What Type of Smoke Detector is Best For Your Kitchen?
The number one cause of residential fires in the United States by far is cooking. In 2021, cooking fires accounted for 170,000 of home/apartment fires. The second leading cause of residential fires was due to heating issues, but that number was only about 32,000 fires.
When looking at smoke detectors for the home, it’s smart to pay attention to the kitchen. Because that’s the leading source of house fires. But did you know that there are different types of smoke detectors?
In this article, we’ll look at which smoke detector is best for your kitchen area, as well as where to place it so it can be as effective as possible.
Should Smoke Alarm Detectors Be Installed in the Kitchen?
The answer to this question has stirred quite a bit of debate. Depending on who you ask, some say smoke detectors should be placed in the kitchen, and others state that they shouldn’t. Why the difference of opinion when cooking fires are the number one cause of house fires?
As the technology in smoke detectors has gotten better, even the slightest hint of a potential fire hazard can set off many detectors. Ever had a false alarm while cooking? It’s almost comical how often it happens.
Smoke detectors can be loud—obviously they’re designed to wake people in case of fire. But when there is no fire, a false alarm can cause people to feel annoyed.
After a few false alarms due to cooking, homeowners may be tempted to disable their smoke detector or remove it completely. While this will eliminate false alarms, unfortunately it can also remove an important safety device that can save lives.
What’s the solution? Pick the right type of smoke detector. You may not know this, but there are two main types, and choosing the right one can make all the difference.
Two Types of Smoke Detectors
There are two kinds of smoke detectors: ionization and photoelectric.
Each type of smoke detector uses a different type of technology, thus, they can be best utilized in different ways. It’s important to know which you have in place, because they have different strengths and weaknesses. Experts recommend having one of each in your home, or one that utilizes both of these technologies. That said, there is one that is better suited specifically for your kitchen. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each type.
Ionization Smoke Detectors:
Ionization smoke detectors are affordable, and as such are widely used. Ionization detectors contain a small amount of radioactive material that ionizes the air within a sensing chamber. When smoke enters the chamber, the ionization process is disrupted, triggering the alarm.
Ionization models are best suited for rooms that contain highly combustible materials (flammable liquids, newspapers, paint cleaning solutions) that can create flaming fires. Think your basement, a warehouse, a garage, or other area that could pick up these types of potential fires. These are not ideal for a kitchen area.
- Excellent at detecting fast-flaming fires, such as those fueled by paper or gasoline.
- Ideal for detecting invisible smoke particles from fires that lack significant heat.
- Prone to false alarms from cooking-related smoke or steam.
- Slower in detecting slow-smoldering fires.
Photoelectric Smoke Detectors:
Photoelectric smoke detectors use a different type of technology to sense smoke and fire. Photoelectric detectors use a light source and a photocell to detect smoke. When smoke particles enter the chamber, they scatter the light, causing the photocell to trigger the alarm. Photoelectric models are best suited for living rooms, bedrooms and, you guessed it, kitchens.
- Superior at detecting slow-smoldering fires, such as those caused by overheated wiring or smoldering cigarettes.
- Less likely to produce false alarms from cooking or shower steam.
- Less responsive to fast-flaming fires.
- Slightly more expensive than ionization detectors.
Dual-Sensor Smoke Detectors:
As indicated by its name, dual-sensor smoke detectors combine both ionization and photoelectric technologies into one. By incorporating the strengths of both types, they provide comprehensive fire detection in various situations. These are another good option for kitchens because it detects potential fires without the hassle of so many false alarms.
- Effective at detecting both fast-flaming and slow-smoldering fires.
- Reduced risk of false alarms.
- Slightly more expensive than single-sensor detectors.
- May still be triggered by cooking-related smoke or steam.
Location of Smoke Detectors and Their Importance
Besides choosing the right type of smoke detector for different areas of your home, where you place it is just as important. You wouldn’t want to place a smoke detector directly above the stove, for example, or too far away, either.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, a smoke detector should be placed:
- Every level of the house, including the basement
- Every bedroom
- Outside the sleeping area (like in a hallway)
- Near the kitchen
- Near the bathroom
- Every 1,200 square feet
- Far enough away from vents and fans that the heat from these appliances won’t cause a false alarm
- Far enough away from kitchens and bathrooms to reduce the potential for cooking smoke or batch steam to cause a false alarm
- Away from where the sensor could be affected by drafts, such as next to windows
- Where it is easy to clean (don’t allow the sensor to collect dust)
As far as where on the wall to put them, here are some instructions in our other article.
If you have any questions about where to place smoke detectors inside your home, contact your local fire prevention officers. They are trained to assist you with all things related to fire safety and prevention.
Smoke Detector Placement in or Near the Kitchen
Specifically focusing on the kitchen area, it’s important to place a smoke detector in the right place. Remember, you don’t want it too close to the stove, but you also don’t want it placed too far from the kitchen—otherwise a fire could get too big before tripping the alarm.
According to the NFPA: Smoke alarms should be installed at least 10 feet (3 meters) from a cooking appliance to minimize false alarms when cooking. Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises). Wall-mounted alarms should be installed not more than 12 inches away from the ceiling (to the top of the alarm).
Elevate Your Smoke Detectors with a Home Security System
Did you know that you can include a smoke detector with your home security system? At Cove, you can customize your system to include cameras, sensors, and smoke detectors, which then connect to your alarm panel. That panel communicates with our professional monitoring services, so that anytime your smoke detector goes off, we will contact you to see if it's a false alarm. If you don't respond or if you confirm it's an emergency, we'll contact the fire department for you.
Interested in learning more? Take our quiz below and see how affordable a Cove system can be.
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