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The Science of Smoke Detectors

When it comes to the safety of your home or place of business, having the right safety measures in place is of the utmost importance to protect yourself and those around you. Having a working smoke detector is the first step to ensuring your home, office, or other space is safe from the dangerous risk of fire and smoke pollutants. According to the US National Fire Protection Association, the risk of dying in a residential fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke detectors. The association reported about 0.53 deaths per 100 fires in homes with smoke detectors as compared to the 1.18 deaths per 100 fires in homes without smoke detectors. As you better understand the benefits of having one, you may ask yourself: What is a smoke detector?

Image of smoke detector

Smoke detectors may seem like a typical appliance that doesn’t deserve much thought. However, smoke detectors have been proven to save lives and learning to understand what they are, how they work, and the different types will allow you to make a better and safer decision when it comes to protecting your home or business and those inside. 

What Are Smoke Detectors and their Benefits? 

It might be a juvenile question to ask ‘What are smoke detectors’? Smoke detectors are electronic devices installed near potential fire sources such as kitchens and living spaces such as bedrooms to monitor air quality levels in real-time. These devices may be used in residential or commercial buildings to warn building users of indoor fires and smoke. When the device senses elevated levels of smoke nearby, audio and visual alarms will alert individuals of potential threats.

However, other than just ‘detecting smoke’ they provide many ancillary benefits including: 

  1. Reducing Property Damage: Early detection of fire from smoke detectors helps reduce property damage, as firefighters and emergency crews can respond quickly and efficiently to prevent fires from spreading. 
  2. Lowering Insurance Premiums: Many insurance companies offer discounts on homeowner and business owners’ insurance premiums for those with smoke detectors installed in their homes or workplaces. 
  3. Easy to Install and Maintain: Smoke detectors are relatively easy to maintain and install and are an extremely cost-effective way 

Image of installation of a smoke detector

Overall, smoke detectors help improve safety and can save you money in the long run, particularly in the event of a fire incident. Ensuring you have both working and an adequate amount of smoke detectors in your home or workplace is imperative to keep yourself and those around you out of harm's way. 

How Many Smoke Detectors Do I Need? 

It is important to have enough smoke detectors in your home. With today’s more modern furnishings, fires can spread much more rapidly than when homes had more natural materials. Additionally, larger floor plan homes may require more devices to cover larger areas. As a rule of thumb, one detector for each bedroom, one per floor, and a smoke detector near fire sources such as kitchens, furnaces, and fireplaces are recommended.

Where Should I Install My Smoke Detector? 

The National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code have required that smoke alarms be installed inside every sleeping room and outside each sleeping area on every level of the home including basements. Larger homes with more fire-prone areas may also require additional smoke detectors to cover more square footage and homeowners should take proactive steps to make sure that they have sufficient smoke detectors for their homes. 

Image of smoke detector in ceiling

For commercial spaces, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends hardwired smoke detectors be located on every floor of the building in addition to a smoke detector in each stairway. The NFPA notes that smoke detectors generally cover a radius of about 21 square feet and building owners and businesses with larger buildings may need more alarms to cover the entire building footprint. 

How Do Smoke Detectors Work?

Although the function of smoke detectors is simple - alerting property owners and guests of potential threats - they are actually quite intricate devices. Scientists have spent many years working on smoke alarms in order to keep us safe. In the world of smoke alarm devices, there are two main types: ionization and photoelectric

Ionization Smoke Detectors

Ionization smoke detectors contain two tiny metal plates called electrodes that are connected to a battery inside the device. Ionization smoke detectors are typically better than photoelectric detectors at detecting flaming fires that produce small particles of smoke. Along with the tiny metal plates, there is also a radioactive substance called Americium-241 inside which converts air molecules into positive and negative ions. Since opposites attract, the negative ions move to the positive ions and vice versa. This attraction and movement create a complete circuit and a connected path of electricity. When smoke enters the device, the ions bond with the smoke and the circuit of electricity is disrupted. When the flow of electricity is reduced indicating smoke nearby, the alarm goes off. 

Image of Ionization Smoke Detector

Photoelectric Smoke Detectors

The other type of smoke detector is a photoelectric smoke detector. Unlike ionization smoke detectors, photoelectric detectors contain an LED light which sends a beam of light straight across one end of the device to a chamber on the other end that detects light. As the smoke goes into the detector, particles from the smoke interrupt the light beam and scatter the light in many directions. Some of the LED light scatters toward the light sensor. When light beams hit the sensor, the alarm will go off. 

New Smoke-Detecting Technology 

Even though smoke-detecting devices are intricate devices, there is currently limited development going into finding new ways to optimize smoke detection. WYND Technologies is on the cutting edge of air quality solutions by striving to create the highest quality indoor air optimizations on the market. 

Image of WYND Sentry detecting smoking

The WYND Plus - Smart Air Purifier helps filter out the smoke from the air around you in order to ensure you are breathing clean air and is just one of the many solutions WYND offers.  For business owners and property owners, typical smoke detectors may protect against fire, but they will not protect against other types of unwanted smoke such as cigarette, vape, and marijuana smoke. All of these air pollutants, and many others, may be a threat to your health. WYND Sentry protects your property from unwanted smoking and saves you hundreds of dollars from smoking incidents. If you would like to learn more about how our products can supplement your smoke detection needs, contact our team today.

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