Most homeowners  think that if they have fire alarms with working batteries that they are safely protected from fire.These homeowners have a false sense of security. There is a huge difference between smoke alarms and they all do something different when protecting your home from fire. Commercial fire alarms operate differently from residential alarms, so please take Fire-Alarm-Pull-Stationthis into consideration as you read the blog. We recommend having both ionization and photoelectric fire alarms in your home as well as having those smoke detectors monitored by a security company. Good Morning America aired a segment on this subject in May, however we don’t think that they told the whole story. We  are going to go more in depth for you as well as explain the current residential fire alarm regulations for Massachusetts.

Ionization Fire Alarms vs. Photoelectric Fire Alarms

Ionization fire alarms are more responsive to flaming fires opposed to slow smoldering fires. Photoelectric smoke alarms are generally better suited for fires that have long smoldering times that release smoke clouds and a large amount of dust particles. In these situations, ionization  alarms will trigger eventually, however the response can be delayed up to ten minutes. Ionization residential smoke alarms are no longer allowed as the only type of residential smoke alarms in Massachusetts. Both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms are  low voltage alarms which can be monitored by a professional alarm company the same way that a burglar alarm is monitored.

How Ionization Smoke Alarms Work?

These types of residential fire alarms are the most commonly used alarms. According to the National Fire Protection Association, these alarms have a small amount of radioactive material between two electrically charged plates, which ionizes the air and causes airflow between the plates. Small amounts of smoke can enter the chamber, thus disrupting the flow of ions, which reduces the flow of current which activates the alarm. Ionization alarms are known to give off  many false alarms, mostly from cooking and hot showers.

How do Photoelectric smoke alarms work?

These alarms are much more responsive when a fire begins with long periods of smoldering opposed to a quick flaming fire.  Photoelectric-type alarms aim a light source into a sensing chamber. As smoke enters the chamber, light is bounced onto the light sensor which triggers the alarm.

The Professional Advantage

We have NEVER found a dual-sensor fire alarm in a home that has not had a real estate tranaction prior to April of 2010.  Most homeowners believe they can go to a big box store, buy a $6.00 alarm and an extra set of batteries and be covered.  There is a major difference in life safety by having a professional fire alarm company install and monitor your alarm system. Our recommendation is to install dual smoke alarms. These dual systems can run up to $100.00, however  we believe the extra investment is well worth it. Contrarians would argue  that these alarms shouldn’t be used because they can be a nuisance due to false alarms because of the ionization sensors. This is an obvious possibility, however proper placement of smoke alarms can reduce these incidents. The question is, would you rather have a false alarm when you burn your bacon, or not have an alarm triggered when you really need it in order to protect your family and precious material goods.

Massachusetts Smoke Alarm Regulations

These revisions took effect on April 5, 2010

These regulations apply to buildings undergoing sale or transfer containing up to five residential units. The regulation requires photoelectric smoke detectors within 20 feet of a kitchen or bath containing a shower. Areas located beyond 20 feet will be required to contain dual detection by either a single unit or two separate units. Enforcement of these regulations will take place when the residence is sold or transferred. Home owners that sold their homes after April 5, 2010 have had to meet these new requirements. The problem is that if a home has not been sold after this date, there is a high likelihood that the building is not outfitted correctly