Pleasant Garden, NC -- Every year, we hear it, "Check your smoke detector battery." And really, when you push the button in on your smoke detector, that is ALL you are testing.
"They're not really testing the detector. They're just testing to see if it has the ability to alarm, not detect," explains Pleasant Garden Fire Chief Ray Smith.
To test if your equipment will detect a fire, you need to use smoke. And by that, we mean the canned kind!
"Don't use an open flame, because you have the possibility of setting your own home on fire. If you use a candle the paraffin smoke my damage the detection capabilities of the detector and render it useless."
The Pleasant Garden Fire Department tested both an ionization and a photo-electric smoke detector. Both went off within seconds of each other in this test. But in real life, Smith says, "the photoelectric is more recognizable to to a smoldering fire the ionization to a rapidly building fire."
Manufacturers recommend you have a mix of both in your house. You can get 2-pack of ionization alarms for under $10. Photoelectric are about $20 each.
The canned smoke to test your detector isn't usually available at hardware stores. But it is available on-line.
The bottom line (from a fire safety council report 2005) : It is not possible to say one sensor type is better that the other
for reducing nuisance alarms in kitchen installations.
Installing a photoelectric smoke alarm instead of an ionization smoke alarm may be one approach to reducing nuisance alarms.
Other approaches might be to relocate the existing
alarm a short distance away, replace the unit with a new one, or replace it with a unit that has a hush feature.