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Photoelectric vs. Ionization Smoke Alarms


“Risk Analysis of Residential Fire Detector Performance”
Grosse, L., DeJong, J., Murphy, J      
Published: Journal of Applied Fire Science, Volume 6, Number 2, pages 109-126, June, 1997

This report was scanned from hardcopy. 

During 1991-1994, a research team at Texas A&M University, Department of Construction Science, conducted extensive testing on residential fire detection devices. The research project was titled, “Full-Scale Research and Testing on Fire Detection Systems in a Residential Structure”. The Texas A&M study revealed that ionization alarms failed to respond and provide adequate egress time during smoldering fire scenarios 55.8% of the time versus a 4.06% failure rate with photoelectric alarms. The study found that ionization alarms failed to provide adequate egress time 19.8% of the time versus 3.99% with photoelectric alarms in fast-flame fire scenarios. This testing was based on a fault-tree analysis design developed by Bell Labs for the US Navy. The Texas A&M research demonstrates that when all factors are taken into account, such as how often each alarm gets disabled due to nuisance alarm problems, to how they respond in actual testing across the full spectrum of fires, photoelectric alarms have a clear advantage.

See Figure 8, Page 14 of the report






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