5 On Your Side

Newer smoke alarms offer tech, safety upgrades

Posted December 27, 2016

When there's a fire, a working smoke alarm offers those indoors the best chance of getting out alive.

But what many don't know is that there is more to smoke alarm maintenance that just a battery change. Smoke alarms should be replaced as technology improves and old parts wear out. For instance, smoke sensors inside can lose sensitivity.

Consumer Reports tested different types of detectors and found that photoelectric alarms are best at detecting smoky, slow-building fires. Ionization alarms are best at detecting fast, flaming fires.

“The sensors aren't better than the other. They’re complementary," said Bernie Deitrick of Consumer Reports. "That’s why we always recommend that you get an alarm that has both types of sensors.”

Shop for a smoke alarm with a dual sensor that can be interconnected.

“When they’re interconnected, if one alarm goes off, every alarm in your house is going to go off. That will protect you from a distant fire and give you more time to get out of the house,” Deitrick said.

Kidde (Model #PI2010) and the First Alert (Model#3120B) both sell top rated models for about $30.

Some newer smoke alarms are made with lithium-ion batteries that last as long as the unit – 10 years – and these batteries are not replaceable.

Consumer Reports suggests writing the purchase date on the back of the alarm as a reminder of when to replace it.


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