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Smoke Detectors in a Security System

Posted by Alexa Sandbakken on Aug 28, 2015 4:27:00 PM

picture of a smoke detector

Smoke detectors as part of a security system are designed to detect the presence of smoke. We'll cover the advantages to having a photoelectric smoke detector as part of a security system versus a smoke detector purchased from a box or hardware store.

How smoke detectors work

Photoelectric smoke detectors as part of a security system trigger when the inside chamber has been filled with smoke for a period of time. The smoke detector has a light-emitting diode that shoots a light source into the inner chamber. The light source scatters and when it can't get through the particles in the smoke, and the unit recognizes the presence of smoke. Photoelectric smoke detectors as part of a security system are best at detecting fires in the 2nd (smoldering), 3rd (flame), or 4th (heat) stages of a fire.

Electric smoke detectors use ionization to detect flaming fires, or the first stage (incipient stage) of a fire. They tend to go off when something is burning on the stove. Because these detectors are prone to frequent false alarms, many people remove the batteries or disconnect the alarm, leaving them vulnerable in the case of a fire.

Advantages of a smoke detector in a security system versus an electric smoke detector from a retail store

  • If there's a catastrophic fire, a smoke detector as part of your monitored security system will immediately alert the monitoring station, who will contact you or the fire department. Heartland Security customers Dean & Betsy Peterson of Glenwood, MN said that the smoke detector in their security system saved their home.
  • A monitored smoke detector can give you the chance to save pets
  • Photoelectric smoke detectors are supervised by the security system and notify your alarm system company when a detector malfunctions
  • Smoke detectors in a security system may help you get an insurance discount
  • An electric smoke detector may not catch a smoky fire

What about heat sensors? Why get a smoke detector instead of a heat sensor?

While a heat sensor detects high heat levels and catch fires as the temperature rises over a period of time, a photoelectric smoke detector will also detect smoke. However, heat sensors may be more appropriate depending on the situation, such as in attics, garages, woodshops, and dusty environments.

Best spots for a smoke detector

The standard recommendations for smoke detector placement include having at least one on each level of a structure, such as on the main floor and in a basement. If there is a high vaulted ceiling, the recommended placement is near the top of the area. However, an in-person assessment from an experienced professional can give you the specific information for how to best protect your home or business.


The U.S. Fire Administration recommends testing electric smoke alarms every month and replacing alkaline batteries at least once a year, although other experts recommend changing the batteries twice a year during the switch to Daylight Savings Time - when we spring forward an hour and fall back an hour.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, "Three out of five home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms." No matter what kind of smoke detector you have, make sure it is in working order and check it regularly.

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