scenarios. (“Smoke Technology Report,” NFPA 72 Task Group, February 2008)

National Association of State Fire Marshals:

As you know, because of the differences in how the different smoke alarm sensing technologies react to different types of fires, NASFM’s Smoke Alarms Guidance Document recommends that homes be protected by both ionization and photoelectric sensor technology, either as separate smoke alarm units both installed in a residence, or as dual sensor units. NASFM’s guidance on smoke alarms can be found on the NASFM website at http://www.firemarshals.org/programs/fireprotectiontechnologies.html

National Institute of Standards and Technology:

Smoke alarms of either the ionization type or the photoelectric type consistently provided time for occupants to escape from most residential fires.… Consistent with prior findings, ionization type alarms provided somewhat better response to flaming fires than photoelectric alarms, and photoelectric alarms provided (often) considerably faster response to smoldering fires than ionization type alarms.... Smoke alarms of either type installed on every level generally provided positive escape times for different fire types and locations. (Performance of Home Smoke Alarms: Analysis of the Response of Several Available Technologies in Residential Fire Settings, NIST, February 2008 Revision)

Consumer Product Safety Commission:

Because both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms are better at detecting distinctly different yet potentially fatal fires, and because homeowners cannot predict what type of fire might start in a home, CPSC staff recommends consumers install both ionization and photoelectric type smoke alarms in their home (www.cpsc.gov, March 2008)

Underwriters Laboratories (UL):

While photoelectric smoke alarms generally respond faster to smoldering smoke conditions and ionization smoke alarms generally respond faster to flaming fire conditions, both types provide adequate protection against fire. Combination smoke alarms featuring both photoelectric and ionization technology are also available at hardware, department and home improvement stores. (www.ul.com)

Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports):

Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, recommends you install smoke alarms with two different types of sensors: Ionization sensors ($10 and up) are better at detecting fast, flaming fires. Photoelectric sensors ($15 and up) are better at detecting smoldering fires. Your best bet is to buy dual-sensor alarms ($25 and up), which contain both detector types. (www.consumerreports.org, March 2007)

Home Safety Council:

For the best detection and notification protection, install both ionization- and photoelectric-type smoke alarms. (www.homesafetycouncil.org)

Kidde's Statement on Smoke Alarm Technology

Smoke alarms save lives. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the number of U.S. home fire deaths has been cut by about half since the mid-1970’s, when smoke alarms first became widely available.

A fire’s very nature makes it unpredictable. Because no one can know when a fire will occur or what type of fire they will have in their home, virtually every recognized fire authority and safety expert – including NFPA, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) – recommend having both photoelectric and ionization alarms for optimal protection against flaming and smoldering fires. Kidde supports and states this recommendation on its packaging, website and in its owner's manuals.

Kidde offers photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms as well as a dual-sensor alarm that combines both technologies in one unit. All three can be found at home improvement stores and other retailers nationwide, or online. In addition, every Kidde smoke alarm – regardless of technology - must pass identical tests in order to meet the current smoke alarm performance standard, UL 217.

Knowing the difference between alarm technologies can help consumers make an educated decision on alarm placement.However, regardless of technology, a home that does not have enough working smoke alarms is still underprotected. It is vital that families have working smoke alarms on each floor, outside of sleeping areas and inside each bedroom. Families must also practice an escape plan, so they know what to do when the alarm sounds.