Photoelectric vs. Ionization Smoke Alarms


Collection of Residential Smoke Alarm Research

This report was scanned from hardcopy. 

University of Cincinnati 2010 Smoke Alarm Symposium - Fathers for Fire Safety

The Fire Death Rate Is Essentially Unchanged From 1977 to 2003 - US Census Bureau 2004

Photoelectric Alarms Responded 12-30 Minutes Faster Than Ionization Alarms, NOTE - that not all Ion's Alarmed in Smoldering Tests. -NIST 2001

"Since an individual can be set to meet al current sensitivity standards, it is not obvious what overall benefit is achieved from a dual sensor alarm...."

"97% of devices tested for involvement in nuisance alarms were Ionization-type devices." NFPA, Aherns 2004

Unwanted Activations Can Generate a Dangerous Sense of Complacency.

"....Ionization alarms may not always alarm even when a room is filled with smoke from a smoldering fire...... Photoelectric detectors can provide a lot more warning time that an ionization detector in a smoldering fire..... Ionization detectors can provide a little more time than a photoelectric detector in a flaming fire...."  NIST at Boston City Council Committee on Public Safety, 2007

"The probability of failure of the photoelectric detector to detect a smoldering ignition is 4.06% while the ionization detector provided a 55.8% probability of failure in a similar type of fire......  During a flame ignition fire, the photoelectric smoke detector had a 3.99% probability of failure while the ionization smoke detector probability of failure to detect the fire is 19.8%"   Texas A&M, Department of Construction Science, “Full-Scale Research and Testing on Fire Detection Systems in a Residential Structure." Published Journal of Applied Fire Science, Volume 6, Number 2, 1996-97, pages 109-126, titled “Risk Analysis of Residential Fire Detector Performance”

See Page 64 of PDF






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