Smoke Detectors Put To The Test
WEST ALLIS - If a fire starts in your home, you might have just seconds to get out. So a reliable smoke alarm is vital, but one popular type of alarm may not give you the time you need.
We put three common smoke detectors to the test. The results? They shocked even seasoned firefighters.
With the help of the West Allis Fire Department we started a fire and tested three alarms, one by one. First up a detector that uses ionization technology, meaning it should work better in a flaming fire. We wanted to see what it does when there's more smoke than fire. In this case the alarm sounded almost immediately.
Next up, the photoelectric detector. It's supposed to work best in a smoldering fire. We wait and wait. Lieutenant Dan Machowski even creates more smoke with a shovel. More than 30 seconds later the alarm sounded.
"To our surprise too, to our surprise also. I think it is too long," Lieutenant Machowski said.
Our last alarm is called a dual detector, which combines both technologies. The most expensive of the three, it sounded in less than 10 seconds.
When you buy a smoke alarm a lot of them look the same. It's important to take the time to read what technology the detector uses because, as we just showed you, it really does matter which one you buy.
To really illustrate the difference between the three alarms, we lined them up and tested them on a flaming fire. The ionization alarm, again, goes off right away. The dual wasn't far behind, but we waited more than 20 seconds for photoelectric alarm.
Not a scientific test by any means but enough to give you an idea of what you need to get our alive.
Here's a breakdown of the three detectors we tested.
The dual alarm is what firefighters recommend because it combines both technologies. It is the most expensive. The cost is around $35.
The ionization detector is the least expensive; it runs less than $10. It sounded right away in both tests. If you're looking to save money this is a good choice.
The photoelectric alarm was always the last to sound. In one test it took longer than 30 seconds. This detector costs around $17.