Why is this so difficult? Finding a smoke detector

This should be easy–maybe I’m over thinking it, maybe not.

Let me preface by saying I currently have smoke detectors in my house, but they were here when I moved in six years ago and who knows how old they are. I’m looking to replace them. I’ve been doing some research (but obviously not enough) and am just getting overwhelmed.

Apparently, there’s a difference between Ionization and Photoelectric Smoke Alarms…and I’m not sure which to go with. I need ones that are NOT hardwired.

Anyone replaced smoke detectors recently? Any recommendations?

All the reviews I can find are crap like, “The package was so easy to open and it was so easy to install it on the wall with the two screws–five stars!” I’m more interested in, did it go off when it should have? “Died in fire, detector never went off, one star.”

When I replaced all the old ones in a house we moved into a year ago I bought a 6-pack of First Alert models from Amazon (yes they did go off after a “closed the fireplace flue when I thought I was opening it” situation…)

um… not to fight the hypothetical, but have you tried your current smoke detectors to see if they work? Like, set a piece of paper on fire and blow it out, then see if the detector goes off?

If it doesn’t, then yeah, proceed. If they still work, you might be able to save yourself some time, research & money and stick with what you’ve got.

Photocell smoke detectors respond best to fires with a lot of smoke because they depend on the particles interrupting a beam of light.

Ionization detectors respond best to fast hot fires where combustion products, not smoke, change the conductivity of air between two points.

I believe there are some detectors incorporating both technologies.

I use cheap smoke detectors exclusively. (I believe the chep ones are ionized.)

Not only do they go off when I burn food, but once during a power failure I used a kerosene lamp in kitchen and set off the smoke detector in the hall. Even the cheap ones are plenty sensitive.

A combination of both technologies seems like the safest bet. There’s a First Alert combo detector available for under twenty bucks at Amazon. (And there are also combination smoke/CO detectors as well.)

what brand are they? Start there and research the brand and model to find out the life expectancy and updates etc to the model and if the model is out of production what it was replaced with if at all. IME Kidde is pretty good about this, but your mileage may vary. Kidde absorbed several of the various brands of smoke detector over the years and seemed to have swapping out expired detectors from other brands pretty well in hand when I had to do it for Gramma’s house a few years back.

Sorry that I am late…

Under no circumstances depend on an ionization detector to protect your home and loved ones. Ionization smoke detectors do not detect visible smoke. It detects the non visible particles of combustion.

Please watch this six minute video clearly showing the difference

I have been working in the industry installing, maintaining, testing and inspecting commercial fire alarm systems for thirty seven years. The detectors I have in my house are combination ionization photoelectric detectors.

These are the smoke detectors i have in my house

As a general rule, the service life is ten years. The new ones don’t even have a replaceable battery. Just put them up and ten years later, replace the whole thing.

Just out of intererst, I don’t think those have made it to Aus yet. Our house is 20y old, the batteries are replaced every year, and they still detect cooking accidents.

Thank you! This is what I needed to see.

For anybody who wants more info on the types of smoke detectors, here’s an article about how they function in small homes.


And it’s a pretty safe bet that this house had cheap alarms.


There was a recent apartment fire in St. Louis where some children died. No smoke detectors. They are required by law, but the law is silent on who’s responsible for the install. Apartment owner or tennant.

I do maintenance work and also manage a gated apartment complex. These are what we use. Smoke alarms are typically good for about 10 years. Yours probably need to be replaced. I would use these in conjunction with a CO detector.


Which are the ones that go off when you burn the toast? They’re a pain in the backside. I find myself wafting frantically with a teatowel trying to shut it up. On the other hand, better that than being consumed in an inferno because the thing wasn’t sensitive enough… :smiley:

Ours goes off regularly just due to high temp cooking. Which gives me confidence that it WILL go off for any real world fire that would happen in this house.

I don’t see these as nuisance alarms. I see it as a “hey, this thing is working” alarm. I put it where it’s easy to take down when it goes off. And I place it where I will remember to put it back up when the cooking is over.

And we have one in the kitchen, the hall, and EVERY bedroom. And a CO detector near the gas water heater (Did you know Weird Al Yankovitch’s parents died from a household CO incident?).

Years ago I used to give batteries (typically lithium 9 volts) to relatives and close friends as Christmas stocking stuffer type gifts so the would make sure their smoke alarms would be functional. And I’d personally do the swap out while there.

If that’s a serious issue, Nest (the company that makes that smart thermostat) also makes a smart smoke/CO detector that can be silenced using a smartphone app. And instead of just beeping, it will make announcements as to what the danger is (e.g., “Smoke in the kitchen”). On the other hand, it costs about a hundred bucks, so it’s a lot more than a typical smoke detector.

Nest and other companies are going to make many things in the household more intelligent in the near term. (For example, you can get LED light bulbs that you can manage via a smartphone app, such as changing the color.)

I put one in adjecent to the stove for my grandparents: my grandfather was worried that they’d be moved into “assisted living” rooms if he didn’t detect cooking smoke before his neighbours did.

But apart from that, why was your smoke alarm located where it would detect burnt toast? In Aus it’s normal to locate them away from where they get normal false triggering.

A pretty balanced review of Nest smoke alarms that makes me think I’d rather use them as kindling than own one. Worth reading if you like home gadgets, decide for yourself if these are worth $100.