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Smoke Detector vs. Carbon Monoxide Detector

Updated: Mar 18, 2021

Smoke detectors raise the alarm when they sense smoke in the air. Meanwhile, a carbon monoxide detector will sound an alarm when it detects toxic levels of this invisible and odorless gas. They are inexpensive appliances that can save your life, although in different ways.

Here, we highlight the difference between smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to help you make an informed choice.

Smoke detectors

Fire victims mostly die from smoke inhalation rather than heat or flames. A smoke detector sounds an alarm as soon as its sensor detects smoke particles, giving you enough time to save your life and belongings and reach out for help.

Types of smoke detectors

1. Ionization smoke alarms: It has electrodes that continuously conduct low-level electrical current through ionized air. When smoke particles enter the ionized air, they disrupt this current, triggering the alarm. Ionization sensors can detect smaller, less visible fire particles sooner than photoelectric alarms. They are better at responding to flaming fires.

2. Photoelectric alarms: They detect smoke using a light sensor and a light beam. Ordinarily, the light beam points away from the sensor. But when there’s a fire, the smoke particles scatter the beam, redirecting some light to hit the sensor, which triggers the alarm. These alarms detect larger, more visible fire particles sooner than ionized detectors. They are better at responding to smoldering fires.

However, both ionization and photoelectric alarms can detect any type of house fire, regardless of its source. For optimal protection, consider getting a dual-sensor smoke alarm that incorporates both these technologies.

Types of power sources for smoke alarms:

1. Hard-wired smoke detectors: They get power directly through an AC electrical circuit. Many also include a battery backup system to keep it functioning during short power outages.

2. Battery operated smoke detectors: They don’t require electrical wiring and can use a nine-volt or an AA battery. It would help if you changed the battery twice a year. However, models that use lithium batteries can last up to 10 years.

Carbon Monoxide detectors

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a silent killer and can cause lifelong breathing problems. Appliances that don’t burn fuel properly produce carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas. High levels of CO can kill you or leave you with permanent respiratory and brain damage. It goes undetected without a CO detector and causes symptoms like flu.

Types of carbon monoxide detectors

1. Digital read-out detectors: They have a display panel that lets you see the current and previous carbon monoxide concentration in the air.

2. Hard-wired CO detectors: These are directly connected to your building's power supply, and they come with battery backup. We recommend you not to install them yourself; get a qualified electrician or a licensed installer to do it. These detectors also come with digital read-outs.

3. AC plug-in: You can plug them into the electrical outlets in your home. They save you the hassle of battery replacements. But many of them come with the option to include batteries as a backup for power outages.

About Alarmco Smart Home Security

If you plan to begin your home automation journey, Alarmco Smart Home Security should be your one-stop destination. We offer everything you may need to convert your house into a smart home, from smart thermostats to home security systems in Louisiana. We provide a wide range of equipment packages and panels via Brinks Smart Panel and mobile app. You can call us at 877.446.8100 or email us at to know more.

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